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Top 3 Proposal Challenges


Matthew Sheridan

PLM Director, Product Marketing

What are the challenges that prevent companies from doing a better job before hitting the send button on a response? If you’ve heard or said, “Let’s see what happens” when hitting the send button on a proposal, chances are you’re experiencing the typical challenges of the proposal response process:

  • Time
  • Quality
  • Customer Confidence

Improving the proposal process helps your entire sales organization with response time, response quality and, most importantly, customer confidence. And you can do it for much less than the cost of sales club!

Proposal Challenge: Time

For many sales representatives, responding to customer proposals is a necessary part of doing business. The more business a rep has, the more responses to address. Therefore, the time to gather answers to questions, organize and format responses and deliver a final response can add up.If you do some quick math with the number of representatives in your company, times the number of deals per representative, times the time spent for one proposal…

How much time does this add up to per week, per month, per quarter? Now, consider the value of that time. How much revenue generated during that timeframe included successful responses to proposals? Is response time a limiting factor on revenue growth?

Proposal Challenge: Quality

Now imagine you could reduce this time. This sounds like a no brainer, but the paradox with today’s response approaches is that to reduce time, you often need to sacrifice quality. Response quality comes when you include lots of subject matter experts in the process, ensuring the most correct and up-to-date information about products, services, guidelines, company statistics, etc. High-quality answers offer you the best chances at a winning proposal.

However, that same desire for high quality also means more time and effort to gather and synthesize all the information coming from the SMEs.When you are up against deadlines, the objective may shift from “high-quality” to “let’s make sure we get something in before the deadline.” Poor-quality, sub-par responses can erode customer confidence in your product, your company and your sales representatives.

Proposal Challenge: Customer Confidence

If your plan is to use the time after a submission deadline for ‘tweaking’ answers or, worse, after the deadline the customers contacts you asking to ‘clarify’ a poor response, both of these actions reduce confidence in your organization verses the competition. Sadly, companies asking for clarifications are at least better than potential customers who simply dismiss your response due to poor or inaccurate answers. Are you the dreaded third wheel? After all that time, energy and effort to meet a submission deadline, don’t you want to know if your proposal was even opened and read? Did you just do all this work to be the required “third” vendor necessary to fulfill some internal purchasing rule? If so, I hope that customer is not in your commit number.

How to improve?

How can sales reduce time, improve quality and increase confidence? The tools most often used are Microsoft Word or Excel. They are ubiquitous. They are easy to use. They are cheaper than installing and maintaining additional IT-managed solutions. But they are limited. They are not built for proposals. They do not organize data and responses into knowledge. They do not manage the response process. They do not track customer interaction. And they were not built, ground-up, to be a collaborative solution.

Want to love your proposals? Start by examining the challenges:

  • Time – How long does a typical proposal process take in your organization? Is each proposal a new creation? What timeframe would you like to see with responses?
  • Quality – Examine your two last losing What can be improved? Do you have the opportunity to call the customer who did not pick you and ask how your response compared to the winning response?
  • Confidence – Ask your teams how many times customers need clarification to responses. How much time do your people have to ask customers to consider changes to proposals that were already submitted?

This self-assessment will start you down the path toward loving your proposals and sending more of your sales people to next year’s club… for less than you’re spending to send one rep.

A NOTE FROM OMBUD: Matt Sheridan has been sharing his expertise in typical Sales Engineer challenges with our team as we’re innovating on Response Execution. We’ll be sharing his insights in this space, and this is just the second of several posts he’s written on the topic.

Matt Sheridan has a proven background working with enterprise-level sales, technical sales and proposal teams. Matt is author of A+ Demonstrations: Excellence in Sales Engineering and is a subject matter expert in helping sales teams maximize their selling potential. Matt is currently director of product Marketing for an industry leading product-lifecycle-management company and holds B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Syracuse University and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island.

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