We’re pleased to say that, after a short break, our Proposal Guys panel is back. The latest question we posed to our team of proposal professionals around the world was based on some of the challenges that organisations are facing at the moment:
What will be the impact of the current economic climate on the proposal profession?
When I first read the question, my thoughts immediately turned to negativity, the reduction in the numbers of tenders coming through, the decisions put on ‘hold’ and the restrictions placed on budgets. I braced myself to write something suitably gloomy, but in a call to discuss new proposal templates, I realised that in fact, with the shift within businesses from ‘nice to win’ to ‘must win’, it has actually brought improvements to my role as a Bid Manager.
Speaking from personal experience, opportunities are being qualified harder, with management increasingly reluctant to waste resources on proposals… Focus on and visibility of the proposals that do pass the vetting process has increased, with Senior Management taking more and more interest in what goes on at a lower level.
At this lower level, focus on best practice has also increased. Bid teams and Senior Management are more and more receptive to the nuances and idiosyncrasies of best practice within proposals, more ‘interested’ in the tips and tricks that will help us to gain marks (and of course lose marks) at evaluation.
“I think the impacts will be different based on industry and where your company is from a price perspective. For example, if you’re the highest priced solution in your market, then I think a lot of your existing customers will probably go out to bid to shop the market for a less expensive solution, so you’ll see an increase in RFP volume.
If your company is at the lower end of the price spectrum for your product, I’d guess you might see a decrease in RFP volume… Going out to bid can be expensive especially if a broker or consultant is involved, so companies that feel they already have a good product at a good price will likely not expend time, energy and resources going out to bid.”
At the same time, she foresees procurement people getting ever-more involved in purchase decisions, which could “further ‘commoditize’ a lot of products/services that really shouldn’t be viewed as a commodity” and result in “more online RFPs, auctions, spreadsheets, etc.”
For individuals, as a result, “the job market for RFP professionals in general will be very good. It would be a good time to learn a new industry, brush up your skills, get your APMP certification, update your resume. This is a good time to advance our profession as a whole. No one is going to be able to do business without us in this climate.”
Efficiency matters, too: “I think RFP software skills will also become more important as companies are required to do more with less people. Automation tools will be in demand.”
Talking of automation tools, Dave (from Sant) has noticed “much more scrutiny over any expenditure (preserving cash is of paramount importance)… but on the whole we are not seeing proposal related investments being cancelled on the basis that winning more (or indeed any) business is more critical than ever. Both the vendors and the business sponsors are having to work much harder to quantify benefits to justify any investment.”
He echoes Barbara’s point on efficiency. “The proposal team’s effectiveness is a key element to supporting this goal. Headcount freezes are now common-place, so proposal teams are expected to do more with the same or less resource. Therefore anything that addresses productivity is being viewed favourably.”
I’ll add a few thoughts of my own in my next post; your own comments – as ever – are always welcome here, or by email. What impact are you seeing? Are you being crunched?