Are you responsible for business development in your company? If so, do you know what your website and social media are saying to potential clients about your business?
A strong online presence makes you look sharp, but it can be tough to keep content fresh with limited time or budget. Here are five easy tasks you can do this week to better represent yourself online. These actions will increase your chances of influencing contracting officers, program managers, teaming partners and potential commercial clients.
Complete one of these tasks each day and you’ll have a rejuvenated online presence in just one work week!
Thanks for reading this installment of To Do This Week. Are you interested in a comprehensive online strategy for your firm? Contact Qocreate for a thorough review of your online assets.
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!
Qocreate’s three steps to writing a winning business proposal include organization, development, and articulation. In this post, we’ll focus on organization, helping you to put structure around your ideas and solutions.
Once you do the hard work of organizing, writing a proposal in response to a customer request becomes a quick and enlightening affair. Whether your client requests a quad chart, a white paper, a Statement of Work, a Request for Proposal, or a quote, you will be able to clearly see how your solution satisfies their needs.
Clients often tell you exactly how they want to see the information presented. It is important that you ultimately present the proposal in this format. However, many clients – especially government clients -- do not request proposal solutions in a way that immediately leads to truly coherent organization. For that reason, much of the struggle in putting together a proposal is trying to figure out how to give them what they want, while not compromising the story or integrity of the solution.
Qocreate has a way to help with this problem: putting first things first, frame the solution in a way that makes sense to you.
We recommend writing out your business solutions in solution profiles before a client even requests the proposal. This means articulating your solutions with fidelity to how you actually do the work. Put everything down on paper that you know about the solution. Answer the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why. Create graphics, tables, schematics, and other visuals to help potential clients see the work being done. You want to create a day in the life of your solution, a story around how the work gets done.
Organizing in this sense includes brainstorming to get the whole picture, grouping up parts, selecting a method for organization, and then putting the pieces together within the chosen framework or structure.
Brainstorming To Get the Whole Picture and its Parts. Start the organization process by putting all the ideas and parts on paper. This is where you want to see the forest. Create a high-level view of your solution. Include people, processes, technology, templates, tools, and expected results.
• Who will participate in the solution?
• What are each person’s roles and responsibilities?
• What steps will they take to do the work?
• What tools will they use and what systems or infrastructure will they interact with?
Identify efficiencies and benefits to the customer, matching them against industry standards to demonstrate expertise and results. Get these ideas on paper any way you need to – drawings, rough notes and sketches, ideas pulled from the internet.
Grouping The Parts. Once you have everything down on paper, begin to group the parts together in a way that makes sense to you.
Sometimes you can use groupings industry or standards organizations have put together. For example, with project management, you can use overarching phases of Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor, Control, Close. Or, for something like administrative work, you can use tasks like scheduling, conference support, memos, answering phones, travel arrangements, and so on and so forth.
The point is to start looking at possible ways the parts fit together to form the whole. There are multiple ways to do this, but work on one that makes the most sense to you. Then shop the idea around to your co-workers and teammates and use the feedback to further refine your thinking.
Selecting a Method for Organization. Having a clear picture of the whole solution and its component parts, use a method of organization that suits your task.
• Project management lends itself to groupings of activities under major phases.
• Software development lends itself to a chronological and iterative process description.
• Developing a network topology requires drawings and schematics laid out in a physical configuration. Installing the network requires articulating the process that eventually results in the configuration.
You can organize information in any number of ways – chronologically, spatially, categorically, hierarchically, geographically, etc. Choose the structures that work with your idea and begin to think about how they fit together.
Sometimes, the structures work together. For example, you have a hierarchical organization executing a chronological process to produce a result. Or, you have spatial configurations being deployed in different geographic locations. The idea is to choose structures appropriate to your solution in a way that helps people visualize how things will be done.
Putting the Pieces Together. Now that you’ve taken the time to look at the whole, identify the parts, and figure out the structures that best fit your solution, you can put the pieces together. The work of putting the pieces together into a solution is called development, which is the second of Qocreate’s 3 steps to writing a winning business proposal.
With the parts and whole set up in the appropriate structure, you can now begin to understand how your solution fits within a client’s request. This is the ultimate goal of organizing – to see things clearly, so that you can help clients visualize how you solve their problems in a way that makes sense to them.
Organizing Your Response to a Client’s Request. In the beginning of this post, we said that often clients do not ask for information in a way that makes sense. This is likely because the request has been put together piecemeal by different groups or departments.
One group writes the technical scope, another determines how the proposal will be evaluated, and still another puts together the pricing structure and labor categories. Often there are multiple requirements and it can be confusing how to organize your response. Here’s what we recommend.
Take the customers’ requirements and create an outline based on their guidance. Make sure you cover all aspects of what they are asking for in the request. Then, use the solution you’ve created and the organization you’ve built to begin filling in the outlines.
As you do, you’ll see where you have gaps in your solution, or the client has gaps in its request. If you have gaps, begin to fill them in with additional work on the solution. If the client has gaps, it may be an opportunity for you to show your expertise and demonstrate the value of your solution.
At any rate, you will likely not be able to write the proposal with the solution being organized as you envisioned it. When this happens, take the introduction or executive summary, and present the overall solution in a way that makes sense. Then, as you work through the proposal as the client organized it, you can refer back to the overall solution, which includes the whole and the parts you outlined in the previous steps. This allows a reviewer to see the coherent whole, but also to evaluate the proposal against the client’s criteria.
The end result of taking the time to organize your thoughts and ideas is that you see your solution clearly. This allows you to see how it works against other methods of organization, especially those your client uses in asking for response to requests.
Looking for step two? Read our next post, Keys to Developing Your Message. Qocreate excels at helping companies organize their solutions. We can help you create these in response to proposal requests, or in anticipation of them. For more information, visit www.qocreate.com.