When people think about tools for proposals, they usually make the mistake of thinking about automation. What they should be thinking about instead is performance.
When you think of automation, you think of reducing effort and cost. Let the computer do it for you. Go right ahead — if you want to produce proposals that are easy to beat.
But when you think of supporting performance, other things that become important. Like the fact that many people who get involved in proposals are inexperienced. Or how, unless you sell a commodity, increasing your win rate returns a much higher ROI than lowering your proposal costs. Increasing your win rate makes the effort worthwhile. And besides, automating proposal production doesn’t target where the most time is wasted on proposals. People spend far more time thinking about proposals than writing them. A performance support tool helps people think and not just assemble.
The real problem
To maximize your win rate and ROI, instead of automation you want a system that enables you to actually do the things you know you should to win your proposals, but somehow can’t seem to make happen. Here are some reminders of some of the things that everyone knows, but hardly anyone does:
• The proposal should start before the RFP is released
• You should plan your proposal’s content before you start writing it
• Proposal quality should be defined, in writing
• Proposal reviews should be based on quality criteria
• People working on proposals should be trained
My vision for a proposal support system ignores automating document assembly in favor of solving these problems and increasing your win rate. It returns a huge ROI.
PropLIBRARY started life as a collection of best practice articles. It grew into an end-to-end process that addressed the issues above, but required manual process implementation. Then it grew it into a cross-linked online training platform. And now it’s about to become a proposal performance support system.
We’re creating a single tool that will address Readiness Reviews, Content Planning, and Proposal Quality Validation by providing instructions, guidance, and quality criteria. It will be the easiest way to implement these methodologies the world has ever seen, because it will blend off-the-shelf guidance with proposal recipes. It will enable customization and an approach to re-use that accelerates without destroying your win rate.
All it does is provide an online interface that integrates everything you need to do. It provides performance support. It doesn’t even bother with automating document assembly, since most companies are already pretty good at document assembly and it’s often less than 10% of the total effort that goes into a proposal.
Integration is the key
You can build your own performance support system. Just integrate these ingredients:
- Create a database for your Proposal Content Plans with your quality criteria definition. Make the content plans and proposal criteria easy to complete.
- Put your proposal recipes in another database and then integrate it with your content planning function.
- Provide proposal management support in the form of progress tracking and review reporting.
- Create bite-sized online training that works more like a proposal help system. Forget days-long courses that are taken separate from proposal development.
- Support collaboration because people will have questions and issues to discuss.
Essentially what you are doing is integrating guidance, training, planning, reviewing, and collaboration. This is what your proposal team needs to be successful.
Here are some goals to achieve along the way:
- Keep the focus on what to write and not on assembly. Shape the document with instructions and guidance about what to write. And not by bringing forward narratives that were written for the wrong context or are too generic to be competitive.
- Make content planning and quality validation checklist-simple.
- Make planning, writing, and reviewing a real-time collaborative effort instead of managing by draft cycles.
- Spend your time thinking about how to guide your team and about what defines quality instead of editing draft after draft.
- Eliminate the production of as many process artifacts and deliverables as you can by moving them online.
- Remember that raising your win rate is more important than saving proposal costs by reducing proposal quality.
- Eliminate wasted effort by focusing discovering and articulating what it will take to win in a way that enables you to drive it into the document.
This is what PropLIBRARY is becoming.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.
The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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