How Your Proposal Process Can Reduce Chaos, Preserve Profit and Support a Strong Culture
James Heiser, P.L.S., President and CEO of DPK

Businesses often get caught up in sales targets as they set higher goals for top-line revenue and pump out proposals at a faster rate. Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that. These are, after all, important indicators of performance.

The real danger is approaching sales with blinders on and focusing on landing as many customers as possible as quickly as possible. Perhaps a better approach is the example of a water wheel. It uses just the right amount of water to turn smoothly and consistently. It’s pace, and the energy created, is in perfect balance with what’s being produce as a product. Not carefully evaluating each customer and all of the specific requirements of project can lead to an imbalance. Disruptions in flow lead to obstacles that impact on not just profitability, but your people, your operations and the customer experience.

Overcoming the “All Business Is Good Business” Myth

The front-end sales and proposal writing process is a crucial time for gathering information. More than trying to close the sale, your employees should be interviewing the client to determine if the scope of the project aligns with your operations and capabilities.

Commercial surveying projects, for example, can be riddled with complex technical challenges, unreliable data, and changes to properties and field conditions. At DPK, we have to dig much deeper than basic project parameters such as cost, deadline, and production schedule.

  • Is the customer’s scope of work complete?
  • Is the job site within our specified geographic service area?
  • Have the project site conditions been reviewed by the client?
  • Which employee skillsets and certifications match the specific needs of the customer?
  • Do we have the right equipment available?
  • To what extent can the customer’s history give us a sense of their expectations, communications level, and how they value the services we provide?

The answers to these questions will likely trigger another round of questions that further inform our decision about whether the customer and project are the right fit in terms of expertise, capabilities, and bandwidth. This process also helps us determine if it makes sense to push our resources to their limits or expand our capabilities to increase the number of optimal customers and projects.

Ultimately, closing the sale is the starting block, not the finish line. Slowing down the sales and proposal-writing process may reduce the total number of proposals but doing so can actually produce better results. Getting the proposal to the client as quickly as possible might help accelerate the process of landing a project, but at what cost?

If a project stumbles across the finish line and missteps, miscommunication, and other problems result in a negative experience, then what have you gained? Keep in mind that the customer will feel the same level of dissatisfaction, which isn’t good for anyone.

Proactive Preparation, Analytical Thinking, and Culture

Instead of reacting to this scenario above by saying, “I did the best I could with what I had,” make sure you have what you need to do the job right.

Rather than simply moving forward with the information you have in front of you, be proactive and prepare. If possible, gather deeper information to ensure the client and project are well-suited for your company. Think about how various tasks, challenges, and variables affect your team at every stage of the project.

Beyond sales and landing the contract, employees should continue this focus to ensure the project is produced smoothly and efficiently. Embracing a winning attitude will empower yourself and your team to do what’s necessary to properly move the work forward. It will set up your organization, your project and your customer for a successful experience.

The more lofty goal is building a culture in which every employee is motivated to show up each day and do great work. They have to care about their co-workers, the organization as whole, and the customer. They have to be accountable for themselves and others. They have to be willing and able to look more than one step ahead and beyond their own responsibilities.

To be clear, there is no way to prevent every hiccup. However, a more methodical approach to business development, supported by preparation, analytical thinking, and a strong culture will make roadblocks easier to overcome. It will enable you to circumvent unnecessary inefficiencies, complete projects on time, satisfy the customer, improve employee morale, and maximize profits.
If you found this article to be of benefit, you may also want to read “Every Project Is a Story”.