In a recent conversation with a sales director, he noted that that most of their organisation’s bids were made face-to-face with the client, using PowerPoint – invariably resulting in the deal being won. What value, therefore, could professional proposal staff bring to their sales process? It led to an interesting debate, and I thought I’d share my perspectives here.
But if your clients are invariably buying from you directly as a result of a PowerPoint presentation, and you’re rarely losing, that would typically suggest that you are the sole contender – rather than being part of a formal competitive tendering process. If you can get to this stage, that’s great news. Indeed, when a good proposal centre is engaged early enough by their sales colleagues, one of the key goals should be to wire the process in their favour. This may be by working out tactics to avoid ever reaching a competitive tender (e.g. via a proactive proposal or workshop-based approach) – or, at the least, by influencing the client’s process / requirements / criteria. In that sense, most proposal teams don’t actually want to end up writing proposals!
But if this is case, it’s no wonder that you win so regularly and easily – and the debate perhaps needs to focus more on whether you’re optimising scope and (particularly) margin. Moreover, such “safe” sales presentations in non-competitive situations with existing clients isn’t really where proposal professionals add the most value. They focus more typically on competitive deals – which are, of course, often the ‘norm’ when you’re trying to acquire new clients rather than simply ‘farming’ your installed base. Perhaps, we pondered, his salespeople are playing it too safe – and could be being more adventurous in chasing new business? Perhaps their very lack of proposal capability inhibits sales growth, with the account managers too scared (or lazy?) to chase any opportunities that would require a written proposal?