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the Proposals conundrum – building a winning environment for teams to thrive in

Organisations that acquire new business or funding through competitive award processes face a challenge – how do you select and bring together teams of people with the skills and motivation to submit winning proposals? And how do you create an environment that helps them to thrive?

There is an art to developing successful proposals both for a big one off submission for a key pursuit or repeatedly when looking to increase your win rate. But our research tells us that there is no single silver bullet. Simply recruiting a bid writer or employing a proposals consultant and throwing them in the mix will have limited impact unless you also tackle the following areas:

Leading by example

Firstly, our research tells us that winning deals and generating sustainable business growth starts from the top down.

We find that the biggest determining factor in the win rate and growth trajectory of organisations is the capability of its senior leadership to enable the business to differentiate itself and to proactively pursue opportunities that it could and should win.

Business leaders need to be seen to sponsor a robust and measured approach to securing deals and role model good behaviours. Leaders must support good governance and making good decisions, especially when deciding not to pursue an opportunity.

This normally manifests itself as a robust, well sponsored and understood bid / no-bid process, with consistent application and appropriate signatories.

Knowing your ‘why?’

The second element here tends to rest on a delicate balance of entrepreneurship with good governance.

The organisations that tend to grow over time seem to have a purpose, or a ‘Why?’ as outlined by Simon Sinek here: https://startwithwhy.com.

With a core purpose at their heart, they can effectively articulate the value that they bring to clients. Their brand resonates with clients and they position themselves with clients in advance of opportunities arising.

This raises chances of winning as well as supporting good governance, as opportunities are better understood earlier in the process which facilitates more informed decisions.

Clear roles and responsibilities

The third key enabler is a robust agreed bid or proposals process, with crystal clear roles and responsibilities for all involved.

There are countless recognised texts, papers and even videos out there that outline how to write proposals. Some are very good indeed. But strangely there are no well recognised published bid or proposal processes, nicely organised in a logical and chronological stream.

Very often when consulting with clients we find that the second piece of work to implement is a new bid process.

Like any project, having well defined roles and responsibilities at the start allows all your team members to be sure of what is required of them and what is required of their fellow team mates. This drives efficiency and reduces the risk of overlap or gaps. Having a sponsored process for securing new business, provides the team and all their stakeholders with a clear road-map of how to get from the client enquiry landing to a successful compliant submission.

Broadly it will navigate the team through strategy, solution, story, writing, review, sign off and submission steps – driving quality of responses.

Tendering savvy – the skills and motivation to win

The forth, and less tangible, element is having a team with the skills and the motivation to win. It starts with the bid leader and cascades throughout the team.

The amount of times we end up dragging along leaders and teams who are wonderful discipline experts but sadly don’t understand clients, how to sell or win, or have the motivation to try is far more than we would like to admit to. Bidding is not for everyone. It puts people under the spot light and stretches people beyond their comfort zones.

When selecting your teams the leader must understand the opportunity and subject area; but must also be enterprising enough to see how to add value for the client and drive a good deal. It’s not an easy balance or one that comes naturally to many.

The same applies to the rest of the team to lesser extent. As many team members as possible must understand how to win business, with the ability to articulate the benefits of their proposals. This can be taught to a point, but we would urge that you pay attention to the make up of your team and ensure there is a good balance of technical know how and entrepreneurial spirit.

Innovation – the USPs and discriminators to differentiate a winner

In short – your team must have value to show the client that outweighs the value offered by your competitors. It is possible to create purpose built solutions for opportunities, coming up with great new ideas for how to deliver their needs better, cheaper or faster. But it is so much easier to do that if the baseline business pitching for the work already has embodied innovation and differentiators in it’s DNA to shout about.

Having unique differentiators sets your business apart. It provides interesting centre pieces for your proposition and exec summary and creates an excitement factor for your proposals; pulling on emotional buyer behaviours as well as satisfying commercial drivers. It attracts the buyers to look more closely at your proposals – as long as the USP is relevant to them and believable.

Keep your business moving forwards, searching for new ways to improve what you do. If you stand still, someone will take your place at the front for sure.

So in summary…

It is the responsibility of business leaders to create an environment where winning well can happen. They must focus on articulating your business purpose, role modelling the right governance behaviours, bringing together the right teams with the skills and motivation to win and arming them with the differentiators to do so.