It’s no secret that Qocreate has been working on a new project – an eBook! – due out later this year. The book details our steps toward a more organized, less stressful proposal-writing experience, and we hope it will be incredibly useful for small businesses.
The book came to be because proposal writing is an inherently stressful profession.
Some proposals take months and drain resources. Also, you have a business to attend to, technology to keep up with, personal lives. While you run around trying to figure it all out, you throw files in this folder and that. Emails and pings pile up. Productivity suffers. You get exhausted. – Mike Huckleberry, CEO of Qocreate
Whether you are in-house or an agency, you are always tracking deadlines, usually for multiple projects. Often you are waiting for information from someone else while you track those deadlines, or you are part of an arduous review process, or you are interfacing with company leadership or clients who want This. Done. Yesterday.
It’s a lot.
One of the defining values of Qocreate as a company is that we all like working together. The company was founded in part on the premise that work is more fun when you like your teammates. Why spend the majority of your waking hours with people you don’t enjoy?
The truth is, though, that to make this happen - for our company to grow as it has with a premium on finding the most qualified employee who also just happens to be the best fit with the rest of the team - we’ve hired across the country and even across the oceans.
And that is where remote work comes in.
Even five years ago it would have been so much harder to accomplish this goal. Our founder and CEO lives on a gorgeously remote part of the Pacific coast, and yet our team works from the East Coast, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and Europe. How do we do this, exactly?
Imagine walking the streets of London with three teenage boys. You pass Scotland Yard. You think about Sherlock Holmes. You talk about crime in the old city. Now envision a 2 year-old walking around in an orange construction vest. He's got a bushel of red hair and he’s wearing sunglasses. A bug detective, serious about finding and cluing into the insect world. A child who looks for bugs at night, wearing shades.
For a child, storytelling begins simply. Curiosity turns into adventure. Adventure leads to conflict. Conflict demands resolution. Resolution falls into respite. And then it starts all over again. Through time though, complexity creeps in and things change. The young investigator is learning. Besides sunglasses, the bug detective now needs binoculars, a hard hat, and a whistle. Every new thing gets added to the outfit. The more the better. Until being a bug detective loses its luster, and he turns into a dump truck driver or a street sweeper instead.
Back on the streets of London, recall the stories of Sherlock Holmes. He often used a phrase indicative of simplicity: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Elementary. Holmes tended to the details, trained and circumspect. He understood what others missed. He observed. Options decreased during his investigations through deductive reasoning.
Both the bug detective and Holmes are curious. Both investigate. Both find clues and draw conclusions. Both solve problems. Both gain knowledge and experience. The basic difference is how they manage complexity. A child rifles through learning, acquiring more and more. Over time, he or she determines what to keep, what to file away, and what to disregard. Experienced detectives know things. They understand what's important. And they use this to their advantage. They don't have to learn, add gear, explore options. They know.
In the world of business, there are myriad bug detectives. People with a few ideas here and there, searching the dark with sunglasses on, eager to find a prize. They tend to add tools, capabilities, and new ideas to work, without much thought, making it more complex and harder to navigate. At the same time, they lack the elementary skills to do their tasks. There may be a lot of enthusiasm. They may find some bugs. The whole process teems with dedication and concentration. Then, something else comes up, requiring a new set of toys and outfits and stories.
The trained detectives were bug hunters at one time. They maintained their curiosity and energy, but refined their approach. They learned about insects and became experts. They can identify bugs and categorize them. They can talk about features. They can articulate the advantages on one species over another. This has all become second nature. Now they use knowledge to deduce and analyze and talk about and highlight. Their curiosity benefits from years of experience, a sense of purpose, knowledge, direction. Discovery and infatuation, through rigorous inspection, have become knowledge and admiration.
So, what's the difference? Famous detective from London versus bug detective from toddler land? One is astute, while the other is amusing. One deduces while the other discovers. One resolves questions while the other reacts to their surroundings.
I love children. I recently took my older nephews to London. And I adore my younger nephew, who has taken to being a bug detective in the last couple of months. But knowledgeable Londoners and real-life exterminators enhance their understanding.
We need some of this wonder and humor and experimentation in business. Further, we need the rigor, resilience, and intelligence of Sherlock Holmes. Be curious, but be smart. Do your homework. Study. Know your work. Know your clients. Know the best ways to produce the most useful content, and then use it.
Get real. Get smart. And stay young.
If you need help getting on top of your game in the world of proposals and marketing, give Qocreate a call. We'd love to introduce you to the wonder of smart and successful business development.
When I stick my head into a cardboard cutout (for fun photos!), I'm about 10% there. My body becomes pulped wood, glue, and paint. A fabrication. 10% life. 90% inert. 90% the same as the last person that stuck their head into the cardboard cutout.
I recently thought about this while stuffing a proposal with the usual cliches. Innovative system architecture. Seamless integration. Ready to hit the ground running. Leading provider of...
Proposals go this way. Why? Because sales people think clients want to hear this jargon. Phrases that start out novel and fresh end up used and cheapened. Lifeless. Useless. They don't mean anything. And yet they mean everything.
I didn't realize the addiction to this type of language until I started my own business. You get competing sets of advice. In the self-help, small business startup world, you hear, "Find your passion!", "Be yourself!", "Do what you love!", "Speak with a voice that is yours!".
In the marketing world, you hear the opposite. It goes something like "Listen to the customer, and speak their language!", "Give them what they want!", "Speak to your audience!", "Tailor your message!", "It's not about you, it's about the customer!".
This gets confusing. The voices pile up. Authentic. Tailored. You. Them. What you want. What they need. The intention economy. The attention economy. Grab. Give. Push. Pull. Inbound. Outbound.
Here's the point. At the end of the day, you try to fit in. You find a cardboard cut out and shove your face through it. Cliches become a part of life. Because you want people to notice. If you're not best-in-class, who will care? If you're not innovative, who will talk to you? If you don't use catchy phrases, who will pay attention?
Language becomes a game. A risk. You want people to see and notice you. You start saying things that aren't true. The more you say them, the less they mean. The more everyone says them, the less - and less - they mean. Clash of cliche. Pulp. And paint.
If something is different, no one can tell. It makes me tired. What about real conversations?
Like in an actual, brick and mortar market? Where people talk to each other as humans, about real things?
If something tastes delicious, you know it. Because you can sample it. No one has to tell you. If someone spent time building something, you can tell. They care about it. They can describe the process for making it.
New to proposal writing? We all were, at one time or another, and sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.
Whether your company – or your proposal – is large or small, keep these simple tips in mind for proposal success:
Maintain Your Documentation. Create the pieces of content that you’ll need to respond to almost any query, and then maintain it on a frequent, scheduled basis. Past performances, management volumes, solution profiles, and other pieces of the puzzle can be quickly customized to make your proposal process easier and faster.
Use Available Tools to Find Potential Projects. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with where opportunities in your space are posted, and then commit to a schedule to review those sites. FedBizOpps, GovTribe, LinkedIn, and state and local procurement agency sites are all good places to start.
Read the RFP Closely. Before you even begin, make sure that (1) your company is a good fit for the work and (2) that you can provide the required documentation in time to be considered. Don’t invest a lot of time and effort answering proposals that don’t fit those two criteria.
Research Your Potential Client. Acquaint yourself with the client’s mission, goals, language style, and previous projects, if possible. Becoming familiar with the way the client works and communicates will help immensely in tailoring a proposal for them.
Build in Extra Time. Even the smoothest proposal process can hit bumps in the road and deadlines are always looming. Creating a cushion of even 12 hours prior to the due date gives you time to fix any issues that arise.
Appoint a Point Person. Even if you don’t have a “proposal manager” on staff, make sure that there is one person staffing the proposal writing process who is in charge and able to make decisions. That person’s word goes.
Review, Doublecheck, Proof! Double- and triple-check spelling and grammar; make sure that your formatting complies with the requirements of the RFP and that all the requested documents are included in the correct order; have several people give the proposal a final read-through just to confirm that any editing marks, comments, and redlines have been removed.
Looking for more tips on successful proposal writing, or for affordable assistance with the process? Read our other blog posts or contact us!
Companies tell stories all the time - to themselves, to employees, to potential customers, to the competition, and to the world. Stories help us to position our organizations to successfully sell products and services to specific markets.
We tell these stories by developing well-thought-out concepts around establishing and growing our businesses. The resultant messaging manifests itself in brands, logos, marketing campaigns, websites, business proposals, internal communications, and deliverables or products for customers.
When there is a great, well-maintained narrative that customers want to believe, an organization has a great opportunity to succeed. All too often though, the story doesn’t exist, it gets lost in constant retelling, or some employees and customers have never heard it.
This is where storytelling and organizational coherence come into play. When you have a central account of your reason for being and the value you bring to others, it can permeate your team, your company, your audience.
Qocreate incorporates the art of storytelling and, always, emphasizes the critical importance of coherence in business and business proposals.
Here is the gist: your business begins and ends with a story. Your company marketing materials, proposals, technical reports, social media posts, website content, and everything else should reflect that core story.
In many organizations, different departments take responsibility for different parts of the message. Marketing handles social media, the website, and promotional material. Business development or sales teams handle proposals. Operations handles the technical reports, deliverables, product development, and packaging.
A problem begins to surface over time – if there is no coherence to the story, no attention paid to who is telling it and how, and if no one believes it, the quality and truth of the story begin to fall apart. Without attention, you have many people working to tell the story over and over, reaching for whatever they used last, sprucing it up a little, and sending it on to whoever needs it for whatever purpose.
The story starts to change. Over time, without care, it begins to fall flat.
In order to solve the problem of a non-existent, flagging, or inconsistent story, Qocreate works with clients to develop organizational coherence around a remarkable narrative. Organizational coherence means that the underlying values and vision of the story manifest in content and behavior across the organization.
More importantly, others recognize and believe your story because they feel it in the way your people treat them and treat each other. Everyone knows the message and it shows up in front office emails, greetings, executive memos, customer service calls, field team deliverables, and authentic and compelling proposals.
Part of working to develop this coherence is making sure that the story you tell is consistent in all of your content.
Two books our staff has been reading recently -- Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars and Jeffrey Gitomer’s The Little Red Book of Selling -- confirm the importance of making certain that a coherent, compelling narrative infuses our clients’ organizations. Godin writes “…if you want to grow, make something worth talking about. Not the hype, not the ads, but the thing. If your idea is good, it’ll spread.” And in The Little Red Book of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer states, “…branding is sales: it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
Taking these two ideas together, we encourage our clients to focus on making something remarkable -- worth talking about -- and then telling the story in a way that compels others to talk about it -- it’s who knows you. When you form the core message, then you work to incorporate that message into every aspect of your organization.
Here are three steps to follow:
1) Get your story straight and write it down. Developing and articulating your story is the first and hardest step. Many of our clients don’t know where to start, even those with companies that have been in business for years. The story begins with the product or service you provide, the motivation behind providing it, the benefit to your customers, and what sets you apart from others. Developing this narrative takes time and dedicated work. (If you don’t know where to start, visit our Story page.)
2) Assess your content needs. Once you know the story you want to tell, and it genuinely represents an exceptional product or service, begin with listing all potential content that you need to develop or reorient to incorporate this story and get it out to the people who need to know. Your content needs may include websites, marketing materials, company manuals, capabilities statements and business proposals, and any documentation or content media your people use to produce or provide whatever products or services you sell. Visit the marketing, sales, proposals, and operations teams to get perspective on their needs. Do your homework on the content they are using to represent your organization and its message. Then plan for change to incorporate the story in a coherent fashion across all possible content mediums.
3) Develop your content and get the word out. Now it is time to develop your content and share it with the audience you’re trying to reach. Put a plan in place and a schedule for developing your material. This may include reworking your business strategy, creating a new logo, refreshing your website, creating reuse material for proposals, or updating the look of your technical reports. Focus on creating content that reflects your story and elicits the feelings you want others to have about your products and services. As Godin writes in All Marketers Are Liars, “The good news is clear: authentic marketing, from one human to another, is extremely powerful. Telling a story authentically, creating a product or service that actually does what you say it will, leads to a different sort of endgame.”
The challenge in accomplishing these three steps is often getting people to work together. More often than not, motivation and direction for this effort has to come from the executive level. However, we’ve worked with more than a few organizations to help writers, marketers, and business development people create their own coherent narratives. Once customers and others in the organization see the quality of content being produced, they want to know how to get in on the game. Then you have an opportunity to grow that organizational coherence (same story across ALL content) from within, rather than top down.
If you want to prevent your message from getting lost between disparate functions and multiple teams, and if you want people to talk about your organization, then think about how to drive a consistent and remarkable story throughout – from the front desk to the executive’s office to the field where your products and services are impacting customers.
When it comes to business proposals, make sure you include the narrative being lived and promoted throughout the organization. Play with the art of the story in responding to customer requirements. Make sure that your offer is coherent with your brand and messaging.
For more information on how to get started on this kind of work, contact Qocreate or check out our other blog posts. We’re happy to talk through any content problems you’re having, to recommend ideas, and to help you establish the best content to grow your business, from marketing to proposals to technical documentation.
In many businesses content gets recreated multiple times by different groups for different purposes. Operations teams need a manual for managing projects. Business development teams need a project management approach to respond to proposals. Marketing needs performance statistics to validate claims that the company performs on schedule, on time, every time. And so on.
Because these departments usually operate separately in a company, content is inconsistent at best, with disparity between data and the look and feel of material. What is presented to the public is different than what goes in proposals is different than what the company does in their work with clients. Maintaining information in disparate places becomes taxing, with little structure or direction for articulating a coherent, easy-to-maintain story.
Qocreate supports developing content with multiple purposes, most importantly and specifically the information your team needs to drive sales engagement and quickly and efficiently develop proposals.
In the world of business development, this generally comes down to two types of content – the material related to your technical and management solutions or products, and the material related to your past and current performance history. Potential clients want to know what you are doing, and how well you are doing it.
Taking the time to really tell your story in a lasting and captivating way seems like a waste of resources to management. Having a message is important, but it may be difficult to see returns on investment for establishing a story and building a brand and reputation. We provide a way to do this quickly while setting the foundation and tenor for all of your messaging, content, and proposal material going forward.
In previous posts, we’ve talked about solution and client profiles. We also discussed the idea of a single source approach to content. This post focuses on combining the uses of certain types of single source content.
PDF documents are perfect for this purpose, because you can combine documents and manage pages to include whatever content you want for any specific purpose. For example, you could have an entire volume written on project management. An outline might look like this:
Organization and Management Structure (org chart and management hierarchy)
Recruiting and Hiring Process
Monitoring and Control
Controlling Cost, Schedule, and Performance
Resolving Performance and Personnel Issues
Security Management (Facilities and Personnel)
This project management content serves multiple purposes:
With this outline, you have a structure for organizing your content. And you can the whole outline or any of its pieces to accomplish any purpose related to project management.
For this to work, content maintenance is essential. Assign someone to update the information on a quarterly basis and make sure it remains true to how the company does work. Assign small portions of the content to people who do the work, and give them a sense of pride by acknowledging their role in the company’s broader story. In this way you have a living record of how the company manages projects, and you can relax, knowing exactly where to go for well-thought-out and current content.
At Qocreate we encourage you to make the best use of your resources, and to develop quality content you can use again and again for various purposes. You have a story, but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to tell it to someone. One single source, multiple purposes: this is the way content ought to be.
Contact us if you want to optimize the way you put your content together, or see our previous blog posts for tips on to write proposals more efficiently and successfully.
Having logged about 50 proposals a year in the IT space, Qocreate knows a technical solution when it sees one. And each discipline surrounding these solutions is astoundingly similar. It makes sense though.
IT systems and application development, cyber security, program management, risk management, database development and management: each of these disciplines relies on industry standards. The standards (whether ISO, CMMI, NIST, or another) provide frameworks, tools, and best practices for how to accomplish the technical and management aspects of projects to a certain level of quality using repeatable, controlled methodologies. Often, then, when companies articulate their technical solutions for government and commercial proposals, they appear and sound strikingly similar.
This means the opportunity presents itself to standardize your technical content around the work your company accomplishes well on a regular basis. If you take the time to articulate your technical approaches to your core business, you can write technical solutions rapidly and with a high level of fidelity.
At Qocreate, we call this a solution profile. When you fully organize, develop, and articulate your core technical capabilities, you can use this work to write to any and all proposals that come across your desk requiring the expertise you offer to clients.
For example, if your company specializes in application development, you can put together a solution profile around how you do application development, who you’ve previously done it for, and what kind of success you’ve had in doing it. When you respond to a proposal where a client is seeking application development support, your single source solution profile provides the foundation of your response. This is true regardless of how the client asks to see the information presented.
In order to create this single-source document articulating a specific solution, you must do four things for each core capability: provide a problem statement and overview of the solution; create an anchor graphic representing the elements of the solution; define the elements of the solution, the technical approach, and benefits; and provide proof that the solution works.
Provide a Problem Statement and Overview of the Solution. The art of the sale is in addressing a problem your client needs help resolving – so when you begin articulating a technical solution, start with the problem first.
What is it you are trying to accomplish? What is the outcome you are providing to the client, and why should they care? Will you increase their profitability? Will you enhance their performance and help them save money? Does your service or product provide them greater security where they need it most?
Most businesses are interested in increasing profit, performance, and returns on investment. If your solution is going to win over an executive’s heart and mind, you want to show how you address a specific problem in a way that saves money and time and in the end improves your client’s market position.
In a solution profile, then, make sure to write a paragraph describing the problem, and follow it with a paragraph about how your solution solves that problem and why it matters. Be sure to quantify the benefit. For example, “Clients for whom we have performed agile application development experience 60% faster release times, saving an average of $50,000 a month on development costs.” Or, “Our approach to cyber security resulted in preventing hundreds of denial of service attacks, with our cyber forensics expertise leading to the prosecution of 5 individuals for perpetrating cybercrimes against one of our clients.”
If you do great work, it speaks for itself. And in the overview of your solution, you want to highlight with numbers and figures how successful you’ve been in doing what you claim to be able to do well.
Create an Anchor Graphic Representing the Elements of the Solution. Some people love to read, but almost everyone enjoys visual stimulation. An excellent graphic that shows your entire solution in a succinct, well-organized manner incites interest. It also provides the whole picture as context for people who read the technical approach to your solution.
The graphic serves as a point of reference while you discuss the elements of the solution and the methodology by which you employ the elements to obtain a result. If you do not have a graphics capability, we strongly recommend you find a reliable source for graphic design support, quickly. If you have a graphic designer or design team, orient them to this concept of an overall solution graphic. Have your designers work with your technical and business development teams to see and render the whole picture.
Define the Elements of the Solution, the Technical Approach, and the Benefits. The elements of the solution are the pieces that make up the puzzle (who, what, when, where). The technical approach tells how you do the work. The benefits tell why. When articulating your solution, you are answering all these important questions.
Have a professional writer sit down with your technical team and go through discovery exercises to determine the elements, the approach, and the benefits, and then set them down in that order. The elements should be evident in your overall graphic. And the process should support the elements, telling how you get from the beginning to the end of the solution. The benefits then tell why you approached the problem in a certain way, and what the client can expect from your services and products.
While the elements of a solution and the technical approach are important, the benefits may be the clear key. However, benefits often get confused with features of a solution, so here is a litmus test. Once you write out a benefit, ask yourself these two questions: First, ask “Is what I wrote a result?” Is it a consequence of an action? If the answer is no, you haven’t written a benefit. The second question is, “Is the result compelling in that it increases profit or performance?” If the answer is no, you do not have a benefit. A benefit is the result of your solution that improves a client’s profitability, performance, or both.
Provide Proof That the Solution Works. An approach and benefits may intrigue a client, but they often want to invest in something that you can show has worked for others. They want proof. They want evidence and a guarantee that solution provides the results you claim.
You demonstrate the credence of your claim by showing how the solutions help others. Make sure to use data and statistics that show quantifiable and quantitative improvements. If your reader makes it this far in the solution profile, defensible proof that the solution works will hook them.
Solution profiles fully articulate a technical solution. You can use the overview, the graphic, the elements, and the approach to respond to proposal requests, and to provide to your team so they better understand the company’s offerings.
Need help putting together a technical solution or creating a great graphic? Contact Qocreate - we'd be glad to help!
When was the last time you wrote a past performance volume in two hours?
We have been involved in many proposals where the company’s qualifications to do the work are clear, but it takes days or weeks to put together the past performance information to articulate they’re doing a great job. This includes wracking the brain to remember where you wrote about qualifications before, searching through old proposal file folders on the hard drive trying to locate the right draft, or pulling together disparate volumes of other proposals to get exactly what you need to respond to the proposal of the hour.
To say the least, this problem of finding the right data and the most current information on a contract frustrates and confuses even the best proposal teams. It doesn’t need to, and there is a simple, cheap way to solve the problem. Write the past performance from scratch, keep it updated, and use it ALWAYS.
Here is the method Qocreate uses to write a past performance in 2 hours. We create a client profile once, and then write all past performances based on this one client profile. The initial effort, of course, takes more than two hours. But after you’ve completed the push up front, all you need to do is keep this one document updated on a quarterly basis and you can use it for the life of the contract and beyond.
When the government requires past performance, you only need to spend a few minutes tailoring the information. When a partner asks you for qualifications to use on a proposal, you can send this document directly to them and they can tailor as they see fit.
The process is simple. In order to create this single-source document for your client past performance, you must do four things for each contract: 1) articulate the contract details in a table; 2) provide a concise summary of the contract scope of work; 3) generate narrative around what people on the contract actually do on the contract; and 4) keep statistics, accolades, and monthly reporting highlights up to date.
Articulate Contract Details. It may seem strange, but contract details are sometimes the most difficult information to track. They include primarily administrative information: contract name, number, customer name, project name, place of performance, contract type, period of performance, and value, contract information, number of employees on contract, etc.
You can build out contract details to include any information you find necessary or helpful – for example, by including statistics on average days to recruit new hires, retention and turnover rates, number of cleared personnel, certifications of personnel, etc. When the government or a commercial client asks you for details on a contract, the information is right where it should be. No more haggling with contracts or a business development person or a program manager to get the correct information. Often, keeping this table current with correct information will save you a couple hours of work on its own.
A Concise Summary of the Contract Scope of Work. This is the executive summary of the contract work, and answers in three paragraphs or less the major questions of who, what, when, where, and how. And if it’s a good summary, it also differentiates performance by providing quantitative proofs of where performance leaves the client better off than when you started working on the project.
A great summary also includes any information necessary to determine if a contract is relevant and meets the requirements of a request. For example, a client may want qualifications related to IT, risk management, and executive administrative support. You should be able to tell from the summary whether the contract addresses some or all three of these requirements.
The summary is the chance to let your performance shine. It draws the reader in, and if your writing reflects exceptional performance, clients often don’t need to read any further. Make this summary the last thing you write, and give a couple hours to organizing, developing, and articulating the message.
Generate Narrative on the Contract Around What People Actually Do. Too often, a past performance reads like a generalized statement of work. And that is often because people will pull the statement of work and use it to write the past performance.
The problem here lies in the fact that many contract descriptions of work do not accurately reflect what people do on contract. Employees’ efforts are more involved and complex, their tasks include a different organizing structure than what is stated, and they interact with a number of stakeholders in the broader organization.
Storytelling is critical here. In your articulation of the past performance for this client profile, interview the people doing the work and tell their story. Put down as much detail as possible and condense it into a story, or day in the life of type narrative. A good past performance shows what your team is doing, and tells how well they are doing it.
Include details like what building they work in, who they sit next to, who they run into walking the halls, what kinds of meetings they attend, how they produce their deliverables, when they get to work and when they leave, how they get recognized for great work. Allow the reader to see them doing the work, and then provide evidence that your team or person does it well. Often, if you provide detail on all the work being accomplished on contract, you have all the information you need to respond to any client requests related to performance.
Keep Data, Accolades, and Monthly Reporting Highlights Up to Date. Contracts change. What you did for a client back in 2014 is likely different from what you are doing for them now. The type of work, type of people, number of people involved and achievements transform over time. If you don’t capture the change as the contract moves along, you have to play catch up when it comes time to write the next past performance for that contract.
An easy solve for this issue? Updating the information on a quarterly basis. The program or project manager can be responsible for this, using monthly or routine status reports to modify content. Each quarter they spend an hour or two updating the client profile. Then, when it comes time to write the past performance, proposal teams may not even need to involve them.
These few hours save the program manager the hassle of having to interrupt his team’s work to fill in the blanks on details they already provide in monthly reports. The program or project manager can also update this document when teams receive accolades, awards, acknowledgements, or other forms of recognition for a job well done. This type of information is pure gold in a proposal and often the most difficult to get, even with exceptional teams whose clients are over-the-moon happy with the services and products they are receiving.
Maintaining client profiles with up to date contract data means writing past performance becomes a learning experience, rather than a burdensome hunt for the last best information. Giving the client what they want involves matching their requirements against what your team does. Once you determine this, you pull across the relevant information and you’re done. Within two hours, you have differentiated yourself with real work and up to date data that you can defend and of which you can be proud.
If you’re interested in optimizing your time and writing the best past performance possible, catch up on our blog series or contact Qocreate.
Simplicity rules in the world of business proposal development.
Making the process easy and repeatable, when possible, greatly eases the time and resource burden to produce compelling and winning solutions. Like many things in life, we can confuse volume with complexity. Because we are doing so much, we think it must all be different, and so we repeat work unnecessarily. The common use of the phrase “reinventing the wheel” demonstrates this concept. And it particularly applies to the proposal world.
How many times in the last month have you gone looking for content to respond to a Request for Information or a Request for Proposal? How many times have you searched for something to provide to partners or potential clients that describes your company’s capabilities? How many hours a year do you spend mining the shared drive or SharePoint system looking for information that will help you sell a certain capability or technology into a certain market?
If you answered “too many times” to any of these questions, you are not alone. In fact, after eight years of working with more than 20 companies in different industries, we at Qocreate can confirm that you are actually in the majority. This post is about how to change your approach, save time, and increase productivity.
Using a single source approach to content within your organization offers a number of benefits. For one, it increases productivity while using fewer resources. It also improves the quality and consistency of your responses to Requests for Information, Proposals, and Quotes. Ultimately, being able to deliver more and better proposals increases profit and drives growth.
So, what is a single source approach?
Single source content means that information lives in one place and one person or team is responsible for it. The single source is authoritative, and everyone knows how to access it and where it lives. Whoever owns the responsibility of keeping the information up to date becomes accountable for the quality and accuracy of information. Providing a single source of essential information dramatically reduces, and in some cases even eliminates, having to look for this crucial material .
For proposals there are primarily two types of information that come into play over and over again – what you say about your capabilities (i.e., your solutions), and what you say about your experience (e.g., past performance qualifications and references). Solutions and experience become the driving factors in putting proposals together. They are the most critical elements of information to single source.
Qocreate helps clients develop two types of key documents in this regard – solution profiles and client profiles. Each solution has its own profile. Each customer has their own profile. Within these documents you incorporate all of the information you might conceivably use in a proposal or marketing piece. Then, any time you need to access that solution or client information, you know exactly where to go to get it.
Solution Profiles. Every company has a set of capabilities. Whether you’re an IT company, a medical device manufacturer, or an aerospace company, you are solving problems. In doing this, you provide solutions to clients and to the general public. These solutions all have elements and processes. Elements are the building blocks of the solution. Processes are the means by which the building blocks work to produce an end result.
The goal of creating a solution profile is to articulate your solution in a way that is easy to understand. In the profile you include an overview of the solution, the elements that comprise it, the process by which it is enacted, and the anticipated results and benefits. Within the profile you also include examples of where your company successfully employs this solution.
Solution profiles serve multiple purposes. They provide a foundation for answering proposal requests. They can be used as marketing pieces to help clients understand the capabilities your company offers. And they serve as a resource for your staff who works with clients day to day, teaching them about the company’s solutions.
These individuals in the field provide a rich resource for business development – in fact, they are your most important marketing tool. Equipping them with accurate, up-to-date, easy-to-access information about your company allows them to quickly capitalize on opportunities where a client may need help.
Client Profiles. Each company also has a base of clients they serve. Most companies desire to gain a greater presence and influence with their client base, and also to increase the number of clients with which they do business.
In order to track performance and be able to quickly identify proof of a solution’s efficacy, Qocreate recommends creating a client profile for each of your clients. Past performance and client references serve as a critical part of the proposal process for government and commercial proposals – so being able to access this performance information quickly is key.
With client profiles, you incorporate key data (e.g., contract name and number, agency or client, number and type of employees, dollar value, period of performance) with details on what work the team is doing. Most clients also want to know how your previous or current performance is relevant to their own problems.
The key to writing a good client profile is getting your subject matter experts in the field involved. They are closest to the clients and know the solutions best. Program and project managers take responsibility for keeping the information up to date, mirroring monthly reports often provided to clients. When it comes time to write a proposal, you know exactly where to look for the past performance information.
Although it may seem like different clients ask for different information, articulating past performance is like writing a resume. The information remains the same, even if the presentation varies from time to time. Therefore recording this information in one place is relatively easy, and definitely smart. Keeping it up to date eliminates the many hours people spend looking for the document they used the last time they had to write a past performance qualification.
Creating solution and client profiles dramatically reduces the effort and time required to write a proposal response. In most situations, your management and technical volumes can be 75% complete once you create your outlines. That efficiency allows you the time to better tailor your response for any particular customer. This means your overall solution speaks directly to your client’s needs, rather than being something ambiguous that any other company can easily write.
To realize the benefits of creating solution and client profiles, please contact us for more information on how to engage Qocreate. We can help you put this content together and prepare you for a future of greater returns with fewer resources.