Proposals that are well written, focus on the prospect’s real needs and are professionally presented are most likely to be short-listed for further consideration. But while your proposal must be good enough to move your firm to the next stage of the selection process, it is rarely the sole determining factor in the choice of a service provider. Here are some factors that are particularly important in determining which firm wins the competitive proposal battle:
Being well prepared for interviews and visits
Do not view management interviews or site visits as information-gathering exercises. Consider this an opportunity to demonstrate your firm’s commitment and enthusiasm for the engagement.
Differentiate your firm
Ask penetrating questions during interviews or site visits and raise issues that only someone with a thorough knowledge of an industry would know. Selecting people to attend the interview or visit is equally important. Prospects tend to be impressed by the presence of highly qualified specialists or senior partners.
Having the right team
The success of your proposal is often dependent on whether the prospect believes that you have put forward the right team for the engagement. A bidding firm will spend a lot of time selecting the best people for the core team but will frequently ignore the prospect’s wider needs in terms of specialist support or the level of professional staff required to service other geographic locations.
Thoroughly prepare your presentation
The quality and impact of the presentation is always an important factor in the selection process. When you make the short list and are asked to present before a selection committee, it is important to think through, prepare and thoroughly practice your presentation. Remember that prospects often base their selection on a firm’s style and performance during an oral presentation.
The firm that is selected is often the one that has developed the strongest personal relationships with the prospect. Start early in the proposal process to develop personal relationships with as many members of the prospect’s selection and/or management team as possible. Developing these relationships well in advance helps you get to know the prospect, and also enables you to understand their needs and interests, which can be of value in the development of a truly client-specific proposal.
Set fair and reasonable fees
If your fees are too high, you may be out of the running because the competition is quoting lower and promising a lot more. On the other hand, a quote that is too low could suggest that you don’t really understand the dimensions of the job. While it is rare for fees to be the sole factor in the selection of a service provider, your firm’s fees must be credible in the eyes of the prospect.
Actively demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm
Client feedback and debriefing surveys show that two of the most important factors in the selection of a service provider are commitment and enthusiasm. Be sure to demonstrate these two key traits by paying careful attention to:
- The questions you ask during management interviews and site visits.
- The quality of your proposal document.
- The performance you give at the oral presentation.
A firm that can demonstrate its commitment and enthusiasm throughout the proposal process will greatly improve its chances of winning the engagement.