Tag Archives: proposal management software

Learn How to Start a Business Proposal – Part – I

A business proposal is a black and white agreement from a vendor to a prospective customer. Business proposals are the key documents in the complex sales process.

A proposal puts the Customer’s requirements in a context that favors the vendor’s products and services and informs the Customer about the abilities of the vendor in satisfying their demands. We need to draft a business proposal before we offer products or services to another business. We need to write a proposal in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP), which companies or government organizations send out when they have a problem which they need assistance with. Hence a business proposal should identify the Problem Statement, Proposed Solution and explain why you are the best vendor to solve the problem. A business proposal is never a business plan, which is a different document.

Our current blog is classified into three segments. The first part covers the concepts of how to start a business proposal, and the latter part covers making our Proposal, and the final section covers how to conclude the Business Proposal. Let us discuss Part-I in detail.

PART-I

Starting the Business Proposal

  • Starting the Business Proposal
    • Go through the given Request for Proposal (RFP) carefully. We need to submit a response to a business proposal to receive an RFP. Large businesses and public sector agencies send out RFPs when they require, for instance, an industry that is being charged may send out RFPs to different companies related to law asking for a business proposal. In turn, the public agency may also send out RFP if they need to buy supplies of a product. The proposed RFP should contain the required information which we must understand carefully before writing our business proposal.
      • Ensure that we can meet the Customer’s requirements as mentioned in the given RFP. For instance, if we cannot come in under the detailed budget or given a timeline, then we should not submit the proposal. Instead, we can reach out to a business which we think could use our services.
    • Ask proper questions. We need our business proposal to respond to the Customer’s actual needs. Which means we need to understand the Customer clearly and clearing up all the confusions in the RFP by asking proper questions. We always need to step into the Customer’s shoes and try to analyze the problems from their perspective. To help this process, you need to talk to the Customers and get answers to the following questions
      • If there were any prior attempts made to address the issue. If yes, why did they fail?
      • What are the criteria that the Customer will use while evaluating a business proposal?
      • If there are any concerns about the current vendor.
      • If the Customer wants to make sure whether their proposal is consistent with existing operating policies.
    • Format the document properly. We need our business proposal readable. The font that we follow should be in a size and style that the reader is comfortable with consistency throughout. For this, we have to use the font that is asked by the Customer, if not mentioned, we ideally use Times New Roman 12 point.
      • We can also go through sample proposals used in the industry. We can also find business proposal templates online. Using one of these templates can make our business proposal look professional.
    • Add a suitable title page. We need to have a title page as the cover page to our business proposal. The title page should comprise of the following information such as our name, our company’s name, the name of the person we are submitting the proposal to, and finally the date we are providing the proposal.
    • Introduce the problem carefully. A business proposal recognizes the problem and recommends a solution. Hence, we should start by identifying the problem in simple and clear language and try to explicate why the present situation is a problem for the Customer.
    • Provide the context if required. We need to explain the background so that the reader understands the proposal.
    • Define critical terms if any. Though our proposal should be simple and clear, there may be some terminology that we need to define for the reader. Note that we might submit our business proposal to an industry that understands industry jargon. However, the person who makes the final decision might not be familiar with industry terms.
    • Suggest a roadmap for the proposal. If we have a lengthy business proposal, then we need to offer an overview of what follows the introduction. For instance, we could write, “This business proposal has four parts. Part I covers Introduction, Part II, we offer the proposed solution, timetable, and an explanation of benefits in detail. We offer an itemized budget and a set of standard contract terms in Part III. Finally, in Part IV, we summarize our experiences and approve that our proposed solution is the correct course of conduct.”

Zbizlink is such Proposal Software and RFP management solution that enables sales, proposal and bid teams to generate, collaborate on and share all opportunity related content without leaving the familiar world of Microsoft Office and CRM. Bid, Sales and Marketing Teams globally, use Zbizlink.

Zbizlink helps you be more productive when locating, creating, collaborating on and managing business-critical documents like pitches, proposals, contracts, RFP responses and more. Let’s take a Demo and explore more about ZBL.

how to proposal development lifecycle management

How to Proposal Development Lifecycle Management

The proposal development lifecycle of a proposal starts way before the RFP is received. Many proposal writers seldom seem to pay attention to this. It could be because they do not know. Sometimes, it could be because they are not informed although they think it is crucial for them to understand. However, most often, it is because they do not have the right tools to help them manage and curate this information throughout the proposal development lifecycle. In this article, we want to stress what information you must collect, and where you must begin. Collecting information never ends, but at a bare minimum this article will tell you what to gather during the proposal development lifecycle to make your proposal persuasive, informative, and most importantly- intelligent.

It starts with the sales team identifying the right market for you to penetrate. Your market research teams identify and explore target markets and assess your potential to succeed in the market. Then, the benchmark your capabilities and figure out if the market is already saturated with similar players offering similar solutions. Once they have figured that out, they define a clear strategy that reduces the impact of your competition’s strengths and increases the effectiveness of your organization’s strengths. It would be great to have a proposal management software that will track these parameters- as often, this critical information gets lost in a pile of irrelevant email threads.

It is critical for any proposal author or manager to be aware of the inputs derived from previous phases of the lifecycle. Otherwise, when they write the proposal, the proposal will be void of the vital win themes that can be obtained from market assessment and strategic targeting. Therefore a proposal management software that tracks all these elements is so essential to business success

Once the market penetration strategy is developed, the organization must market the product or services they specialize in. They must implement their marketing strategy as planned, lest the potential customer misunderstands what we have to offer. In this phase, the marketing agents must note and track the conversations with potential customers, what they have to say about their needs and requirements. A proposal management software with opportunity management and assessment tools will be a great addition here to pick the right opportunities to pursue. The collection of this information and its effective duration is essential, and yet oft-ignored part of the proposal development lifecycle.

At this point, the sales team needs to circle down on the right opportunities to pursue. They must pick the battles that they can win, lest they waste their resources and energy on dreams and mirages they cannot feasibly reach. They must keep records of the strategy using a proposal management software so that those who are working on the proposal will know the strategy to implement in the writing

Once the marketing has been completed and customers are aware, the opportunities available must be assessed and funneled out. For this, the proposal development team and the sales teams must participate together in industry briefings, customer intelligence reports, and gathering specific program intelligence. At this phase, the customer’s requirements must be understood, and an initial position with the customer must be cultivated. Competitors strategies and how to overcome them must be an essential part of the opportunity assessment phase. Once all this information is collected, preferably on a proposal management software/ platform, the opportunity pursuit decision (also called Go/ No-Go decision) must be taken. Usually, organizations do not consider this information and seldom pass it on to the next and more crucial stage of the proposal development lifecycle- where the business proposal is written and developed.

The Bid Decision must be based on the answers to the following questions at a minimum:

  • Does the opportunity fit within our capabilities?
  • Who is the incumbent? Can we partner with the incumbent?
  • Do we have a good relationship with the customer?
  • Do we know and understand the client’s needs, goals and the impact of the solution?
  • Do we possess the resources and commitment to pull this off?
  • Can we deliver the proposal within the right timeframe?

It is important not just to ask these questions but also to keep the outcome within a system that can be accessed by those who are working on the proposal. If we do not have a systematic way of preserving and obtaining this crucial information, it is very likely that our win rates will succumb to the pits. A proposal management software will help to save this information and allow relevant members to access it throughout the proposal development lifecycle

Once the opportunity assessment phase is completed, we arrive at the proposal development phase. In this scenario, we either get the RFP from the customer, or we write a proactive proposal. The proposal manager must study the RFP or the statement of client requests to thoroughly understand the customer’s stated and unstated needs. Inferences need to be made, but of course, within the confines of logic. Any clarifications required are to be duly noted and circulated within the teams that are authoring the proposal. Once this is done, the team responsible must initiate a kick-off call and progress towards the development of the proposal from thereon.

The average proposal has about 100 micro iterations and ten major iterations throughout its lifecycle. Having the proposal in a single location where teams work collaboratively is a key to bidding and proposal success. We recommend using software like Zbizlink which can help you throughout the proposal development lifecycle. From capture management to opportunity assessment. From proposal development to final strategic reviews- Zbizlink helps you throughout the breadth and span of the proposal development lifecycle.

Find the Wining 03 Tips to Federal Proposal Writing

Just like any company, government organizations have needs that they find hard to fulfill on their own. Hence, they send out RFPs in the open market and make public announcements seeking any prospective bidders. Usually, government RFPs have fixed budgets, and hence, projects awarded are fixed-price contracts. Unlike commercial RFPs, government RFPs are usually hard to read and have complex jargon and legal terminology layered in nearly every single section.

In this article, we give you three tips (and a bonus tip) to help you respond well to a federal RFP and be compliant.

Tip 1: Know what is in each section

  • Section A contains the most basic information such as contact information, important addresses, solicitation number, guidelines and deadlines for submission, specific submission instructions, and even information on current incumbents.
  • Section B requires you to enter information on billing. You will need to enter in detail line by line on various billable expenses such as travel, labor, supplies, etc
  • Section C gives you the Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW forms the essence of what services are required and how they are expected to be delivered. It is crucial that this chapter must be thoroughly studied and analyzed by the delivery teams.
  • Section L gives you details on formatting, organizing and laying out of content. It may also contain additional submission requirements- such as a maximum page count, margin, spacing, font, etc.
  • Section M gives you details on how you will be scored and what are the scoring criteria. Focusing on this will help you evolve a strategy that will enable you to have a high likelihood of winning the deal. Reading section M and C together will enhance your ability to create a sound winning strategy and value proposition.
  • Section K has information on representations or certifications that you need to provide. This is especially important if the RFP requires only a specific type of a bidder, such as a US Firm, a minority bidder, a woman-led enterprise, etc.

Step 2: Ensure 100% compliance with a compliance matrix

Often, proposal writers and managers avoid creating compliance matrices because they may take much time to prepare. They feel that they would be more productive if they directly spend their time in responding to the RFP. However, industry studies have shown that creating a compliance matrix before writing an RFP response actually saves more time than they take to prepare.

Even if your font size does not match the compliance criteria mentioned in section L, your proposal will be instantly dismissed. It is crucial therefore that each compliance factor is captured well and adhered to by the proposal writers and contributors. We strongly recommend using a good capture management tool to auto-fetch the compliance factors, or to note down the compliance factors in a spreadsheet manually. Zbizlink provides a capture management tool that will fetch all relevant compliance factors for you so that you can focus on what is more important: strategy.

Tip 3: Read and Ask, Don’t Assume

Proposal writers who work on federal RFPs end up being either too complacent or too worked up while responding to a federal RFP. They either overthink of the RFP or too little. While you can use the above guidelines to find the information you need, depending only on the above guidelines may cause you to miss out on some important guidelines that may be hidden in other sections of the RFP. Hence, it is a good practice to glance through the entire RFP once to ensure that you have not missed anything before the kick-off call. During the kickoff call, allocate specific chapters to be re-read by a specific date by specific accountable proposal contributors. Since federal RFPs have long response times, ensure that the entire RFP is read thoroughly before responding.

Just like how proposals contain much boilerplate content, RFPs also contain much boilerplate content. Contradictions and confusions are commonplace. If you are not sure what the RFP’s intention is in-regard-to a specific matter, ensure that you ask about it. You can usually find guidelines for queries on the RFP and how they can be addressed in section L of the federal RFP. Ensure that the RFP is thoroughly read, and all queries are noted and sent to the customer by the date mentioned in section L.

Bonus Tip: Use a proposal management software.

Good proposal management software will help you organize and prepare the proposal better. Instead of wasting time on mundane tasks such as finding compliance factors, getting approvals and developing and maintaining proposal schedules, a good proposal management software will help you do the same, with a lot less effort. Consider using Zbizlink, a proposal management software built by proposal managers for proposal managers.

Zbizlink is entirely online, ensuring that all communication regarding a proposal is available in one place. It also helps you with scheduling, getting approvals, ensuring compliance, finding resumes and teaming with partners who have relevant resources, among other things. Save time. Don’t bid to respond. Bid to win, with Zbizlink.

7 Quick Tips to Find the Best Proposal Management Tool

Every single seller will tell you that their proposal management tool is undisputed, unequivocally, unmistakably the best proposal management software in the whole wide world. While some specialize in a particular area, others perform multiple functions.

In a world where there are so many proposal management tools, how do you select something that would really solve your problem instead of ending up in the valley of despair, where other procured enterprise tool has been condemned?

#1. Relevance over Aesthetics: We’ve been given this advice since childhood, and yet, the human brain falls prey to how things look. Often, a fancy ppt and a colorful sales pitch, and even a choreographed demo presented to a senior manager end up winning the votes. Beware of tools in the market that look great but don’t serve the purposes that matter. Remember those aesthetics come only second to the effectiveness

#2. What exactly are your requirements? We’ve noticed that quite often, organizations do not have a good set of requirements when they are procuring a proposal management tool. It is a good practice to have a well-articulated and realistic set of requirements when seeking a proposal management software. If you have a tool that performs multiple functions, focus on your key needs and priorities and seek a tool that solves the biggest problems best.

#3. The best vendors let you use it for free: For a while at-least, test and use the free version of the tool. Ask the vendor and see if you can get to use the full version for a month at no cost. See if you are comfortable using the tool. Make notes on the response time once you have clicked a few buttons.

#4. Does it save time and effort? We use chainsaws instead of axes because it takes less time to chop a tree with a chain saw than an ax. It also reduces the effort taken to chop a tree. The same goes for tools. Ask the following questions:

  • Does it save time and effort in proposal development?
  • Can you quantify the time and effort saved by using the tool in your environment?
  • Do you lose money or an equivalent amount of time by not using this tool?

Answering yes to all the above questions is a good justification for purchasing the tool, but there are more questions to be asked.

#5. Can it help you win? While all proposal management tool saves time and effort in some way or the other, the more important question that you must ask is if it will increase your likelihood of winning deals. It will not matter if you save all the time and effort in the world and end up on the losing side. Ask the following questions to

  • What strategic output will the tool generate that will enhance your likelihood of winning?
  • Will you be able to generate a better proposal by using this tool?
  • Will you be able to develop a competitive edge by using this tool?

#6. Can potential risks be mitigated?

Winning and losing a deal are pretty much two sides of the same coin. Hence, you must ask if the proposal management tool reduces your likelihood of losing the deal. To begin with, ask the following questions:

  • Will the tool mitigate your risk of non-compliance?
  • Will the tool reduce your likelihood of losing?
  • Does the tool track deals that you’ve lost and provide analysis on the same?

#7. What are the perks?

In addition to the above questions, it would be good to ask a few more which are as mentioned below:

  • Are there features in the tool not necessary now, but which you may need in the future?
  • Does the vendor offer after-sales support?
  • What are additional features for the tool available in the pipeline?
  • Do the price and functionality justify the purchase?
  • Is there are price hike that is expected over the years?
  • What are the future plans for the tool?
  • Do they take your suggestions for improvements?

Zbizlink was literally built by proposal managers for proposal managers. We built it because we could not find a single product in the entire market which could sufficiently help us with our needs for proposal management. We wanted a tool that could increase our win rates. We wanted a tool that could save time and help us manage the time we had before submission deadlines. We wanted a tool that can help us parse resumes for Request for resumes RFR, autofill documents and make the entire approval process very clear.

Moreover, hence, Zbizlink was born- out of a need that the market could not meet. Curious to know more about what Zbizlink can do for your business? Get in touch with us now!