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.