Now we can look at the questions “Who’s Involved?” and “What Do They Want?”
You may find it tempting to simply allocate the responsibility for producing a proposal to one person.
And that’s OK, provided the proposal will affect only one area of your company, ever. And the person managing the creation of the proposal understands that particular area as well as the people working in it.
Normally a proposal tends to require involvement from a number of different areas in a company.
Mid Sized Consultancy Example
Let’s take an example. Say you’re a computer consultancy responding to a tender request for the provision of a new set of Financial Back Office applications, including sales, purchase and all financial ledgers.
The people likely to be affected in a mid-sized consultancy organisation could include:
1) The prospective project manager
2) The application development managers for each financial back office application
3) The accountant responsible for project profitability
4) The sales staff responsible for winning the business
5) Experts in the conversion of existing data
6) Representation from the planned hardware provider (internal or external)
7) Representation from other interested parties to extend the sales possibility of the proposal.
8) A technical architect
9) The staff who will create the report and the presentation
The reason so many staff are required is that any one of those can affect the production of the proposal document. Proposals tend to be produced in very short timescales. So If any are on holiday during the creation their input would be missed, or the proposal would have to be cancelled.
Again, the application development managers know which products are suitable for the proposal and if a new release is due and when.
The data experts are able to advise on the conversion of existing data and, crucially the complexity and time to create data conversion suites to convert the data from an existing format to the proposed format.
The accountant is there to ensure that the proposal has all the costs included, if any cost is missed it could end up with the consultancy taking a loss on the project.
In a nutshell everyone is there to provide information to ensure the smooth production of a proposal. Often they will need to give further information, or write part of the proposal, and each persons input needs to be dovetailed into an overall timetable.
Responses From A Small Company
What would a small company do to respond?
Obviously they wouldn’t have the number of people I listed previously. However, they would have all the roles I listed. So for example a small software development company could have one application development team leader who is also the data conversion expert and is also the technical architect and defines the required hardware for any project.
The owner might be the person responsible for checking costs are correct and for the sale and for assessing the potential for further sales and the person who prepares the proposal.
The Right People Are The Right Number To Respond
In the end everyone who needs to be involved to produce a good proposal are the people who should be involved. And this is the “proposal team.”
If they can’t get involved think again about whether to respond to the proposal.
What Do They Want?
Before anything else the whole proposal team must read the proposal and consider if from their own area of expertise and then from any interactions they might need with other areas of the business.
The team should then meet to decide whether the prospect has worded the proposal to slant it towards a specific supplier – yes, it does happen! In which case you need to be very careful as to whether it’s worth replying with a proposal.
Also, if there’s a guide as to the expected price of the project the team need to decide whether it’s feasible to provide a solution at, or near, the price suggested.
Once the team has decided whether it’s worth producing a proposal they should discuss each element of the proposal and note whether any clarifying information is required from the prospect.
The second is to really understand what the prospect is looking for, both in the solution they’re searching for and also whether there is actually something else that is better that the proposal team’s expertise can assist with. This process also tends to throw up questions.
Using Clarifying Questions
Then there are two ways of dealing with clarifying questions. The easiest is for the sales staff and appropriate representatives of the proposal team to visit the prospect and ask them and any others that may crop up from the replies.
Meeting the prospect is almost always the best choice as it allows you to demonstrate interest in the project and to show you’ve considered it thoroughly and to deepen the relationship with the prospect
The other choice is to contact the prospect via fax or email or through a joint supplier meeting or meeting a single representative of the company. None of these is ideal as other companies often find out the questions you’ve asked when they’re documented.
In my next post I’ll write about what we need to produce a proposal and how we can deliver the solution.