So many proposal teams are engaged by their sales colleagues to respond to RFPs. Their skill, their energy, is deployed reactively, against the clock, at a point in the bid process where the opportunity to influence the client is already significantly diminished.
So much more rewarding to be the proposal manager I was working alongside last week. Her sales team had identified an opportunity to capture a substantial piece of business – but the RFP wouldn’t be issued for a year. An initial meeting had been scheduled with the client; would she care to be involved, and could she offer any advice?
We chatted through some of the key questions they might want to ask, to understand (at a high level, at this stage) the customer’s key drivers for contemplating change; their view of the ideal solution; the competitive landscape (especially, their perspectives on the incumbent); the procurement approach they were likely to follow.
We talked about the potential for pro-active documents well in advance of the RFx, to try to short-circuit the process or (at least) influenced the client’s requirements and spec. I encouraged her to jot down key words and phrases used by the customer during the discussion: to start to live and breathe their environment. And I urged her to fade largely into the background in that first meeting – not to tread on the salesperson’s toes!
By the end of the discussion, I was itching to get more involved: to work on the campaign from start to successful finish. How much better it is for proposal folks to engage with sales in this way – rather than last minute – and how much greater the value we can add!