Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Help us and have a chance to win a lifetime membership with Learn to Write Proposals

Learn to Write Proposals is always trying to improve so we can provide our users with the experience and content they want.

So this month we are asking you how you find using our site and what we can do to provide better content for you in the future.

Our survey will be available until July 31 2009 and then we'll be choosing one winner at random to get not only a full lifetime membership to Learn to Write Proposals but also giving away one free day of proposal consultancy. That's a thankyou worth over £500.

You can take part in our survey here and I promise it will only take a couple of minutes to complete:


Many thanks and I look forward to reading your opinions.

James England 
Learn to Write Proposals

P.S. Our regular newsletter will be with you again soon with some great articles and exciting developments. Until then, get instant updates and proposal writing tips by following Learn to Write Proposals on Twitter - http://twitter.com/ltwp

What a good waiter can tell us about writing a winning proposal

What can waiters tell us about persuasion? Well, how often has you tip altered depending on the quality of service? How often has your order changed depending on the recommendations of the waiter? And was you judgement about repeat business affected by the person who was your primary contact?

Successful food servers are not just good at increasing the size of their tips - they also improve the revenue for the restaurant by providing a service that is firstly good quality and personable (making people come back again) but by also making recommendations on what people should eat and drink - ever paid more than you intended for that bottle of wine because the waiter recommended it? Research also shows that repeating customer orders back increases tip size...as does how you give people sweets at the end of the meal. I'll be looking at that in my next book review "Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion".

Bad service drives me crazy in a restaurant. And I have no idea why restaurant owners put up with it - I'm sure that the main reason people don't return to restaurants is poor service. What's that got to do with proposals?

Well, look at your proposal as if it were a meal and the client was the diner...stay with me here...would you return to the restaurant? Or put it this way, does your proposal look after the client? Are they going to feel that even though you have recommended something expensive, perhaps even more expensive than they had intended paying, that it was worth it? Does your proposal give them a positive experience and value for money?

Or does it give them indigestion and make them feel as if they never want to eat there again?

How about repeating an order back? Tips increase, which shows greater customer satisfaction. Look at your proposals and be sure that you have accurately reflected the client requirement. Does anything annoy your more than receiving the wrong order because the waiter wasn't paying attention? No. So don't propose a solution that doesn't meet the client's requirement.

Feel free to recommend something better. They value your expertise in this area and want your opinion. And bear in mind, that a more expensive "five star" option makes a less expensive "standard" solution look more affordable...the restaurant knows this by putting all those expensive wines and champagnes on the wine list...all of a sudden you think that £30 for a bottle of wine isn't so bad after all.

People reward good experiences and avoid returning to places they have had a bad one. Make sure your proposal reflects our client's needs and concerns and makes recommendations for a solution. Go on and provide good service and they will want to come back.

There are lots of successful businesses out there that operate in different spheres and ways than yours or mine. But shouldn't be able to look at what makes them successful and integrate some of those features in our business to help us succeed?

Why not try it? Otherwise you may be heading the same way as that dodgy restaurant that you ate at last week.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

how to write a business proposal when you are a small business

Big businesses take writing business proposals seriously. Why? because big contracts are offered particularly by the public sector?

On the radio this morning I heard that in the UK over 80% of public sector IT projects are awarded to only 5 of the largest consultancies. Not that a company with 150 staff is going to attempt to win a contract for national identity cards, but the size of the contract means that the proposal itself can have a budget of millions of pounds to put together. This is a huge project, requiring a large number of people, organisation and a lot of time and effort to produce the tender.

Procurement in the public sector has become more professional and needs to be demonstrably fair. So the procurement process is complex on large projects and that same diligence is required on smaller projects that require written proposals.
Small businesses also need to write proposals - OK, smaller proposals. But in a small business a contract worth £250,000 can be a big piece of work - one that makes the difference between keeping people and letting them go. It's important then that the proposal is professional and accurate. But this needs an equivalent amount of resource to organise, plan and execute.

Yet, even with a dedicated sales team there is often adequate resource to write a proposal. I've written before about the differences in sales people and proposal development. Here is my generalisation: sales people are, for the most part, not great at planning the resources and time required to write proposals to the best ability of the company. This usually manifests itself by not doing anything about an RFP for three weeks, then rushing to get it finished in time.

Why can't a small business use the tactics and approaches of big business in their proposals? Well they can. You may not have the ability to have a strategic proposal centre, with staff just dedicated to writing proposals, but you can do one of two things.

1) Appoint one of your project managers or administrators to be in charge of proposal planning. They should be involved in the weekly sales meeting and plan the resources required to complete each proposal and set deadlines to ensure work is completed on time and early enough to be quality checked and amendments made.

This doesn't need to be a central bid team - all the proposal development can be done by staff in their normal jobs. It's just leaving the project management to a professional. After all, how many CEOs would put their star sales person in charge of their most important project? Not many...yet the sales projects they are working on will be the most important projects in the company next year.

2) If you can't spare the project manager, then you need to improve the planning of the sales team. At the sales meeting don't just look at probabilities, proposals in development and when projects will be closed - every proposal opportunity should require a detailed plan to be produced by the sales person. The first half of the meeting should be the traditional sales meeting and the second half reviewing the proposal plans, resources required and progress.

Small businesses often rely on the can-do, multi-skilled approach and attitude of their staff. Yet the success of big business says play as a team because it makes you stronger. Find ways to help your proposals be from a structured, planned team and they will be better.

If you have a small business and want help to make this happen in your organisation, then get in touch with Learn to Write Proposals.