Two Tips to Partner Better With the Proposal Team As a Sales Pro
CSO Insights reports that 54% of sales professionals attain quota. In this reality, it may be tempting to peruse and approach as potential revenue many of the alluring, semi-fit proposal opportunities hitting the market in your territory. If you’ve been around for some time, though, you know that grave danger lies in this approach. In fact, according to GovSpend, only “20% of government spending goes through the RFP process”, as an example. As numbers may be similar across other sectors, a sole focus on formal proposal opportunities as revenue generators will disqualify you from the vast majority of your market’s opportunity.
Diversification is key. Since you need to build up 3-5x of your monthly/quarterly/annual revenue target in pipeline, make sure it comes from multiple sources: customer upsell/cross-sell, lost customer, referral, marketing leads, prospecting, AND well-influenced proposal opportunities. Reliance on one source, whatever it may be, can be problematic at best as a seller.
Despite this reality, you will no doubt still do some business through the formal proposal process, especially if you’re targeting the public, healthcare, manufacturing, legal, financial, or construction sectors. As you well know, these proposals take an incredible amount of effort to assess and produce so it's vital to ensure every opportunity is the very best use of time and resources for you and your proposal colleagues. To make sure your sales and proposal efforts are aligned appropriately for revenue production, consider these two tips:
1. Communicate reality.
Your sales manager is looking to you for two foundational deliverables: quota attainment and forecast accuracy. Revenue predictability is everything when you’re running a well-functioning business and this virtue shouldn’t be shared with your sales manager alone. Your proposal team needs to know how real an opportunity is before partnering with you to invest in it.
Your credibility as a seller and a cross-functional teammate will go a long way if you can consistently and accurately share your take on the probability of winning opportunities based on a number of factors: relationship with the prospect, influence on the proposal requirements, required security and legal capabilities, knowledge of the opportunity prior to public release, past performance with the proposing organization or potential competitors, among many others.
If you’re asking for proposal assistance to pursue opportunities, invest the time to know each of these factors, and communicate them accurately to your proposal colleagues. Over time, as you win the best-fit, well-influenced opportunities together in an accuracy-driven relationship, you will build more trust and be positioned for more revenue success going forward. Conversely, nothing will erode trust and credibility faster than overselling opportunities that really aren’t a good investment for you or the proposal team.
2. Organize yourself.
How are you tracking your fit for proposal opportunities currently? How are you communicating these data points with your teammates in proposals as you determine where to invest your combined time? Where are you strong and where are you weak in any given opportunity? How much time and money does it cost your company to respond to a bid opportunity? (Hint: you can calculate it using this free Economic Impact Calculator).
Taking the time to systematize the answers to these questions will be vital to your success in building trust and credibility with your cross-functional teams. To get there, sales and proposal teams should create a mutually-agreed-upon rubric for what qualifies and disqualifies an opportunity for company resource investments. Take the opportunity below, for example. This $1,000,000 opportunity with the U.S. Navy shown in Bid Score™ will cost the company just $12,000 to pursue but appears to be a very poor fit because of the weakness factors listed below. There is a small chance, however, that it may have a glimmer of promise because of relationships with the prospect, solution alignment to proposal requirements, and limited legal/security gaps.
So, should you pursue this opportunity? That will be up to you and the proposal team, but at least you have the data in front of you to help with the decision. Work to get data points like these in front of the proposal team regularly, invite your colleagues to weigh into the resource investment decisions upon understanding this information (as seen below) and you will be well on your way to sales-proposal relations stardom.