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: