Friday, July 17, 2009

Proposal horror stories...and the lessons learnt

So here are two of my favourite proposal horror stories. OK, one of them involves a presentation.

1. A company decides to use a junior member of staff to put together a proposal for a division he knows nothing about. They give him one day to do it, with instructions to assemble the document purely from past proposals. At the end of the day (yes, after work), the division head will turn up, edit the proposal (with the junior proposal writer still there, of course) and then it will get submitted the following day.

Well...the executive summary taken from another proposal still had the client's name from the earlier proposal in it when it was submitted...guess who was blamed?

I think many people who have put proposals together will recognise the bad practice here - leaving the proposal to the last minute, relying on someone who has no idea what the proposal is about to put it together, not allowing adequate time for proofreading and quality review. The problem could have been avoided by planning a proposal response as soon as the proposal was known about, with the proposal sections allocated to suitably qualified individuals. The junior team member could still have been responsible for managing the process and assembling the document.

Oh...and don't have the wrong client name in your proposal. Clients really don't like it.

2. It's a presentation for a medium sized government IT contract. It's down to the last two companies. Company A, a large multi-national IT and telecoms company goes first. Then Company B, a small IT specialist. Company B is told later on in the afternoon that they won. They ask for feedback. "Well..." starts the client."...your pricing was almost identical. The solution you offered was very similar. You both understood exactly what we wanted and could deliver in the timeframe." "So what swung it our way?" they asked, assuming that their exceptional client relationship skills had won the client over. The client continued "They came in and set up their computer for the presentation, they handed out expensively produced brochures with the solution detailed. And then they told us that they had left the presentation on the computer at the office". Boom! and there went six weeks work on a proposal and on such things are decisions made.

Lesson: When you go on holiday do you keep reminding yourself "tickets, passport, wallet"? Prepare for your presentations thoroughly and always check that you have everything you need.