Optimise proposal creation: Make winning business more efficient

By Jesse Dukes

Winning business is hard work. That is a statement of the obvious, but it also contains the key to the problem - hard work, in which proposal creation is central. Not only is winning business technically difficult but it is also very resource-intensive, requiring a significant amount of work, from lots of people, for a long period of time. The bigger the business, the bigger the proposal, the bigger the team, the bigger the problem. Or is it?

Well, the short answer is probably still yes, but it doesn’t have to become a problem that places restrictions on the process. The cost of winning business is often a taboo topic, something best overlooked or drowned out in the glory of that most recent big win. Instead, let’s consider the cost of winning business as a large organisation and identify a few key areas where efficiency improvements are entirely possible.\

The challenges of writing a proposal

Most complex proposals these days centre around a document, or a set of documents. The contents, quality, and punctuality of these documents is key to winning that bit of business. So how do we ensure that the content of the document is precise and compelling, of outstanding quality and produced on time? All whilst keeping in mind the potential cost spiral of an inefficient process.

Let’s say an RFP has just landed on your desk (or more likely in your inbox). It looks like a great opportunity for your business, but it is complex and highly technical. There is a lot of work involved and you need to get your team to look at this document and quickly make an assessment. Should you respond (likely yes), if so, how do you respond, what is your response and who needs to be involved? Now this initial review itself might look like a great big time sink and the deadline is tight, so time is precious. Traditionally this would involve a lot of emailing back and forth. Your opening email might be something along the lines of:

Hi team members,

We have just received an RFP - it looks very interesting and I think we should go for it but I need your opinions. Please look over this document, share your thoughts and I shall schedule a meeting to review.

Thanks,

Your colleague

So, you send the document round to your team, everyone looks at it individually, maybe you get a few people emailing their initial thoughts back. Some people have added comments in tracked changes, others have just emailed some comments, some might have even used the old-fashioned phone call or maybe even a watercooler conversation.

As the document owner, you now have the task of first consolidating and then relaying all this information in a review meeting so that you can decide about what to do and who needs to be involved in creating a response. Right away this doesn’t seem particularly efficient and while it may be an exaggerated example, I have no doubt that similar things happen at organisations all over the world.

Anyway, you have decided that yes, this looks great, it’s complex but the business should go for it and has strong capabilities in all the right areas. Now you must create a response, and here is where the real challenges start. You work for an international business. The team required to respond to this RFP involves almost 20 people all with varying responsibilities, from different teams, divisions and locations, plus you only have until the end of the month.

Now you have a real challenge. Replay again the same email, tracked changes, review meeting, scenario and you have huge time and therefore cost implications. Not to mention the administrative load placed on the review owner and the frustrations of all required to contribute; email traffic, version confusions, duplication of comments and changes, formatting woes, the list goes on. You finally battle your way through to draft one. Now you need to share this version with perhaps an even broader group for review, and so the cycle continues until finally, you have your finished, approved document ready to go back to the client. The team breathes a sigh of relief, and then the process starts all over again.

How to make proposal creation more efficient

Let’s re-run this scenario using a comprehensive document collaboration software solution such as PleaseReview. The RFP lands in your inbox, you upload the document, invite the relevant decision-makers and start the document review process. An automated email goes out to all invited, they enter the review, comment directly on the document which is visible to all other reviewers in real-time. All discussion is captured in a single place and the following review meeting is straight onto the next actions.

You have your list of 20 contributors, you quickly create a document outline with the key areas required to meet the expectations of the RFP, upload the document and invite your reviewers. You assign each author to a predefined section of the proposal so that they contribute exactly where required. The review is started. Again, an automatic email is sent to all reviewers. When they enter the review, if they are an author their section will be clearly displayed, and they can contribute in real-time. The document quickly moves towards completion - there is no unnecessary email traffic, the document owner spends no time consolidating different versions, worrying about incorrect formatting or chasing because the automated reminders keep reviewers on track.

I think by this point the time savings are already obvious. Once completed and approved, the document owner can download the document straight into its original format, ready to use right away. The business has saved time, reduced costs and everyone involved is generally happier with the process and more satisfied with the end result. The team achieves an increased degree of confidence that the document is comprehensive and of high quality.

By using PleaseReview businesses have seen time savings of up to 65%. Find out more about how our document collaboration software can help you optimise your proposal creation process.

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