My friends over at Strategic Proposals just published a white paper called “The Buyer’s Guide to Bidding” (Mullins & Williams). The paper is a fantastic read for anybody in the business of responding to RFPs as it assesses the role of proposals in the overall sales process from the buyer’s perspective. One quote from a Director of Procurement stood out….”A good written proposal, in itself, might not win you business, but a badly conceived and written one may put you out of the race.” Exactly!
The goal of a proposal, in most cases, is to win the business. In order to reach that goal, you have to have an efficient and effective proposal process, dedicated and talented resources, tools, support of senior leadership, cooperation from SMEs, strategic vision, etc. We know there’s a LOT that goes into making a proposal project successful. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Let’s talk about something more controversial. Should the writers, editors, graphic artists, and managers that make up your proposal team earn proposal bonuses? If so, how should those bonuses work? If the sales person owns the sale and the proposal team can’t impact the final outcome, are paying bonuses for “wins” (or measuring your success/failures by wins, for that matter) the right approach? What about the level of effort it took the team to support the proposal project? There are a gazillion reasons that a buyer may choose somebody else over you that has NOTHING to do with the proposal. I used to joke with my sales people when they would tell me we lost on price. My response was, “oh, so they didn’t like you.” :) But I digress.
Those are some of the questions I asked myself when I proposed a bonus structure for my team. What I came up with (and got approved) was paying my team bonuses on proposals that made it to the next stage of the sales process, generally, the finalist meeting. That is what we could impact. That is what we had some control over. And it worked well. Regardless of the dollar amount (it wasn’t a lot), it not only incentivized the individual to do their best work and eased the pain of the late nights, but it also gave them a sense of empowerment, accountability and respect.
What other bonus structures have you seen or experienced? I’d love to hear what others have found to be successful.