Seven Tips to help you JUICE your business proposal acceptance rate

Arnold-SchwarzaneggerHow would you like to juice your bid acceptance rate? That’s right, you are reading this correctly. I did say “juice.”

Before you discredit me out-of-hand, allow me to explain what the heck I’m talking about. I’m talking about radically rethinking something important: the things that you’re doing wrong. I’m not asking you to buy snake oil, read a book, or anything other than alter what’s not working in your business proposal process.

And that can mean a lot of things. Here, we’ll go through 10 things to consider changing today to juice up your business proposal acceptance rate. Note that not all of the recommendations will apply to you; it’s up to you to self-diagnose what’s ailing your proposals and treat accordingly, based on the outside-the-box advice presented herein.

Let’s juice things up a whole lot and increase your bid acceptance rate in the process with these seven sales tips!

Increase your business proposal acceptance rate tip #1:  Get help!

One thing that can stifle a business proposal is neglect. If you are a busy business owner (and I know you are!), you don’t have time to give a lengthy, complex proposal the attention it deserves. This fact is countered by the fact that you are an expert at what you do, which may have led you to create all your own business proposals, even if you haven’t been giving them your full attention.

The truth is: the fact that you are spreading your talents so thin is likely hurting your business proposal acceptance rate dramatically. As a business owner, you cannot be everything to everyone. No one could expect you to run the business, make the big decisions, call the clients, do the research, write the proposals, send them out, and follow up on them all by your lonesome. No one can realistically handle all that and get good results. No one.

What can you do? You can hand over the business proposal reigns to someone else. This person may be a business partner or employee, or someone you hire explicitly for the purpose of handling the bidding process from start to finish – a proposal manager.

A local business in my area did just that, relieving a highly stressed pair of co-owners by bringing in a proposal manager with a wealth of experience in their company’s niche.

The result? More than twice as many bids are being accepted now, and the result is a rolling 62.5% increase in the volume of the business – just from hiring a proposal manager.

A proposal manager can handle the research, writing, and tendering of your business proposals, as well as the all-important follow ups. That leaves you free to focus on everything else that needs to be done.

While adding a proposal manager is a win-win in itself, you may even want (need) to go a step further. If your proposals are particularly intensive, you may want to hire a proposal team to work with the proposal manager to get the job done. This can include an assortment of researchers, buyers, and writers, depending upon the complexity of your proposals.

The questions is, “how much is this proposal worth to my business?” If it’s sufficiently profitable enough, then adding a team to make sure you land the winning bid becomes a no-brainer.

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #2: Use the right tools

No matter if you are writing your own proposals or letting someone do it for you, you need to have the right tools to get the job done efficiently.

In addition to using a proposal creation app to get the job done, you should be aware of a few external tools that might come in handy – and that might make a massive difference in your rate of accepted proposals.

Cost-Estimating Software:

To help you to be able to give your prospective customers an accurate estimate of project pricing, you can add cost estimating software to your app arsenal.

Estimating apps are available for all industries. Here are some places to find out about cost estimators for various niches and industries:

Online Word processing apps:

Of course, Microsoft Word or Pages will work for most of us. But if you work on business proposals as part of a remote team, you might want to put the word processing tasks in the cloud, facilitating greater collaborative ease.

Some tools to help you do this include:

  • Zoho Writer (one of Quote Roller’s strategic partners, by the way)

  • Google Docs

  • Writer (understated minimalism for those times when all you need to do is write)

Team management apps:

Speaking of working on business proposals collaboratively, managing others online can be a little unintuitive if you don’t use a team management app to help you get the job done. If you’ve expanded your team to include personnel to help a proposal manager (or yourself) create proposals, you need to put a system in place to help you effectively manage that team.

Here are some of the most popular such tools around:

Once again, all these tools are recommended because the better organized your proposal writing process, the better your acceptance rate will be – and the more profits you will see!

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #3: Think actively, write using active voice

Speaking of tools, I’m going to tell you about a tool that I use in my business proposals. It’s a grammar term: active voice.

Active voice refers to sentence structure. Namely, it explains a method of constructing an English sentence wherein the subject is doing the action.

Active voice example:

Susie likes Theodore.

In contrast to the passive voice:

Theodore is liked by Susie.

In passive voice sentences, the action moves to the front, where we would expect to found a noun (subject).

It doesn’t take a grammarian to see that the first sentence is appreciably concise. Your readers will appreciate the same level of concision. What’s more, writing actively has the subtle psychological effect of helping encourage the reader to follow through with a call to action.

How can you spot passive voice in a sentence? Passive voice generally follows this format:

(Direct object) + (verb/verbal phrase) + (helping verb) + (subject).

To put an actual tool to work to help you identify and clean up passive voice in your writing, in addition to the grammar checker in Microsoft Word, you can check out a helpful online spelling and grammar checker, After the Deadline, which is apparently set to “kill” by default, when it comes to turning your phaser on bad grammar!

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #4: Intensify your customer focus

Another thing your grammar check can help you with is avoiding first person, which is not to say that you can never refer to yourself in a business proposal.

The thing is, just as most blogs and other sales materials have long focused on the infinite “you” of second person, your business proposals need not dwell on you; they need to focus intensely on your customers.

More importantly than the grammatical aspect of minimizing the use of I, me, and my in your business proposal, is maintaining focus on your customer’s needs. At every step of the way, the real challenge is to present benefits that speak to your customers.

As we have told you before, friendly Quote Rollers, there is no need to spend time celebrating your business in your proposal. Instead, you will engender more instances of bid acceptance by focusing on your proposal recipients, guaranteed.

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #5: Learn from your past

In your history, you no doubt have proposals that worked beautifully and, (sadly), ones that flopped dismally.

Don’t worry about the past; learn from it at every turn.

To do that, you need to have an archive of all your previously submitted business proposals. Ideally, these will be digital and you will have analytics capabilities to be able to gather data about what worked ad what didn’t.

What is there to learn from what worked in the past? Was it adding social proof? Was it adding specifics of timing? Was it a glowing introduction? Whatever it was, grab it like you are catching lightening in a bottle. Once you have analyzed your past successes, put more of what worked in your new ones.

Conversely, take note of what failed miserably in the past, and avoid those things in future business proposals. In business, there really are no failures, just opportunities to learn from your experiences.

Did you price a bid too high? Did you undercut your profits by pricing a project too low, and have to live with the consequences? Did a particular phrase or statistic hurt a proposal more than it helped? By examining your proposals with an eye for details such as these you will find opportunities to increase your business proposal acceptance rate.

But you need the data to analyze to be able to learn in either scenario.

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #6: Just keep learning

You can always turn it up a notch.

Staying immersed in your industry will help you operate within it more fluidly. Some of the ways you can keep current with your peers (and competitors, of course) include:

  • Reading the latest related books

  • Subscribing to industry/trade magazines

  • Signing up for industry newsletters online

  • Attending conferences/tradeshows

  • Starting a community blog about your business to get people talking around you

The sky is really the limit. The bottom line is you have got to be a true operator within your niche to really nail down winning bids with great precision, time after time. The more you immerse yourself in your industry, the more you become an influencer and voice of authority – and that is really worth its weight in winning bids!

The more you know about your closest market competitor, the more you can cleverly exploit their weaknesses. The more you know what your customers are thinking, the better able you are to speak directly to their needs, through your proposals. Simply put, knowledge is power. Whatever you do, don’t become stagnant. Keep turning up the heat and learning more.

Improve your business proposal acceptance rate tip #7: Always ask for feedback

In the spirit of learning from your past and embracing continual learning in your business proposals, you always want to make a habit of asking for customer feedback.

Did you ever have a teacher in school tell you “there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers?” That’s true, and that’s why you should always ask your proposal recipients for feedback on your proposals.

The ideal time to request feedback is after a successful project’s completion, but you can also learn from asking “why?” when a recipient rejects your proposal. The truth is, there are no inquiry police – you can basically ask anyone anything you would like. In the rare event that a proposal is declined, shoot back a polite email that says, “May I inquire as to why my proposal was rejected?”

Be prepared though, you may just get the harsh truth and you will have to respond graciously. Nevertheless, you will still learn from the experience, and go on to win more bids as a result!

Are you ready to juice your business proposal acceptance?

Why settle when you can grow? You started your business do what you love, make money, and build a business. Your business proposals are an essentially part of that equation. Give your proposals the tender love and care they need to win more bids for your growing business, and enjoy the benefits of added income in your pocket!

We hope these pointers have helped you think of ways you can juice your business proposal acceptance rate. Do you have any tips to add to the discussion? We would love to hear from you in the comment space below.

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About

Todd Spear is a freelance blogger and journalist. He's helped media outlets and brands alike connect with their audiences. He's a regular contributor to Anthill Online, the Quote Roller Blog, and Naluda Magazine, among many other sites. You can connect with Todd via his website www.toddspear.net

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