To be signed or not be signed that is the question most people ask. But is that the only way you can know if your proposal was good or not?
Of course, if it’s signed is the most important criterion, especially to you and your growing business, but there are other ways to use metrics to measure if your proposal was a win, lose or draw. Whether you’re a professional proposal writer or simply a professional trying to expand your business, we are going to break down some ways to determine the value of your business proposal.
There are many reasons why you might want to compare proposals. Of course, you want to determine what makes a winner and what doesn’t, but there are other ways you can benefit from qualitatively and quantitatively analyzing proposals after they are sent and after a decision about them is made.
One solid reason is to decide who makes the best project manager for proposal development. Proposal writing takes a very specific sort of time and resource allocation skill set, and the discovery of who on your team better addresses clients needs and more clearly presents your company is crucial to your business’s future.
Measuring more than the winning rate is also important in this day and age. Let’s face it, whether the crisis is on its way out or not, people are more reticent to sign new customers and business partners; it can be slim pickings out there. This is a way to evaluate and then validate your employees’ work beyond the wins versus losses.
Plus, in every way, getting introspective for a few minutes can save you triple the time in the future. It’s also a way to get focused for your next bid, keeping your eye on getting better with each proposal writing process. So let’s dive right in!
Ask your client
This may seem obvious, but, if you’re rejected, your tail may be between your legs and you may feel a little shy about asking your client (or non-client) why yours wasn’t the winner. But those answers may surprise you and can be super important for your next shot. (Also, it butters them up for the future, since they know that their opinion still matters and you are looking to improve.)
Make sure you ask these two questions:
- Was there anything we could have done differently to get you to say “yes”?
- Is there anything we can improve for you in the future?
This is how you learn your proposal writing strengths and weaknesses, whether it’s your technical approach, experience, pricing or something else. If the answer is about money, you need to decide if you are really offering the proper price for your service. If it’s about something else, maybe you can work on it, like getting someone on your team certified in a specific criterion the winning bid had that yours was lacking, or maybe you had it already, but just hadn’t thought it important to include.
And sometimes getting this final feedback may tell you that you were never right for it in the first place. It could be that they already had a client (or distant relative) in mind, but they had to open it up to a bigger bid pool, or maybe they want someone with experience in the public sector, leaving them looking for candidates from bigger firms. Learning where you shouldn’t try is also a way of avoiding wasting your time and money in the future — never trying can be better than sending a proposal that never had a shot.
Time really IS money
First, keep track of how much time you are dedicating to proposal writing, and how much time you dedicate to each section. Knowing the answers to some of the questions below can help you organize yourself better for the future and can help make you more efficient next time you have to draft a proposal:
- Would your time be used more effectively if you used a proposal writing software?
- What if you had a template to follow and didn’t have to worry about formatting and design? (Making it pretty and/professional)
- If you could save and drag-and-drop to reuse the parts you use all the time, would that save you money, OR would it risk making your profile less personal?
- Are you wasting too much time sending an awkward doc back and forth to get signed?
Also, keeping track of how much time your client spent on each section can show you if you were allocating your time correctly. If you have a repeat client, a pie chart telling you the pieces of time your client spent on, say, your portfolio or executive summary, can tell you if it really matters to work on for the future. Maybe your client spent a lot of time on your list of previous projects in graphic design. Wouldn’t it be a good idea next time to jazz up that section with projects and videos from your portfolio?
Now, take a few minutes to compare the two sets of numbers.
- Are you wasting time on parts your clients don’t care about?
- Did you miss this proposal because you didn’t clearly explain the project or answer your client’s needs?
- Where are you wasting your time?
- Where do you need to spend more time on?
If you’ve been in the proposal writing and sending game for more than a year or two now, you can clearly see if it’s working or not. This information becomes a great way, beyond dollar signs, to compare success year over year. Remember, making a greater profit is the lofty goal, but realizing your cutting time off writing proposals can be gratifying, too!
Ask your team!
Don’t forget other qualitative measurements are important, too. How your team feels is as important as the numbers you pull, so make sure you survey them as well. We recommend getting your team involved in the whole proposal writing process, but don’t forget to ask them what they think when the process is all over, too.
- How close to the deadline did you rush it in? Should you have gotten it in sooner? (Early bird getting worm and all…)
- Did the process feel stressful or rushed?
- (Asking each person that worked on or could have worked on the proposal writing process) If you had more time what could you have done differently?
- What would you have done differently?
- What should each of us have done differently?
Bonus, the happier your team is, the better the proposals you put out.
Your proposal itself should be focused on setting and achieving objectives, so why not organize the proposal writing process in a similar way? The first goal should be a series of deadlines, which all work toward meeting the most important deadline of submission. There should be a clear timeline to do work including:
- When to ask the client questions
- When to have responded to those questions in the proposal
- When to proofread
- When to share with at least one colleague not working on the process (to get a separate opinion)
- When to turn it in
Don’t be afraid to bring gamification into the mix. It’s OK, when taking advantage of a team-based atmosphere to write proposals, to offer a prize for the best description of the company or for the fastest (quality) proposal sent out. Creativity and competition have always motivated humans and probably always will.
If you have met each of your internal objectives, you can be pretty sure that you sent off a solid proposal that is likely to be accepted.
You can, of course, try different proposal writing softwares or different methods of evaluating after the fact, but, once you’ve found one that works for you, stick with it. It makes sure that you are consistently comparing apples with apples, not apples with alligators, making the comparison less biased (even though there will always be subjectivity in it.)
Using the same methods also makes it routine. You should routinely evaluate your business proposal writing, just as much as you should routinely bring as many voices together to do it with. An outsider’s perspective may be just what you need to shake this up and refocus on the future.
So, besides the winning rate, how can you tell if your proposal is good or not?