In this episode, I’m listing the first three of six key reasons your proposals may be losing. The next episode will cover the second three reasons.

These are things I’ve seen companies do in proposals I’ve helped evaluate for buyers or common problems I see when I start to help a company improve their bids.

Why am I focusing on what loses proposals? It’s sometimes easier to see what you are doing wrong and fix them first before you start implementing other techniques.

Too often, we focus so much on what wins proposals that we seldom try to understand why we lose them. Lessons from losses will always have more impact on future success than lessons from winning, so always spend some time thinking about what didn’t work, and do it differently in the next proposal.

Here are the first three things that will help you lose business:

1.Show little understanding of the client’s problem

When you ignore what the client has told you either verbally or in the formal RFP documents, and you simply put forward a proposal and a solution that doesn’t specifically and concretely address their needs and concerns, then you’ll be relegated to the bottom of the pile and somebody else will win the proposal.

The only reason the client is asking for a proposal is to solve a problem or address a need. You may think you understand the client’s problem and are solving their needs, but it’s more important than that. You have to make it clear within your proposal that you understand the client’s needs and how you’re solving their problem.

One way to do this is to mirror back the client’s problems and what they’ve said in the RFP, thereby acknowledging you’ve understood their problem and are addressing it. Don’t overdo this, since the client won’t appreciate whole paragraphs that look like they were lifted from the RFP documents. Keep it short, paraphrase the client, and position to acknowledge the client’s issues and present your solutions.

2. Superficial research

It’s obvious when a proposal response uses superficial or generic information as part of its solution and technical response.

You need to demonstrate a unique solution that’s better than your competitor’s, and is designed specifically for the client. This means including details that show you understand the client’s needs, and have done your research and gathered background information.

What may appear to be unimportant information can help support your proposal. When the client reads it, your proposal will seem much more personal.

This could include incorporating the proper name of the system the client currently uses, and using specific titles, names and other information to show you understand the client. Use key phrases and terminology that the client uses within annual reports, news releases and other documentation.

Here’s an example of why good research matters:

For a proposal that included a 1-800 number to receive requests for a specific service, research showed that the client already had their own internal process for receiving requests and it would still be used by the client. Knowing this enabled the bidder to integrate this information in the proposal text and in a flowchart, demonstrating that the bidder understood how the client was organized and could design a process to fit within their existing workflow.

3. Insufficient expertise or experience

Not demonstrating the expertise and experience the client expects from you is a sure way to lose a proposal.

Simply put, the client is looking for a solution to a problem. If you don’t have the experience necessary to provide those solutions with little or no risk to the client, they’ll likely consider somebody else.

The question is whether you actually lack experience and expertise, or are simply not able to demonstrate it. If you dig deeply within your organization and your company’s past experience, you may find expertise within your existing resources, including staff and subcontractors, or within current projects or products that parallel the experience needed for this particular proposal.

Here is one way a lack of experience was dealt with:

While the company had sufficient experience and expertise in the required service, they hadn’t served the specific business segment yet.

A review of internal resumes found an existing employee who had experience in that business segment, and that person was added to the transition team. In addition, experience in other business segments was examined to see what characteristics were shared with the new business segment. Experience with these common characteristics was emphasized in the proposal response using a table that compared their experiences with the needs of the client.

So, by finding those nuggets of experience and expertise, and clearly describing how they support your current solution with little or no risk to the client, you’ll be in a better position to win the RFP.

You can also partner with another company that has the skills and experience you lack. This way, you can emphasize the benefits of both companies. You may need to clearly identify the partnership or subcontractor relationship in your proposal, but when writing the response, make sure you come across as a single, cohesive service provider. If there are different sections or questions related to the various organization’s expertise, they must be written so they have the same approach, look and feel. If they’re disjointed, you’ll lose points with the evaluators.

So there’s another tip that will help you win more business. I’ll cover the next 3 key reasons proposals lose in the next episode.


Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website

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