Working with “sales support” when producing a proposal.
It is common, especially where a company provides complex or custom solutions that the sales people will need to work with colleagues from different disciplines to produce a proposal. Common scenarios include working with:
- Technical people who use their skills to specify and configure the correct solution for the individual need.
- Estimating specialists who can work out how much time, material and other resources may be required to deliver a particular solution.
- Manufacturing and logistics functions that will make and deliver the solution.
- Health and safety, HR or legal specialist.
- External suppliers who may be required to contribute to the make-up of the complete solution.
- The project or programme manager, who will be responsible for delivering the solution, to ensure the estimates and delivery schedules are realistic. If any part of the brief cannot be achieved it is important to let the sales person know as soon as possible giving them the opportunity to re-set the prospect’s expectations.
In many cases, especially where just a few proposals need support, this will be done informally with the sales person making the decision on a case-by-case basis; deciding who to involve and when. In larger companies or where every proposal requires support this will normally be done in a formal manner by, for example; sales support, bid support or by a recent manifestation, the sales enablement function.
If there are circumstances where a sales person is going to require the support of colleagues, even on a few occasions, it will serve the company well to put in the effort to create a formal process for such eventualities. Arguably, it is even more important to have formal processes established in these cases as this will help everyone to quickly step from their day job into their support role without having to re-invent the wheel.
- The sales person is nominally the owner of the requirement and will be responsible for briefing everyone involved in supporting the production of the proposal. It is important not only to brief on the requirement but also to establish the timetable including specific milestones when things need to be delivered.
- If there is a formal bid function, they will normally be responsible for the physical production of the proposal document but if support is less formal this responsibility will usually fall to the sales person. The key is to leave no doubt – decide all roles and responsibilities during the initial briefing including who does which sections of the writing.
- If the document is to be written by several people it is important to ensure consistency of style and language and this is best done by someone not directly involved in the writing.
- If there is a need to involve external suppliers, briefing them and gaining their agreement to meet your timescales is crucial.
- The vehicle for briefing everyone involved in producing the proposal should be the proposal summary. This summary contains the sales persons’ complete understanding of; the requirement, the solution, how they plan to convince the prospect of its worth, timing, financial parameters and key differentiators the sales person wants to be able to demonstrate.
- It is important for the bid team to work towards a date when the proposal will be completed that is a few days before the sales person is due to present it to the prospect. This allows time for final editing and physical production avoiding the need for anyone to “burn the midnight oil”.
- If the sales person is following the process of a trial presentation to the prospect, which will lead to amendments prior to final presentation, time to achieve this edit step needs to be scheduled into the bid team’s diaries.
- When the proposal will be delivered in the form of an interactive workshop, rather than a written document, it is even more important that the sales person has ready access to all the specialists who can help provide the facts to support the sales arguments they will present.
A lot of time and effort can go into working with a prospect getting them into a position where they want to hear about a solution to their problem. To avoid spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar it is very important that the production and presentation of a proposal is taken seriously and that it is accepted as part of the day job by the specialists who will contribute their knowledge.