Is Proposal Help Right for You?

Chris Sant San Diego Workshop
Training a great pharmaceutical client on proposal fundamentals in San Diego

You need to increase your win rate, right? That’s how you’re being measured because that’s how everyone in the proposal industry is measured. This isn’t exactly a secret. More wins means more revenue. Either you won or you lost. Either your company gets the chance to help the client or you messed up and now some cut-rate competitor is going to make a tragedy of everything.

On top of increasing your win rate, you’d probably also like to win better deals. Most clients have a core area where they have about a 25% win rate.

Are these the best deals, though? Sure, some are. But mostly these are comfort zone deals. Some good, some not so good. A few great ones. A few you wish you could go back in time and no-bid because the client is like something from a horror movie.

But very few of your current deals will grow your company in new, more profitable directions. Very few will expand your market share. Very few are the “stretch” deals that transform a company from a me-too to a category leader.

Let’s assume that’s true. You’re winning a decent number of normal deals, but you need to win more. And you’re winning occasional growth and partnership deals, but not nearly enough.

On top of that, what are you dealing with from a management perspective?

Inadequate resources?

• A virtual team seemingly spread around the world?

Weak commitment from key people?

• Subject matter expert content and graphics turned in late?

• The salesperson not writing the executive summary like he promised?

Milestones and deadlines missed?

Legal stomping all over every persuasive thing your team writes?

• Maybe senior executives swooping in at the last minute to offer their insights… requiring everything to be re-done?

This is more or less the state of most proposal operations in North America and Europe.

It’s ridiculous. And yet, despite all this, you’re still judged by the win rate.

So you need to communicate your sales message better and do it faster, with less stress and less uncertainty. And you need to be able to do it under the assumption that, if you want it done, you and your team are going to have to do it yourself.

You’re right to be frustrated. But you still need to win more. There are still bills to pay. The folks above you are only going to nod sympathetically and accept those excuses for so long.

After that, costs will have to be cut. That means people.

I’ve seen it, unfortunately. A major IT consulting company wasn’t winning enough in a particular division. The division head brought us in, but it was clear he was pressured to do so. And then, sadly, he wouldn’t accept that there were better ways to write proposals than the copy/paste, boilerplate, jargon-filled, self-centered stuff he was forcing his people to send to prospective clients.

He derided proposal help as “marketing fluff” and “pretty pictures.” He said his client were different. His deals were different. His clients only cared about price. They didn’t care about value. Hell, he was sure they didn’t even read the proposals. Everything was different and nothing would work and no proposal consultant knew as much as him about his IT space.

Undoubtedly that last bit was true, but you know what wasn’t different? His win rate month after month. It stayed at zero.

Because he couldn’t put his ego in check, nothing changed. Because nothing changed, they never won enough to support the division.

So the division closed. Everyone lost their jobs.

Ultimately, he cared more about his ego than about the people who were relying on him to lead the division.

Don’t be that guy.

Proposals matter.

Line of questioners
Answering questions after a talk on “Lies Legal Told You” in Seattle

Luckily, the vast majority of people are much, much better than that.

And, it’s also probably safe to presume that that’s not your situation, or you wouldn’t be here. People like that can’t even acknowledge problems in the first place.

Your situation is probably more one of deciding, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth the time and money to bring someone in and gather everyone in the conference room for a day or two? Some people will have to fly in. And then you’ll have to cater lunch and someone is going to complain that there’s mayo on all the sandwiches or that there’s no vegetarian option. Meanwhile, emails will pile up.

And isn’t it just common sense? Just write better, people! Beyond that, the proposal is just putting down in words what the salespeople have already worked out, right? It’s a formality. At least, that’s what they’re always implying.

Can proposal training really add enough value to justify the hassles? And how can I know if it’ll work for me anyway?


Is it worth it? Find out in part 2.