If your bids win or lose depending on how well your proposals help the customer determine how to reach their decision, the best competitive advantage is often an information advantage. How will they make their decision? What matters to them? What do they need to see in the proposal?
When this is the case, relationship marketing becomes key to the sales process. However, the relationship is not your real goal. Your goal is the result of the relationship. And that should be an information advantage. You can measure the strength of your customer relationship based on how well it helps you develop an information advantage.
The extent of your information advantage can be measured by your ability to answer the questions that proposal writers have when trying to write a winning proposal. An ordinary proposal is self-descriptive and can get by without a lot of insight. An ordinary proposal is not competitive. A great proposal, however, requires insight to provide what the customer needs to see to reach a decision in your favor. Creating an insightful proposal requires an information advantage.
The key here is that an information advantage can be measured by its ability to answer your questions. Now, you just need to know what questions you need answers to in order to write a great proposal.
On your next bid, try answering questions like these:
- What will it take to win this pursuit?
- What are the customer’s preferences?
- What are their goals?
- What is their management style?
- What matters to the customer?
- What is the price required to win?
- What should you offer?
- Do you have any gaps in your offering?
- How should you handle the inevitable tradeoffs?
- What will make you a better alternative than your competitors?
- How does the customer make decisions?
- What information do proposal writers need to close the sale?
The answers to these questions determine:
- Whether you should bid
- What you should offer
- How you should position, differentiate, and present your offering
- What your win strategies should be
- What points you should make in your proposal paragraphs
- How to get the best evaluation score
- How you should price your offering
- How to make bid and tradeoff decisions
The secret to consistently winning competitive bids is to know these things. Discovering the answers requires a customer who is willing to discuss them with you. This means that you need a relationship in which the customer feels comfortable talking to you. And this in turn means developing that relationship before the customer’s acquisition process reaches the point where they limit communications.
You will never get all the answers you want and you should consider far more questions than you will ever be able to answer. If you can learn more than your competitors and turn that into a better proposal, you have turned an information advantage into a competitive advantage. Bidding without an information advantage means you are either gambling on your ability to guess better than your competitors, or you are betting that all you need is to offer the lowest price. Overconfidence in either of these will result in a low win rate as well as low profit margins.
We added pre-RFP Readiness Reviews to the MustWin Process that is available to PropLIBRARY Subscribers to provide a structure for developing an information advantage. It includes our method for quantifying the answers to questions that you can use to quantify the strength of your customer relationships, correlate answers with your win rate, and identify trends in the effectiveness of your business development efforts.
Not only can you measure the strength of your customer relationships by how well they produce an information advantage, you can measure the profitability of relationship marketing by how well it improves your win rate. An improvement to your win rate means increasing your revenue without having to chase more leads. And when you do the math, you’ll find that it’s worth the effort to build customer relationships that provide the information advantage you need to win. Companies that consistently win and generate positive returns know what the “I” in ROI stands for…
Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY
Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.