By Julie McCoy, CF APMP
In today’s busy proposal world, it can be easy to dive right into the response and start tackling the RFP at hand. Timelines are shrinking and there is a long queue of proposals waiting to be completed, but these are the exact reasons why it is more important than ever to have a strong kickoff call.
- Preparation: Preparation is key to a successful RFx response. According to the Association Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), it’s best practice to spend 15% of the response time on preparation. In the SaaS industry (Software as a Service) an average response window is 10 days, which means that up to a day and a half can and should be spent on preparation. Our key activities during the preparation phase are to read the RFP top to bottom, prepare for the call, create a detailed outline with proposed team assignments, and develop a comprehensive proposal schedule. A strong start will improve proposal quality and reduce rework.
- Set a clear path forward: By providing an outline of responsibilities, key activities assigned, and a detailed timeline, the team is not only aware of the complexity of the response, but who is responsible for completing each part of the response. This will increase both collaboration, and the likelihood that content will be provided in a timely manner, as well as ensure a smooth proposal response cycle.
- Rally the troops: Going to battle requires whole team effort and participation. Depending on the complexity of the product offering and the proposal, we may have 10+ team members working on the response. It’s critical that the team is aligned not only on responsibilities but messaging as well. Working together to develop the key win themes and strategies from the beginning will ensure that your organization’s story will be developed in all parts of the proposal response.
- Learn about the customer: During the kickoff call, Sales will provide their insight and knowledge about the customer or prospect. What discovery has been completed? What is the customer trying to accomplish? What are the pain points we should address in the response? Customers know when they receive a boilerplate response. Using the kickoff call as a platform to customize the content results in better responses for the customers who know and appreciate the difference, along with improving your overall win rate.
- Establish your role as the leader in the response process: I’ve often heard that working in Proposals is like herding cats. It’s a tough job that requires you to move people to action, without the benefit of direct reporting responsibility, and the bonus of tight deadlines. By leading the kickoff call, it establishes the Proposal Manager’s authority as project manager. In this way, the Proposal Manager becomes the go-to person and sets the stage in terms of expectations, obtains buy-in from the team(s) on deadlines, and proactively addresses any concerns.
Time spent in preparation and conducting the kickoff call is time well spent. Next time you are faced with an urgent response, be patient, plan, prepare, and hold the kickoff call. Your finished response and win rate will thank you.
Julie McCoy, CF APMP Julie McCoy is a Sr. Manager, Proposal Department at DocuSign, with over 10 years of proposal experience, including establishing DocuSign’s Enterprise full-service Proposal team. Her experience includes commercial, federal, and SLG proposal experience, with a focus on SaaS proposal responses and their unique set of requirements. Julie’s focus on “getting it done” was recognized by winning the Signature Award for Executional Excellence and MVP Award within DocuSign.