It’s difficult to envision, design, and implement. Ask anyone in organizational development.
Then there is the sales proposal – the big bid one. Business document by day. Change agent by night.
Large bids can be drivers of real change. They have an uncanny ability to unloosen corporate purse strings. Especially when rebidding one contract that’s a large portion of the company’s revenue.
Proposal as Fiction
A sales proposal is a fiction. It’s a story about what you as the service supplier will do for the customer should they be wise enough to select you.
Like all good fiction, a proposal is about 80-90% based on reality, its your current capabilities as they exist today.
The remaining 10-20% is a story about the company you want to be, your future capabilities, what you will do once you are selected by the customer.
And story telling is not a bad thing. Actually it’s an absolute requirement for successful sales proposals.
Proposal as Organizational Design
Part of that story telling is the way it benefits your company, even before the customer sees your proposal.
When responding to a large bid opportunity there’s the self-recognition of your own company’s weaknesses or capability shortfalls. It’s those areas that you know your company should have invested in, or developed, or taken care of.
So, when developing your proposal you have the chance to design / fix / solve those areas. You’ll need to select only those that are important to the customer for this particular bid opportunity.
This bid is your opportunity to become the company it aspires to be.
But there are caveats to story telling in proposals.
Proposal is a Promise
Your sales proposal is a contractual promise, which means you can’t write text that states you’re already doing this great innovation, or have been doing it for some time — unless of course you are.
With that said, a proposal is a proposal. Your company is “proposing” to do this and that. So write it that way. Write the truth about innovation and change. Explicitly state in your text that this is an innovation, or a change that will be launched with the beginning of that customer’s contract with you.
So you’ve created a compelling picture of the future in your proposal. The customer is drooling with excitement just reading it. Now you’ve made the short list for presentations.
At this stage of the bid process you must at least be able to show a prototype / demo / mock up of your proposed innovation or change. By being up front and honest with the customer in the proposal, they’ll not expect you to drill down to every nut and bolt in the presentation.
However, this does mean you’ll have to complete your research and prototype / demo / mock up before you submit your proposal. At least having enough of it for the presentation. Because there’s never enough time to get it done between proposal submission and presentation.
Congrats, You Won
The customer has selected you. Now you deliver. The real deal, full scale, full steam ahead.
And the funding for that project has miraculously become available because you’ve just landed a substantial increase to top and bottom lines.
Once that innovation / change is up and running, your company has just added capability and competitiveness, which makes your next bid opportunity even more exciting.
Good luck, propose creatively and write truthfully.