In addition to the introduction of our Readers’ Panel, our other new regular feature here at The Proposal Guys will be interviews with people working in the proposal world. I’m delighted to say that our first interviewee is Lewie Miller.
I am currently president of The Sant Corporation, and based on my background, directly manage our sales efforts. I began my career in sales with IBM in 1976 and I have sold or directly managed sales in every position since. In the past 30 years I have personally made thousands of sales calls, managed thousands of sales people, and contributed to thousands of proposals.
This career experience gives me direct perspective of the needs of sales organisations and what works with prospective customers. I have been trained in virtually every sales process or methodology and have implemented numerous sales systems. Therefore, I have a unique perspective regarding what sales people and proposal professionals will embrace to improve their performance.
What characteristics make for a first-class proposal?
A first-class proposal is professionally formatted, free of spelling and grammar mistakes, and is structured using a method we call the “persuasive paradigm”:
1. Restate the business problem or need
2. Identify the outcomes the client seeks
3. Recommend a solution
4. Provide substantiating details
Companies who incorporate this structure into their proposals have the highest probability of winning the bid.
How can proposal centres go about making their proposal processes more efficient?
Efficiency is very important in the proposal centre. Proposal writers are most efficient, and effective, when they are writing client-focused content and focusing on the proposal’s win theme. Proposal writers are least efficient, and effective, when they are searching old proposals for RFP answers, copying & pasting content, and reformatting answers to be consistent with the document.
One simple way to improve efficiency in the proposal centre is to store best-in-class RFP answers in a database that is accessible to everyone involved in proposal writing. When a new RFP is received, users can quickly search the database to find relevant answers from the past. This allows the proposal manager to assemble a first draft much faster so he/she can spend their time making sure the answers are the right answers and address the customer’s needs.
How do you respond to those who claim that, “It’s all about price”?
In reality, some buyers are only focused on price. Research from Holden Advisors indicates 30% of buyers are only focused on price. If you’re selling to a price buyer you should provide the minimum solution to meet their requirements, because they won’t see any value-add in your solution.
The good news is, the majority of buyers understands and appreciates value. The true value buyer wants to know how your solution is different from competitors and why that matters. Some buyers are more focused on relationships. They want a long-term, advisory relationship that is based on trust. Value and relationship buyers will purchase a solution that is more expensive if they see meaningful value. It’s always best to quantify your value proposition.
Unfortunately, many value buyers disguise themselves as price buyers. Holden calls them poker players. They want the best of both worlds – good value at a low price. Holden has effective techniques to identify buyer behaviors and deliver a value-based solution.
If you had to recommend one book to proposal managers, what would it be? (It doesn’t have to be specifically about proposals!)
Persuasive Business Proposals, by Tom Sant (would you really expect me to say anything else!). Tom’s book is the world’s best selling book on proposal writing. It’s a great resource for new or veteran proposal writers who write proactive proposals or RFP responses. Tom’s been in the proposal business for 30 years, was named the first-ever Fellow of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is well respected throughout the proposal community. Amazon.com has good reviews and a “look inside” feature to preview the content.
“If buyers wrote good RFPs, they’d receive good proposals in return. In the meantime, they should stop complaining!” Discuss!
True!! The single most frustrating part of the proposal process is poor quality RFPs. We work with a lot of companies who receive RFPs that contain irrelevant, repetitive, and conflicting questions. It’s frustrating and challenging for a proposal manager to respond to questions that have nothing to do with the current sales opportunity. Resources are spent on these questions that could be better used in other areas of the response document. Even worse, some RFPs contain conflicting requirements, causing proposal managers to speculate about the prospect’s true needs. Inconsistent formatting and numbering in the RFP is also frustrating. It should not be the proposal manager’s responsibility to correct formatting mistakes in the prospect’s RFP.
Thanks, Lewie! We really appreciate your time.
We’ll be interviewing someone new every six weeks or so. If you’d like to suggest someone you’d like to see us interview, then do feel free to comment.