You can look at the current state of business or proposal development and find faults. You can even find solutions. But sometimes it can really be helpful just to throw off all the legacy issues and think about what the perfect business development or proposal organization would look like.
Building a successful business development organization requires more than simply hiring a few professionals and giving them some strategic goals. A successful business development organization:
- Guides participants through what it takes to be ready for RFP release. Being ready at RFP release means having certain information and having achieved certain goals. A successful business development organization explicitly identifies the questions to be answered and goals to be achieved before RFP release so that they can ensure they achieve them.
- Measures progress toward RFP release. Once you have explicitly identified your goals, you are then in a position to measure your progress toward achieving them. When you score your readiness for RFP release, you see a big change in behavior with regards to bid/no bid reviews and making sure the team has everything in place it needs to win at RFP release. A successful business development organization turns its list of questions to answer and goals to achieve into a list that they can use to quantify their progress toward being ready for RFP release.
- Maintains a pipeline for targeting, reporting, and projections. The executive level reporting at most companies revolves almost exclusively around financial projections and does little to ensure that the company is positioned to win. A successful company would use reports based on the readiness status as well as financial details.
- Tracks metrics for analysis. Most people think they know what drives win rates. Most people are wrong. Each company, each customer, each subject matter, each pursuit activity, each question, and your performance all contribute. What drives your win rates at one company may be completely different from another company. Metrics are what you use to find out what has the biggest impact. A successful business development organization should be able to tell you which action items correlate with their win rate based on real, hard data.
A successful proposal organization:
- Is based on well defined roles. In most organizations, people are asked to complete writing and other assignments. What is involved in completing those assignments is revealed over time. In a successful proposal organization, when someone contributes to a proposal, they can simply look up the expectations for the role they are accepting. Their performance is measured by how well they fulfill those expectations and not simply by whether they turned in enough black ink on paper without exceeding their deadline by more than can be tolerated.
- Gives people a chance to opt-out. If you want people to accept your process, you have to give them a chance to opt-out. Before they choose to opt-in, they need to know what the expectations are. In a successful proposal organization, a business can choose whether to follow the formal process and reap the rewards, or settle for best-effort support. In addition, people who are being asked to contribute to a proposal are directed to review the list of expectations and encouraged to object if they cannot fulfill them. The alternative is the status quo where proposal writers passively resist and you never know whether expectations will be met until it’s too late to do anything about it.
- Has a fully documented process to keep everyone on the same page. A lot of people think they have a process, but what they really have is way of doing things or a set of partial documentation. In a successful proposal organization, people are able to look up what is expected of them, what they should do next, and how they should do it, and can look up the same for others they need to coordinate with.
- Has a reliable and efficient method for planning proposal content. A successful proposal shop needs to identify everything that should to be in the proposal so that writers can know whether they have fulfilled what is needed. A successful proposal shop uses this plan to measure progress toward completion and as a quality validation tool.
- Validates the quality of the proposal against a specific definition and specifications. In a successful proposal shop, there are no arguments over proposal quality, because what has been produced can be compared to what was expected, and what was expected has already been validated against what it will take to win.
At this point, you are probably saying, “Yeah, maybe in a perfect world, but how do you actually get there?” We wouldn’t leave you hanging like that…
What We Recommend for Business Development:
We recommend the use of Readiness Reviews. Readiness Reviews are a technique we developed for our MustWin Process. They provide a specific set of questions to answer and goals to achieve for each review. At each review, results are scored. This scoring provides a way to quantify progress toward being ready. It turns out that it makes the job of the business developer easier, by making the job finite, giving them a way to demonstrate that they’ve fulfilled expectations, and providing a mechanism to get help or guidance when needed.
The structure and scoring provided by the Readiness Reviews provide new ways to report status. Pipelines should be built around the results of your Readiness Reviews as well as the opportunity’s value and due dates. It also provides the additional data and feedback needed to refine your targets. Ultimately it helps you ensure that you fulfill those targets. And as win rates increase, the number of pursuits required to hit your new and more reliable targets goes down at the same time as revenue and profitability go up.
The scoring done during Readiness Reviews also provides the metrics data needed to identify exactly what drives your win rates. Thus your status can be reviewed not only against whether you fulfilled the goals, but also against what the impact of that could be on your chances of winning.
What We Recommend for Proposal Development:
We have created a set of off-the-shelf documentation that you can purchase and use, or you can create your own. Either way, you need documentation that specifically addresses expectations and roles at every step. Our process gives companies the foundation they need to offer people a chance to opt-out. People can review the process documentation prior to accepting it. Once they accept it, everyone has the expectations in writing.
We have defined procedures for Content Planning in a way that lowers the effort required by proposal writers instead of adding to their workload. We recommend validating the Content Plan prior to writing, so that it can function as a baseline to compare the draft against. The result is more effective reviews.
For validating the quality of your proposals, we provide a definition for proposal quality that is linked to what it will take to win, which is discovered by fulfilling the goals defined for the readiness reviews. The quality validation process we recommend is similar to Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) and provides specific guidance for reviewers to ensure consistent results from your reviews.
[ Click here to Learn More About Our Off-the-Shelf Process Solution ]