Master Class

How to Build Business-Winning Innovation in Your Services Business

Most service businesses sell to business customers — either exclusively, or in addition to consumers.

When you sell to other businesses or to government, and when you reach a certain level, you will be selling to procurement.

For example, Victorian government departments need three quotes for any purchase above $25,000. Above $150,000, they are required to conduct a formal tender.

Most businesses that sell at this level end up winning at least two-thirds of their business through some kind of formal submission. When you win a contract that way, you only get to keep it by competing for it again, generally, once every three years.

That’s a lot of revenue at risk through the procurement cycle.

When I talk to people who sell services, they often tell me that they are so busy working in the business that there never seems to be time to work on it. The marketplace is getting more competitive all the time, and the pace of change is so intense that it can be hard to keep up with what competitors are doing – let alone come up with new things yourself.

To make things even more challenging, there is the frustration that customers don’t really understand what you do, let alone value what you do.

There is a better way to sell services. If you’re struggling with these problems, I can help.

The Revenue Revolution: Building Business - Winning Innovation in Services Organisations is a program for owners and leaders of service businesses. Together, we will look at what your organisation knows, does, and delivers, to identify what you offer that is:

  1. Extremely valuable to customers, and has the highest currency right now;
  2. May be outdated, and of limited value to customers; and
  3. Can be built in order to create greater value to customers over the next 6 to 12 months.

At the end of the program, you will have a blueprint to develop services that will position you as the clear winner with customers or funding bodies.

Contact me for a white paper with more information about how the Revenue Revolution Program can help you grow your services organisation.

Planning a Compliant Tender Response

Every question that’s asked in a tender document will contain more than one layer, that is, several questions within the question. Look for the layers and you will produce more compliant answers and also get better results. In a session with my Master Class group this morning, we were talking about content planning for tender responses. This is a very important topic, but often one that people struggle to get their heads around.

When we're on a deadline and there's a lot of work to do, it is very tempting to jump straight into writing, but in fact, this is never going to give you the best result.

Planning is the essential step between creating your bid strategy and executing it through what you write in your proposal.  But even the word “planning” sounds as much fun as getting a root canal. It feels like it will slow us down and stop the momentum and the flow of ideas.

However, I look at planning somewhat differently. When I plan proposal content with teams, I find that it actually gives a really laser sharp focus to what we’re about to do.

It’s a bit like flying a plane. If bid strategy work is the preparation for take-off, and writing is cruising at altitude, then planning what happens just after take-off when the flight is still ahead of us. Many things are possible, but many things could still go wrong.  Planning gives us an opportunity to see them, and work out the bumps before they throw us off course.

Often in our haste to get a bid done by the deadline, we compile proposals rather than write them. We think: “okay, here's a question about quality assurance. I'm just going to copy paste my standard answer about quality assurance in here.” But questions are rarely asked exactly the same way each time. So take the time to identify the layers in the question that your answer needs to cover. And think of your standard content from past proposals as a reference library, not the finished answer.

“We Have a Quality Process for Bids, so Why Aren’t We Winning Any?”

When I talk to revenue owners who are responsible for leading bids and proposals, one of the frustrations they often mention is that there has already been a fair bit of effort expended to document their quality assurance process for bids. Often this involves multiple stages and toll gates and is meant to be followed rigidly for every opportunity that they pursue. Now, I'm not knocking process. Following a process is important to get a replicable result.

My question is —what result are you modelling your replicable process on?

One of the problems with bid quality processes is that the result that we're looking to achieve is an elusive one. A successful bid strategy is like a snowflake – no two are ever exactly the same. Bid strategy can’t be pinned down just by following a series of steps, particularly when those steps don't provide enough instruction to actually help people to do the tasks within the steps.

For example, I've seen bid quality processes which just say "Step number 23 - develop win themes." Okay, that's great as a headline, but what if your team doesn't have a process to develop win themes? What will tend to happen is that everybody sits around in a room and kicks around the reasons why they think the customer should choose them. This then ends up in the document as some kind of laundry list titled "Why You Should Choose Us". This is rarely effective.

Developing win themes for bids is a creative process —it's not about producing a widget to a certain standard or tolerance. It's about being able to recognise all the factors that are going to shape and influence the customers' decisions; particularly what they most value, what we can best deliver and what positions us best against competitors.

A quality process isn't enough to deliver a winning bid, unless there are also instructions, training and practice built in for the people who will actually be executing the process. Some big organisations do this very well, but there are many others that need help to be able to follow a quality process effectively.

These days, I very rarely work with organisations on routine bids where their staff haven't first been through my Persuasive Tender and Proposal Writing Master Class Program. There are many techniques in that program that help to fill in the gaps of the quality process and actually give people the tools that they can use to follow instructions like "Develop win themes."

The May Master Class Program sold out early, but we are now accepting enrolments for July.

Contact me if you would like a detailed syllabus and overview for the Tender and Proposal Writing Master Class.

Earning or Learning? Separating Proposal Development from Proposal Skills

Are you looking for help with an important bid? Do you want to improve your proposal development skills or processes at the same time? Here's why it's better to separate these two objectives. When people approach me for help with bids, proposals and tender responses, the most common form that the enquiry takes is this:

"Can you come in and work side by side with us on a bid so that we can learn from you?"

There are two questions here, and the answer to both is yes - but not at the same time.  Here’s why.

Steven Covey’s classic time management grid introduced us to the idea of tasks that are important or not important, and urgent or not urgent.

  • Getting an important bid across the line is an important task that is also urgent.
  • Building your skills in bids, proposals and tender responses so you can win more business, more often is important — but not urgent.

Urgent tasks will always take priority over non-urgent tasks.

When there is an important bid coming up, everybody's attention and focus is on how can we get the best outcome for that bid — including mine. Even when I come in fully intending that you and your team will learn from me — and even if that’s your intention too —everything tends to be subsumed into the bigger objective, which is to get your important bid across the line.

In my experience, proposal skills development is a systematic process of enquiry and reflection that is best built away from the furnace of bid deadlines.

That’s why I offer public and professional Tender and Proposal Writing Master Class Programs that deliberately takes participants away from their day job — either for a couple of hours a week in the public program, or a couple of days in the professional program —to get the best results.

To improve your outcomes from bids and proposals through learning and development, I recommend training at least one senior person from your organisation who is going to be responsible for strategy and leading bids, and at least one other person who will be doing the proposal development, management and writing. These people need to work together and to support each other.  I have trained many proposal teams through the Master Class program, with great results.  The next public Master Class starts on May 2 and enrolments close on April 18.  Contact me if you’d like an overview of the syllabus for this very useful program.