What do evaluators really think of the proposals they receive from bidders? Prior to presenting to a recent UKAPMP chapter meeting alongside Steve Mullins (Chairman of Strategic Proposals), we conducted a survey to canvass the views of senior figures in the world of procurement. We posed three questions to them:
- how important are proposals
- how good are the proposals that you receive
- what advice would you offer to proposal teams.
The results were quite fascinating: in essence, proposals are clearly a vital part of customers’ decision-making processes, yet few vendors submit truly excellent documents. (Since we were presenting to the UK chapter of APMP, those who participated in the study were in the UK and continental Europe, but I have no doubt that similar conclusions would be reached from a similar survey in other geographies).
Here are my ten favourite quotes:
- “A good written proposal, in itself, might not win you business but a badly conceived and written one may put you out of the race.”
- “It is never enough to say “I’m qualified.” So is everyone else. The point is “Pick me because I’m different.”"
- “The easier the seller makes it for us the better for them.”
- “Some are articulate, really have got under my skin, are really convincing – whereas others look mechanical, dull, pre-written and could have been meant for anyone.”
- “They vary from excellent (rare) to awful (quite common), but most of them are mediocre.”
- “Your ability to do what is required of you at proposal stage reflects upon your ability to perform once in contract!”
- “Buyers are not idiots. They read good proposals thoroughly and they are not amused at fluff, being patronised, inconsistency, arrogance or shabby editing.”
- “They are seeking a reasonable deal with low risk to themselves (oh yes, and their employer).”
- “Clearly understand the problem to be solved. Then and only then can you provide the appropriate solution.”
- “If the customer wants the responses written in quill, printed on papyrus with a bow around it, please conform. Comparing proposals that don’t follow the templates requested is often a long and difficult task… and does lower the tolerance levels of those marking.”
We’ve put together a white paper containing all of the responses that we received; click here if you’d like to download a free copy (and here if you’d like to see a copy of the presentation we gave to UKAPMP). Feel free to share the white paper with colleagues – this is precisely the sort of stuff that your VP Sales needs to read to understand the importance of strong proposal management. And, as ever, we’d be fascinated to hear your comments.