Imagine how much effort and resource is wasted every year in creating and submitting sales proposals to prospects that end up buying nothing, were never likely in the first place to buy anything from the vendor, or stand no chance of ever being profitable.

Increase Sales Proposal Win RatesAnd then there all the times that vendors get called in by prospects to act as “column fodder” to help justify a decision that has already been made to go with another vendor where the prospect’s company procedures require the illusion of a competitive process.

It’s enough to make you weep. And it’s no wonder that some vendors end up reporting single-digit or at best low double-digit proposal win rates. That is, self-evidently, a horrible waste of time for everyone concerned.

Fortunately, there are a few ways in which your organisation can avoid suffering a similar fate. I’d like to share 5 proven ways in which B2B sales organisations can significantly increase their chances of success - and the return on effort employed.

1: Don’t waste your time responding to RFPs you haven’t influenced

I know that particular rules apply to regulated or government procurement markets, but even in those environments if you haven’t been able to influence the specification in your favour, you shouldn’t be bidding. Ideally, your influence needs to be felt long before the formal sales process gets started.

If what the prospect is looking for does not reflect your thought leadership, or if you can’t see your core capabilities reflected in the requirements specification, chances are that someone else’s fingerprints are all over the project.

And if the tender or RFP document lands in your lap as a complete surprise, without prior knowledge or influence, your default position must be to qualify out - unless your business model is based on coming out at the bottom intact in an ugly price war.

2: Make sure that you sell the need for change before you sell your solution

Given the amount of resources they consume on the part of both the prospect and the vendors involved, it’s galling to think how many formal buying decision processes end up with the prospect deciding to do nothing.

If you are competing in a considered purchase market, where the prospect could quite easily just decide to stick with the status quo and do nothing, you have to ensure that your proposal makes the case for change before it makes the case for your solution.

3: Show how (and why) you’re different before you prove how you are better

Whatever the constraints imposed on you in the RFP process, you have to find ways of showing how and why you’ve got a distinctively different approach to solving the problem (and delivering superior results) before you attempt to prove how and why you are better.

All-too-often your idea of “better” is going to be irrelevant to the buying decision - and if it is, then you’re likely to be embarked on another race to the bottom price point. But if you can show that your approach is different you have a chance of standing out from the crowd - and being memorable.

4: Tackle the Cost of Inaction (COI) before you address the Return on Investment (ROI)

I’ve never been a fan of ROI-based sales models. For one thing, if the prospect can’t see what’s inside the mechanism, and even if they have provided the data, they are unlikely to believe the results. At minimum, they will be convinced that the vendor has stacked the deck.

If you must include an ROI calculation, then you have to make sure that the prospect feels real ownership of both the model and the data. Frankly, I think you’d be much better off helping them build the case for change by helping them understand the Cost of Inaction.

5: Make sure there’s something in it for every stakeholder

Last, but not least, you must ensure that you proposal passes the “what’s in it for me and my organisation” test for every stakeholder in the buying decision process, including those you haven’t had the chance to meet.

Your proposal will have to act as a selling document to reach parts of the prospect’s organisation that you haven’t got to - and you have to expect that a significant proportion are going to ask something along the lines of “remind me again why we are thinking of spending this money?”

At all times, you have to remember that your proposal isn’t just competing against the companies you see as your conventional competitors - you’re also competing against a raft of unrelated projects for the prospect’s funds. And they may just decide to keep the money in the bank. Your proposal must persuade them otherwise.

I hope you find these ideas helpful. I’d be grateful if you could add to the debate by sharing your experiences in the comments box.