The habits that companies need to develop are different from the personal habits that people develop. Companies focus on things like policies and procedures, but habits usually don’t make the list. As a result, the habits they develop are usually the bad kind — the ones you fall into in the absence of having good habits. So we thought we’d take a look at what the good habits should be.
The habits that a company needs relate to the things they need to do and achieve, but are different from the procedures themselves. If a company has the right habits, it forms a set of expectations, and the procedures become merely how they get fulfilled. The right habits put the focus on results, whereas procedures put the focus on compliance. When the people within a company automatically seek the right results and share the same goals, then the procedures to implement them come naturally.
Here is a list of 10 habits that are critical for companies to win their business pursuits. We’ve divided the list in half, with the first half focusing on the pre-RFP business development phase, and the second half focusing on the post-RFP proposal phase.
Before the RFP is released, be in the habit of:
- Having a strategic plan that defines the targets for prospecting and using it as a filter to determine which leads to pursue. Not having a strategic plan is at the heart of bad habits that companies develop. It also leads to failure. But having a strategic plan does no good if it sits on a shelf. It has to be a guide and act as a filter to help lead your company to success.
- Doing your prospecting according to the strategic plan. Where do people go to find their leads? If you leave it wide open, start by searching databases, or expect someone’s Rolodex to deliver them, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A key purpose of a strategic plan is to guide people to the right territories to look for the right kind of leads. You need your staff to be in the habit of using the strategic plan to guide where and how they do their prospecting. If they ignore the strategic plan, you might as well not have one.
- Measuring how many leads you reject, get cancelled, or no bid and using this to refine future pipeline targets. The first time you chart your pipeline, you’ll have to make up a lot of numbers. But in the future you want to be able to base all the numbers on hard data. Getting into the habit of tracking that data will not only make future targeting more accurate, it will also keep people from developing bad habits, like bidding everything they find.
- Measuring progress during lead pursuit. If you don’t measure your progress during lead pursuit, then you have no way of knowing whether you are making any progress. Too many companies are in the habit of having regular meetings where they report on the leads they are tracking, but don’t actually measure the progress. All they do is talk about “what’s new” and pretend that they're on track because they can identify it as a lead. But when the RFP is released they’re never ready. The way to measure lead pursuit progress is to identify what it takes to be ready to win and measure how much of it you’ve accomplished. Our methodology for conducting Readiness Reviews is available from the win before the RFP is even released.
After the RFP is released, get in the habit of:
- Defining quality, the criteria to use to assess it, and what it will take to win before writing starts. If you can’t say what proposal quality is, what you're looking for when you review the proposal, and what it will take to win, then you’re not ready to start writing. Think first. Write second. You can’t figure it out by writing about it. That just uses up time producing an inferior document. How to define proposal quality and a set of criteria for assessing it are both available in the generic proposal reviews do not lead to successful proposals. All of your work defining quality criteria and building a Proposal Content Plan around them provides that standard. All you need to do is compare the draft narrative proposal to the original Proposal Content Plan to make sure that they are all there. Proposal Quality Validation is another topic that is addressed in the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase.
- Establishing traceability from the draft to what it will take to win, all the way back to your strategic plan. This brings it all together so that each step reinforces the others. When you have the right habits, then doing the right things becomes easier. Each step helps the next and provides the feedback you need to continuously improve. If you can get away with ignoring or skipping any step, then that step wasn’t really vital. In the same way, having some good habits isn’t enough. Taken as a whole, they add up to success. Leave something out and it adds up to… well, something less than success.
Subscribe to PropLIBRARY
Unlock our premium content, including the recipes, forms, checklists, etc. that make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals.
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.