3 Ways to Get Quicker, Timelier Sales Proposals
The shift to remote work spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic has virtually eliminated opportunities for sales teams to have meaningful in-person interactions with customers. As such, organizations in nearly every industry have become increasingly reliant on sales proposals and RFP responses to win new business and ensure long-term growth.
Companies that consistently produce successful bids generally rely on the same formula. For starters, they limit their focus to responding to RFPs they feel they have a legitimate shot at winning, rather than attempting to seize every opportunity that materializes. They also rely heavily on subject matter experts to craft compelling proposal content that demonstrates ample experience, strategic thinking, and attention to detail. Above all, they effectively manage their time throughout the proposal development process—a feat that many companies struggle with.
Recently, Qorus surveyed its customers to find out which aspects of the business development process presented the biggest hurdles, and about 70 percent of respondents revealed that “responding to RFPs in a timely manner” was an ongoing challenge. This result isn’t exactly surprising. Crafting a winning sales proposal or RFP response is a team effort. While a dedicated sales proposal team can facilitate the process, almost every meaningful RFP response requires input from experts across your organization. When these experts work in disparate business units that don’t typically interact, gathering that input inevitably takes time.
Without effective collaboration, just getting out a bid can become a nightmare—but it doesn’t have to be this way. By taking the following steps, companies can improve time management during the sales proposal and RFP response development processes, which will lead to higher-quality bids and happier employees.
1. Understand how time is allocated now. To eliminate bottlenecks and effectively set priorities, you’ll need to understand how the people responsible for working on a bid allocate their time. If, for example, an RFP response requires input from your sales team, you’ll want to clearly articulate where RFP-related activities (e.g., searching for relevant content) stand in relation to their other responsibilities.
Ideally, sales team members will spend the majority of their time in front of customers. Finding ways to automate non-customer-facing responsibilities will allow these team members to do what they do best while simultaneously making life easier for your sales proposal team. If an RFP response requires input from a multitude of SMEs, you can alleviate the burden on your sales proposal team by storing SME knowledge in a centralized location. When they don’t have to chase down colleagues for feedback, sales proposal team members can spend more time working on strategy development and crafting a compelling RFP response.
2. Focus on ROI. If you notice client satisfaction slipping while you develop sales proposals or you see billable work being ignored in favor of new business activities, it might be time to invest in tools and resources so that your team is better equipped to handle those proposals and RFP responses. This approach also leads to efficiencies in productivity, especially when using ROI calculators to understand how each person’s time is spent.
On the other hand, if the sales proposal team struggles to promptly submit polished bids, evaluate your internal processes to find obstacles and inefficiencies. Does the team have any confusion about roles? Is your team relying on dated software that hinders the process? Do they lack the training required to put together an effective RFP response? The longer these questions go unanswered, the more opportunities you’ll miss. A candid conversation with your team should help you identify areas where additional investments are needed.
3. Leverage technology to drive efficiency. Modern businesses rely on an array of digital tools to facilitate work, but if those tools aren’t integrated, they might impede workflows rather than expedite them. The best collaboration tools allow employees to work primarily with the essential technologies they already use. For your sales team, these may include your CRM and email client. For marketing, they could include Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud.
You won’t be replacing these applications, so don’t invest in software that requires employees to duplicate their efforts when moving from one platform to another. Instead, find tools that work synergistically with your existing tech stack. Assess the thresholds of your sales proposal teams (and any others involved in proposal development) and consider software that supports all of them. When making the case for new software, benchmark your current productivity so that you can set actionable targets for improvement.
Now more than ever, successful sales proposals and RFP responses are vital to business growth. If you’re struggling to submit winning bids, ineffective time management could be the culprit. Take the steps above and give your team more time to do their best work.
As executive vice president of marketing at Qorus Software, Jennifer Tomlinson works to identify business needs and help clients generate revenue more effectively and efficiently.