Having worked with a large number of organisations (both ones that are successful and ones that are not), I have become convinced that consistency is one of the key attributes of successful business winning organisations.
Marketing professionals have known this for a long time. Consistency builds trust and the more your customers (both existing and prospective) trust you, the more likely they are to want to work with you.
Organisations that win most of the opportunities they pursue deliver consistent, customer-focused messages to prospective customers throughout the buying cycle. They do this from first contact and all the way through to delivering the final proposal and closing the deal.
If the prospective customer receives inconsistent messages from an organisation, such as claims made in presentations that are not supported by the information contained within the proposal, those responsible for making the decision to place the work are unlikely to believe what they read in the final proposal and act accordingly.
The first thing that you can do to help to achieve consistency is to plan. Plans are not the most interesting things to put together. However, particularly in these times where most of us are working virtually, plans become an invaluable tool for storing and sharing information. The information contained within each level of plan should, of course, be relevant to the purpose of the plan itself, and also should inform other relevant plans.
In business winning, from the strategic to the tactical, the plans should all be linked and consistent. As shown in Figure 1 below, each level of plan informs others. A significant percentage of the information that a Capture Plan contains is directly usable when putting together the Proposal Management Plan.
Consistency in how you behave and deliver messages helps customers to trust you and choose to work with you.
Too often strategies for winning an opportunity for new business are not thought about until the proposal is being developed. This is better than not having a win strategy at all, but how much better would it be if the proposal confirmed a win strategy that had been implemented with the customer over a longer period of time? Ideally, the prospective customer should have known long before they received the proposal that you are the right company for them.
A strategic plan is typically focused on an organisation’s mid- and long-term goals. It explains the strategies for achieving them, including the types of customers that you are planning to do business with. The Strategic Business Plan should include which types of new business you are planning to win and how the organisation is going to achieve that. Part of achieving the goals might be how the organisation is going to organise its sales activities, including setting up and managing accounts.
Account Plans are not, generally, opportunity specific. Rather, they cover a range of opportunities within an Account. They may be organised by prospective customer(s), vertical markets, geographical markets, or product/service offerings. They contain information about who you want to sell to in the Account as well as what you want to sell. Over and above this, they should include an analysis of the competitive landscape, for your product/service offerings within the defined Account. The Account Plan is one of the primary sources of early information for the Capture Manager.
During the early phases of the pursuit, the Capture Manager should ensure that the win strategy is developed, refined, and implemented. The primary tool that a Capture Manager can use to document and share the win strategy is the Capture Plan (as shown in Figure 2). The Capture Plan should document the win strategies being implemented during the early stages of the pursuit as well as how those strategies will be manifested in the proposal.
A consistent and shared strategy helps the customer to confirm the decision to choose you.
Win strategy is developed based upon a good understanding of the competitive landscape; particularly in-depth knowledge of an individual prospective customer, including that customer’s perception of any competitors’ strengths or weaknesses. The opportunity-specific win strategy is refined as the competitive landscape changes.
When it comes to the time for proposal development and submission, the Proposal Manager should use the information contained within the Capture Plan as the basis for the relevant part of the Proposal Management Plan.
The Proposal Manager ensures that the organisation’s capabilities to deliver the solution, in accordance with the win strategy, is communicated to the customer in a way that will maximise the proposal’s scores.
Capture and Proposal Management are separate disciplines, linked by a common goal: winning a new business opportunity. Key to the successful integration of the disciplines is the management of the development and delivery of a consistent win strategy, one that works during the early phases of the capture process as well as in the proposal.
This article was written by Tony Birch.
Tony Birch is the founder and current Chairman of Shipley Limited in the UK. Tony served on the main board of the APMP for four years and was elected a Fellow of the organisation in 2006, for his work in developing and launching the APMP’s Certification Programme. Since founding Shipley, Tony has trained thousands of sales and bid professionals around the world.