Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Know the client...early on

It's often said that a race is not won at the beginning but it can be lost. Is it the same with proposal writing? Maybe you cannot win your proposal at an early stage, but you can certainly put yourself in a position not to win it.

This really comes down to re-thinking your proposal development strategy, in that it ceases to be about just writing a winning proposal but encompasses everything you know about customer relationships. Having a good customer relationship won't necessarily help you win new business, but having a poor customer relationship puts you at a severe disadvantage.

It's important to get to know the client and what drives there business. There have been many great books recently on the idea of consultancy selling - not just doing a product pitch to show off features and benefits - but in you providing a service through your sales. This requires you to understand the clients business, knowing how to solve their problems and being able to express how your solution will avoid the negative ramifications of both inaction and choosing an alternative and inferior solution. 

You need to understand the client well enough to be able to put forward a solution, a clear position on the benefits and advantages of your solution and a return on investment model.

Now we approach the end of the race - where you can not just lose, but you can win. Knowledge is not enough and client relationships are not enough (most of the time). This is where your proposal development skills need to come to the fore.

The proposal must reflect your knowledge and your client relationships and your solution. It is here that you in-depth, long-time cultivated understanding of the clients business can be exploited. You proposal is there to persuade the client that they must change the direction they are going in by moving in your direction - that is where the race is won.

If you truly have taken the time and effort to know and understand the client's needs and you truly believe in the product and/or service that you offer it should be easy to be passionate and persuasive. You have all the tools - use them because in this race there are very few prizes for second place.