Originally published by Sales Initiative | 3/13/2017
by Lewis Miller
Technology-driven innovations in proposal management have already vastly reduced the time sales teams spend on the proposal process, just at the moment this can be anywhere up to a huge 40%. Creating a more streamlined journey that enables sellers to determine which bids they’re most likely to win through quick and insightful data analysis is now possible, which at this time, can already increase win-rates by almost a third.
However, the technology available to businesses has been so rapid in its evolution, that many are still using archaic methods that lose them this time, money, and valuable businesses opportunities. This is due to various developments over the last decade.
Firstly, the interaction and sharing of information between departments within a company has become significant and an over-arching requirement. As a result, systems must offer the ability to track and move content, allowing various stakeholders to not only confirm accuracy but to certify compliance and ensure they’re delivering the most relevant content to the sales team.
Also, as sales teams are now required to follow the process of the buyer when submitting bid documentation, procurement teams now rely largely on the data within this documentation to filter through bids. Typically, Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) documentation contained lists of questions that sellers were required to answer but this has evolved into a myriad of documents including pricing documents, compliance documents, due diligence and security questionnaires.
These ancillary documents are fairly standardized, often asking the same questions over and over again and many times, even after business relationships have been formed, sellers are asked to complete the documents again on an annual basis. This has driven a need for feature and function sets to be more intelligent whereby systems can recognize document types, rationalize the questions and predict the information required through smart search capabilities, increasing the throughput and productivity when responding to RFPs and enabling teams to secure new business quicker through the volume of proposals they’re able to submit.
Proposal teams generally operate under great pressure with tight deadlines looming over their heads, yet through automation, systems are able to complete these documents automatically, completing documents by answering hundreds of questions in a matter of minutes.
But you also have to think about the data. It resides in CRM, pricing and ERP systems and provides context to the kind of deal that sales teams are trying to compete for. Digitally connected platforms help transfer and analyse these contextual data points between systems and this is increasingly important in gathering the intelligence required for generating the best possible responses to RFPs.
Teams must be more on-point with the content they’re using relative to the buyer requirements in order to outperform increasing competition. The ability to analyse the flow of data between these systems also enables teams to tie together highly valuable insights, and understand the factors contributing to their successes and failures. So no more “Why did we lose that one?”.
From a technology perspective, these are the ‘big rocks’ we’re focused on to help our sellers provide more relevant information to the buying situation. At the end of the day, when sellers are achieving this, the buyer has a higher regard for them thanks to the ease of the interaction and, in turn, this results in better outcomes and higher win rates.
Moving forwards, we’re now beginning to think about how artificial intelligence could eventually be leveraged to better predict which content should be provided. As you scan multiple databases, relevant information can be extracted to utilise at any moment in time. By merging data streams together, organisations can create documents more pertinent to each and every deal, providing better analytics for companies to be able to make better, more accurate and more effective decisions downstream.
The evolution of proposal management shows no sign of slowing in momentum, but keeping up to date and educated on these innovations will provide a big pay-off for sales teams. These are big returns on what you might call fairly modest investments.