Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's your most important project?

We are at a time in the world of austerity where the businesses that have survived so far may well be well positioned for the future..if you've survived this far then the chances are that you have a business that can carry on surviving in lean times.

But what is it that is helping you manage now? 

Is it one client or service? Or maybe you have a business that actually benefits from the recession? Yes, there are some (debt collection agencies are having their best years right now).

So what is your most important project? Is it the one that is keeping your business going? Is it taking all your energy and time? Survival is key of course...but does suvivability have a shelf-life? What happens when that project comes to an end? What happens if circumstances change?

At what stage should you think about moving from surviving to growth and comfort? Do those opportunities exist for you?

Is it time to think that your most important project is the next one?

When you are spending 100% of your time on your current business commitments, looking for and developing new opportunities may not get to the top of your immediate priorities. How to write a proposal when you have no time> But it is vital to the long-term success of your business.

That's why if you want your business to be in position to continue to survive the next project is vital. If you are smoving towards the end of your current commitments the next project is the most important thing you should be working on in your business.

And a quality proposal is one of the key tools that you can use to generate new business. Think about the Learn to Write Proposals persuasion formula:

solution + evidence + value = persuasion

Those current projects should help you define your current solution capability as well as providing evidnce of your ability to deliver. If your business is surviving, then let's assume you offer good value. So you should have a persuasive offering to new and existing clients when you write a business proposal.

Learn to Write Proposals helps you identify key proposal elements, structure your proposal and demonstrate value. We can help you and your team learn how to develop compelling written sales messages. And importantly our tools help you save time so that you can create powerful proposals that help you win new business without losing compromise your current project deliverables. 


Sunday, February 27, 2011

New UK Government Guidelines on SME Procurement

The recent changes in Government procurement have been designed to enable small and medium sized enterprises tp get more access to goverment contracts.

Traditionally, the procurement process in the public sector has been one that's dififcult to crack for smaller business - the complex procurement complex and the size of contracts available have often been off-putting to SMEs. 

That's changing with a new contracts finder website - giving everyone access to public sector contracts over £10,000 but lower that the OJEU threshold.

Another benefit is allowing businesses to pre-qualify once, rather than for each opportunity. This alone will save businesses time and money. In some instances for projects under £100,000 pre-qualification may disappear entirely.

But changing the procurement processes means that businesses have to be prepared to understand new processes and pitch for business. Having procurements that require only proposals and presentations means that the quality of your message, proposal and persuasion needs to be at an even higher level as the opportunities have been opened up to more potentially suppliers.

The new policy also says "Departments will be required to adopt greater use outcome based specifications as much as possible and not to over specify."

Outcome based specifications means that understanding needs and describing client benefits become the essential tools of persuasion - it's not good enough to give details about your's all about what your business can do to deliver the desired outcome.

Businesses need to get close to opportunities - and one danger of these changes is that more contracts will have someone's name on them before the procurement is undertaken - but also any proposals submitted need to be highly persuasive and offer clear benefits statements related to the desired outcomes.

Learn to Write Proposals has developed a methodology for persuasive proposals and this has been deisnged for small and medium businesses - easy to use tools that enhance the sales and proposal capability of businesses that traditionally may not have had to write proposals. But with these new opportunties being publicised, less money being spent in the public sector and a highly competetive environment it means that proposal skills need to be better than ever before. That's why Learn to Write Proposals gives you the tools and resources to respond successfully to opportunities, improving your chances of winning business.



Friday, August 13, 2010

Special offer from Learn to Write Proposals

Learn to Write Proposals
There's never been a more important time to maximise your sales potential -  that means being able to demonstrate value in your proposals and at the same time create better proposals, faster. It's been an exciting year so far at Learn to Write Proposals with the development of e-learning content, our online proposal writing and business style guide and so much more to come with an online seminar series to support you in creating winning proposals.

To reflect the new content offerings we've recently made some changes to our subscription and lifetime membership pricing. However, we want to offer an opportunity to readers of our newsletter to subscribe to Learn to Write Proposals at a significant discount on our new rates. There really is not a better time to treat yourself and your business to a Learn to Write Proposals membership.

That's why until the end of September 2010 you can get 25% of any subscription or a lifetime membership. You can even use this discount to get a discount on individual items in our online shop.

If you want a reminder on what's included, click here.

To get your discount, use this coupon at checkout:


If you have any questions, then don't hesitate to drop us a line.

Learn to Write Proposals
Better Proposals = More Business

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prospect qualification for business proposals

Writing a business proposal is often a substantial investment for a business, whatever the size. It takes time and resources to produce and, as with any sale, there is a chance that the customer is going to say no.

So the opportunity has to be qualified - that is you need to detach emotion and objectively assess the likeliohood of success, then make the call whether or not to invest in the bid.

This objective assessment or qualification is often difficult for some people - for instance a salesperson who has spent time cultivating an opportunity.

But it has to be done to avoid a lot of time wasting. Qualifying out bad opportunities and concentrating on ones that you can win is one of the easiest things that you can do to improve sales success and therefore the success of your business. It's a technique that all sales staff should learn.

Learn to Write Proposals has a Prospect Qualification toolkit that helps evaluate objectively  opportunities. And we recommend that this is used throughout the sales cycle, not just once.

We have two tools to help you with your bid prospecting:

Bid/No bid tool
This tool allows you to make some preliminary decisions about whether it is worth spending time and effort responding to an opportunity. Although it is always tempting to go after everything, unless you can commit time and effort to writing a high quality, customer focussed proposal, you stand only a small chance of winning.

Probability engine
This tool is designed to help you with your bid and prospect qualification - to help you calculate the probability of winning an opportunity based on key business relationship factors weighted against their importance.

Each time you use the bid qualification engine ensure that you name and save the spreadsheet locally. Keep a version for each opportunity and throughout the bidding process re-visit the tool to re-qualify the opportunity - as you get more information and knowledge about the opportunity then check that it is still a viable opportunity - or alternatively that you are applying enough resources to ensure success.

There are fourteen key questions that you need to evaluate, each of which can be given a customised weighting based on the importance of your particular situation.

As this is a very important process, we have also decided to give this toolkit away free. We'll also be working on a improved paid-for version to track costs of the bid process and estimated project costs against value of the bid and the win probability to give you real-time likely return on investment of the bid.

You can download the free toolkit here:

Monday, March 22, 2010

A business proposal that never was

I was involved in writing a proposal for a client recently. The contracting buyer was a large public sector quango, who had issued an Invitation to Tender to a range of suppliers who had been consulted over a long period of time about the proposed project.

My client had an opportunity to consult with the buyer beforehand and qualify the opportunity on several occasions...including one-one-one meetings and a supplier's briefing. Then the ITT came out with no surprises. As one of the only providers in the country who had the technical capability (and part of the specification was based on my client's solution) my client was confident.

The ITT was issued as expected and we spent several days putting the proposal response together. The process was managed, we reviewed and edited the proposal. When we were satisfied, we submitted it.

After following up several times with the buyer, a letter was received. We had not been awarded the contract. Damn!

Had we not met the specification?
Did we exceed the available budget?
Was our proposed schedule missing the target delivery dates?
Did we have a poor track record?

No on all the above.

It turns out that the buyer, as a publicly funded body didn't want to waste tax payers money by funding a service that was already commercially viable. How did they know it was commercially viable? Because my client's tender response (and that of a competitor) showed it was.

Why the client didn't realise this was the case before issuing the ITT? They had met with my client and had knowledge of our solution before we put pen to paper. Why ask us to spend all that time telling us that this project was coming up to bid, then asking us to bid, when they knew they would be funding a commericial service?

It was qualified, yet still the buyer didn't buy. Just because they didn't do their homework properly on what they could fund or not and let the bidding organisations know.

At least no tax payers money was wasted. Just my clients in preparing and putting together the bid. But a public sector organisation that can't do it's job properly is wasting public money.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Qualification...better proposals...better win rate

Once we have an opportunity we need to decide whether it is a viable one for us to actively pursue. Having meetings with clients, preparing a written proposal, travelling to a presentation and all the other costs of gaining business are just one aspect. It may be that the opportunity isn't quite right for you - it may not be your core competence or could be a distraction from a more important project or prospect. Maybe you know that your competition is in prime position for this piece of work and you feel that this project "has their name" all over it and that it simply isn't worth you writing a proposal..

So how do you decide whether to bid or not? The danger is that you make an emotional decision to bid and write a proposal, even though it may not be the right opportunity for the business, after all you have put in the effort to find or create the lead. You should go through this process even if a client organisation has given you a "hot" lead and asked you to respond to their RFP or tender document.

You need to qualify your lead all the way through the sales process - from the initial prospecting to just before the submission of the proposal. At Learn to Write Proposals we have our Bid Qualification Toolkit to help you make those decisions and it helps you in two ways.

Firstly, the Bid Qualification Engine helps you measure the probability of your success in a particular opportunity, but this isn't a one-time thing that might stop your business development in its tracks...every time you qualify the opportunity you are identifying strengths and weaknesses in your capture planning strategy. Identifying weaknesses in you position (and the potential impact of those weaknesses) early on in the business development process helps you overcome them and make your proposal and position stronger.

Secondly, the Bid/No-Bid matrix helps you make an objective decision about the viability of an opportunity.

Any sort of formal qualifying process is important and should be done regularly throughout the development process. Why? Because it will help inform you about your progress and also will help you if your bid is unsuccessful and an analysis and report has to be made of what went wrong. If you can show that you followed a structured process of identifying potential problems and mitigating them, it helps feed into improving how you go about writing business proposals and winning work.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What to do to win more business...and proposals

It's the obvious question...what do I really have to do in order to win the work.

You may think that you are doing everything right. You've done your homework, worked up a relationship with the client, done your bid/no bid analysis and qualified the opportunity. Everything seems good...but sometimes we get caught up in things and forget the basics.

Basics such as answering the questions. Maybe this blog entry should be entitled what doesn't win work because this is about something that can sometimes get overlooked. There is more than one large organisation out there who spent a lot of time, effort and money preparing the groundwork for a large piece of work that they thought that they would have a good chance of winning, yet not only did they not get the work, they were dismissed by the commissioning organisation at the pre-qualification stage.

Why? That's easy - they didn't answer the questions properly. It's unusual to be writing a proposal and not refer to the RFP to make sure that the proposal is answering the questions - not so unusual that the questions aren't answered fully or in a persuasive manner - but a PQQ is often left to a junior member of the team who just cuts and pastes from other documents. It can be a costly error to not even get invited to tender for an opportunity that suits your business strategy.

The moral of this story. Take care and take time to check that what you are doing is in fact what you were supposed to be doing.

Prepare in advance. Prepare your PQQ questions. Use proposal templates so that your documents look professional and are structured to tell a compelling story. And have your boilerplate answers ready - and then be prepared to customise those answers to ensure you highlight benefits and provide a genuine solution to the client.

How can Learn to Write Proposals help? we have a dedicated Pre-Qualification Questionnaire tool to help you prepare your answers in advance. We have proposal template packs plus guides, tools and training to help to deliver persuasive and value-packed proposals to your clients.