Category Archives: Sales Management
Support to Write Better Proposals and RFP bids
Are you wondering how to write better RFP responses and boost your chances of winning important bids? You’ve found the right place.
Our proposal, RFP and bid support capabilities have been greatly enhanced recently. A new addition to our team, Michele Rochon, BA, AM. APMP is an accredited member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals, and is a 15 year veteran in this specialized area. Not only does she help to strategize the proposal process (Should you bid? Can you win? ), but she also provides seasoned writing and design skills to make sure your bid is a worthy, outstanding and passionate example of all you have to offer.
In conversation with Michele recently, she memorably said to me, “When evaluating proposals, clients can tell who really wants the job, and who doesn’t. They’re not dumb. They are looking for that spark. Something extra. If you bore them or give them a boilerplate with nothing original, you are dead in the water.” CLICK HERE to read more about our newly expanded proposal services.
What Really Matters in Responding to RFPs
Check out our upcoming May 7 webinar on proposal skills, presented by one of our associates, Michele Rochon, who is an Accredited Member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. Proposal writing, particularly preparation of large or technical bids, is an area of great strength for her — and yet one which most people understandably find quite daunting!
According to Michele, of the most important “fundamentals” of proposals is that people need training in the fundamentals! Not only new proposal coordinators, but everyone who works on proposals needs refreshers, sometimes even those who have been in the business for a long time.
Although few formal post-secondary learning opportunities exist in proposals, training programs and webinars for proposal basics are everywhere. But what if you want to venture beyond the basics? How do you find training opportunities that offer sufficient depth? With proposal training, the two key challenges are:
1) distinguishing the best proposal practices—the ones that actually produce wins—from those that add little real value
2) growing beyond the basics when only a few programs actually go there.
This webinar presents a review of recommended training programs and rates them against a list of well-known proposal best practices. For each best practice, the paper provides a summary of how to implement it and rates its impact on win rates and business results – “best” practices have the highest impact on win rates, followed by “better” practices and “good” practices. Learn:
…why even senior professionals need refreshers on proposal fundamentals.
…training programs available in the industry and how they compare.
…other skills applicable to proposal writing and management.
…the most important best practice in proposals and why it is more important than all the others.
…best practices that technical supervisors won’t tell you about.
…why “extensive experience” is not value or a win theme.
…color team reviews, strategic page design, proposal resource centers, post mortems, flowcharts, proposal templates, storyboards and more.
Date: May 7, 2013
Time: 10:00am MST to 12:00pm MST
Early Bird Registration: $96/attendee (up to April 26)
(up to 3 additional registrations for your organization $96/attendee, more than 3 additional registrations $75/attendee)
MICHELE’S WHITE PAPER ON THIS TOPIC IS INCLUDED WITH THE REGISTRATION FEE. IT WILL BE EMAILED TO YOU THE DAY BEFORE THE WEBINAR.
To register, CLICK HERE to email Michele. She is handling the registrations.
How do you help a “rainmaker”, or in other words, the Seller Doer?
Seller doers can benefit from coaching, but they usually don’t get it from their supervisors, because their supervisors are stretched even thinner than they are. Marketing and proposal professionals can fill the gap by first nurturing a culture of upward leadership in their firm, gaining the coaching skills that can be employed in a hierarchical environment and making strides over time, which provides the opportunity to gain respect in the field and advance your careers as well as making your organization stronger and more successful.
Tenato is pleased to announce an upcoming webinar on April 11, 2013 10am – 12pm, by our new Associate, Michele Rochon. This two-hour webinar explores the idea of “leading upward” and provides a list of ways you can coach seller doers.
Your work can make your seller doers more successful, and you a better leader. The webinar includes:
• The 12 Qualities for Success as a Coach and Leader
• Creating a Leadership Culture
• Leading Upward in a Rigid Hierarchy
• 9 Listening Strategies
• Questioning Techniques
• Coaching people even when they don’t know they’re being coached
• 5 Categories of Revenue Growth Drivers for Professional Services Firms and How to Coach in those Categories
• Learning What your Seller Doers Need to Learn
• Coaching Seller Doers in 6 Steps
• Observe a 15 Minute Coaching Session with a Seller Doer
COST: $111, or lower, depending on date registered and # of registrants in your group.
To register: CLICK HERE for the registration form.
Another strategic addition has been made to Team Tenato. Michele Rochon, BA, AM.APMP (BA in Business and English, and Proposal Management Professionals Designation) has extensive experience in business to business marketing and proposal development for technical sectors such as engineering, construction and oil/gas services. Her articles have appeared in global publications such as Proposal Management, the journal of the Association of Proposal Management professionals, the Zweig Marketing Letter and Canadian Consulting Engineer.
Michele’s experience includes helping major corporations companies put together multi-million dollar bids packages for a wide variety of technical projects. Since many of Tenato’s clients over the years have been in the oil and gas and service sector, Michele’s skill set allows us to strongly enhance our capabilities in this area.
In addition, Michele is a very accomplished and eloquent writer, and this was what initially made us take notice. As a writer myself, reading her sample, I started out skimming, and then slowed down, and slowed down again, and then went, “Holy smokes, this gal is really sharp, and what a writer!” Then I learned she is completing and publishing her first book, “The Career Path of the Non-Technical Marketer in the Technical Industry.” I’m sure this will be a remarkable resource for any marketers who are sitting inside technically-bent employers, wondering where they will go from here.
But it’s more than writing — it’s writing about knowing “what to say.” Several of her white papers on proposal storytelling and applying plot principles (she has also written plays, which show strong in her vocabulary and literary skills) show just how well she organizes complex information. You can now look forward to reading some of her comprehensive publications and blogs here on Tenato’s website.
On a non-business note, Michele and I both have teenage kids, and we both sing– so we also click on the creative and personal front too….it seemed like a good excuse to bang out a tune or two on Tenato’s piano here at the office! Michele, we are so glad to have you on our Associate team, and we look forward to working with you!
How to Build Revenue and Sales Forecasts
Developing a sales or revenue forecast can feel a lot like trying to magically see into a crystal ball – and is one of the most difficult aspects of creating a strategic marketing plan. After all, if you don’t know how much revenue you’re aiming for, how will you know how much to spend on achieving it?
On the surface, we’re talking about unit sales times the price of the sales to get a revenue number. But how many units of each aspect might you sell?
Here are three basic methods to develop sales forecasts, along with some good insight on the limitations of each.
1. Percentage of Market Share
This method is often the first-thought of the new businessperson. It is common to read in business plans, “the market is X billions, and if we get just 2% of that, we’ll have $x in revenue” which then amounts to some astronomical number, indicating overwhelming success. Using this kind of assumption alone is much to0 simplified.
What you’re not accounting for is how many competitors, their relative size, and how strong their market entrenchment is.
What needs to be considered is a concept called “Share of Voice.” (SOV). Share of Voice simply means the share of the total marketing spending that a company is undertaking, when compared to the industry as a whole. Theoretically, if none of your competitors is marketing at all, and you come out with a big marketing campaign and a team of salespeople, and are doing 100% of the marketing, then eventually, all else being equal, you should gain 100% of the market. However, the amount of time is a factor here —depending on relationship bonds, it may take several years for you to eventually gain full control of the market.
But it does mean that if you want to have roughly the same market share as the #1 player, match them on Share of Voice. And then assume that they might likely increase their efforts as well, which means you’ll need to follow suit. It might take a few years to overtake them, but it will come.
Need help on estimating the size and growth trends in an industry sector? Always look to your corresponding industry association for the latest data. Many of them post reports online regarding overall trends. In addition, chatting to the people running the association will yield great insight on the identities and marketing efforts of the industry leaders.
2. Basing Sales Forecasts on the Previous Year
If you’ve got some historical data, why not use it?
In this method, a business might go by last year’s results, and decide whether certain factors will positively or negatively affect revenue. Some of these factors might include:
- Economic growth – Take a look at provincial forecasts, national forecasts, US forecasts, and any other global forecasts relevant to your business. If you have a retail business, ask the closest retailers nearby what they are forecasting, and if they are planning to boost marketing efforts which might bring traffic your way.
- Pricing factors – Can your pricing stay the same, be increased, or
- Competitive factors – Do your homework on your competitors. Do they have new innovations likely to steal market share from you? Or do they look tired and weak? One quick tool you can use is an online traffic estimation tool called SEMRush. This tool allows you to enter a competitor’s URL and it will tell you whether the site is growing or shrinking in traffic. This can tell you whether or not a given competitor is on top of its marketing.
- Your improvements – Have you developed anything new and exciting lately? Can you go to your existing client base and sell them a new element of your service? Or, are you sitting still?
- Interrelated products – Will an increase in one product or service line affect sales of another? If you are estimating several distinct products or services, consider the relationships between them.
The above factors will certainly be part of the puzzle, but you also need to look at the third method.
3. Forecasting Based a Marketing or Sales Funnel
Especially if a company is starting from scratch in its first year, often the best approach is to set a sales goal, make a commitment to a certain level of marketing, and then make reasonable assumptions about closing rates.
If direct sales is your core marketing method, this is basically a “sales funnel” – in other words, there are lot of people at the top of the funnel, but only a few actually become real clients. i.e. Contact 500 people, meet with say 100 of them, make proposals to 50 of them, close on 20 of them in a year. Now, is 20 clients enough? If not, you might want to start by contacting 1000!
Now, what if you are using indirect marketing or advertising? Traditional advertising typically has very weak statistics to indicate how many leads might come from a given advertisement. This is why few new businesses try traditional media advertising. The first year is kind of a gamble; only in the second year or so can you reliably forecast the affect it will have on your business. Sometimes it is best to wait until you have some money to gamble before using traditional print or broadcast media. That’s not to say it won’t work — it just takes money to refine it, and enough money to stick out until it is refined. And certainly, don’t do it without the help of an expert to give you the best shot at messaging and designing for maximum impact.
The sales funnel concept also applies to website traffic. And the good news is, there are tons of statistics on web traffic. A recent study by Google showed that getting your website into the #1 position on a key search term means you’ll get about 42% of the traffic for that term. And remember that I mentioned SEMRush? This will tell you how much traffic that is, i.e. you can find out how many visitors your competitors are getting, and if you see they are in #1 for several search terms, you know what kind of traffic that might bring to your website if you can match it. A good SEO expert will be able to give you quite accurate information on this, as well as how much traffic can be gained by ranking on various keywords (as can we, at Tenato). If you’re a real do-it-yourselfer, try the Google Adwords Keyword tool to search for traffic volumes on various keywords…however, make sure you’ve selected exact match in the correct “location” – i.e. country.
Once you know how much traffic you might be able to generate, you need only estimate the conversion rate – i.e. how many of the visitors to your website will make inquiries? Here’s a good resource for estimating conversion rates.
And from there, what is your sales closing rate? If you’re new to your industry, estimate 1/6 (which is a conservative closing rate across industries), and see if you can do it! If not, you might need a little sales training…
Sales Forecasting is a difficult task, to be sure. As you can see, there are benefits to all of the methods, and the best approach is to take what you can from all of them. Even as I write this, I continually think of more ideas, more ways to get better information! If you have any ideas to add, I’d love to hear them.
One final word of advice — when doing your research, be sure to triple-check your sources for currency, and make note of which sources you used throughout. And if you need a hand, please give us a call.
10 Tips for Better Writing Better RFP Responses
Hello folks! Upon returning from the Mirren Conference in NYC this week, I thought I’d share tips on improving your responses to proposals. This article was inspired by a session which was presented by Lisa Colantuono of AAR, a search consulting firm specializing in the advertising industry. The session focused on ad agencies, but I’ve pulled out some advice that applies to any business, and added some of my own as well.
1. Double and triple check you have spelled the client’s name(s) correctly, throughout! Have someone else edit and check your work whenever possible.
2. Keep the proposal in the SAME ORDER as the RFP asks. This makes is much easier for the evaluator, and gives an impression of cooperativeness.
3. Don’t include (or at least minimize the presence of) your “patented process” – evidently, all firms think they have a unique patented process, but they’re all the same. Clients don’t really care about the process as long as it gets results.
4. Include detailed case studies in the PISRR format: Problem, Insight you provided, Solution, Results, Relevance. Too often, companies focus just on their more prestigious clients, which are totally irrelevant to the project at hand. A photo/logo with each case is nice as well.
5. Pretend the reader has ADD. Short copy and bullet points are preferred. Try to include white space to make it breathe.
6. Offer insights at the category or industry level, not just client-specific insights. Show you understand their industry by including a little research, or interesting facts in the “sidebars” of the proposal.
7. If you include “extra stuff” not requested, try to fit it into ONE page – and show your philosophy, personality, people, and culture.
8. To present credentials of a team, a chart is a good idea. Put the clients you’ve worked with down the left, and the scope (or years of experience) across the top. Include the year(s) the work was completed as well. You might also consider category groupings instead of specific clients. Regardless, the chart can give a quick visual of your experience and strengths.
9. Focus the introductory letter mainly on your results, not on your history or your process.
10. Relevant work experience from previous firms CAN be included as long as the employee which did that work (assuming they had key role in it) is to be included on the team.
Got any RFP tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you!
Almost all businesses know it’s important to keep their clients happy, and be the best vendors they can be. But when it comes to dealing with their own suppliers, they let all their flaws hang out. Payments are late. Demands are high. Instructions are sloppy. And constant favours are the norm.
The problem with this is that when when you need the supplier to pull hard to help you, they balk. And that could make or break your ability to deliver on your promises, and kill your competitiveness in the long run.
In dealing with hundreds of businesses over the years, I have never once seen a business that was completely dependent on one client. And, if they ever were semi-dependent, they were actively working on changing that situation. This means that when push comes to shove, you as a client do not have absolute power over the supplier. So, maybe it’s time to fine tune your “clienting” skills. Here’s what I mean:
- The “We haven’t paid because we’re not really happy” scenario. Come on! If there’s an issue with quality, get in touch with the supplier immediately and tell them what’s wrong. Letting the issue slide until the invoice is overdue only makes you as the client look unprofessional, not the supplier. If you don’t like the bill or the services, complain about it NOW, not after you sat on it for months.
- The “We can’t pay you until the client pays us” line. Well, thanks for now announcing what the real payment terms were. It’s your job as a client to have sufficient credit that you can pay your supplier no matter what. Your slow paying client is your problem, not your suppliers’.
- The “It’s always your fault” attitude. If ever a job is late, or screwed up because of poor communication, acknowledge your part in it, instead of blaming it all on the supplier. If you won’t do that, that supplier is going to question everything you order in the future, and not necessarily in the kindest manner. They may even take liberty to raise your prices.
- The “schmoozing the clients, abusing the suppliers” scenario. Why not include a thank you note with your cheques? Or if you’ve been a real pain in the butt, send over gift card, testimonial or fruit basket. The supplier will feel proud they stuck by you, instead of feeling like the doormat under your feet. It also makes it a lot easier next time you have to push them hard.
The upshot is, being the person who hands out the cheques never gives you absolute power. Be kind to your suppliers, and they’ll be kind to you.
So you’re ready to start a business in Calgary? Good for you! It’s a giant leap. Calgary has for years been reputed as Canada’s most entrepreneurial city. As a business owner myself, and having helped hundreds of other entrepreneurs get started, I thought I’d give you a few tips on how business is done in Calgary.
- Work at getting an original name – and head straight to a registry to get it reserved. The registry services are all over town here in Calgary – and they’re independent businesses too – so they’re easily accessible. Also, while you’re there, check out their little books on how to start businesses – lots have all sorts of forms and sample proposals/contracts to get you going.
- Get the right address. Calgary has lots of business centres where you can use their business addresses, boardrooms, and telephone answering. If you want to, you can also rent individual offices. Search for “secretarial services” or “virtual offices” and you’ll find many options. For $100 – $500 a month (depending on whether you include phone answering – and yes, they can answer calls and then forward the caller on to your cell), your business can appear much more well-established than if you use a home address on your cards. If you really want to focus on oil and gas, downtown is the place to be; many people walk to meetings all day, and being there makes you part of the clique.
- Get a real graphic/web designer to create your logo, cards, website, and digital letterhead that you can open within Word (our designers can provide this.) A first impression counts. Get a good writer to edit all the material you write. Spelling errors are fatal.
- Don’t undercut. Decide whether you’re as good as your closest competitor. If your quality beats theirs, price a little higher than they do. If you’re still learning, price a little lower. If you price too low coming out of the gate (more than 15% lower), your clients won’t take you seriously. In Calgary, a higher price generally means you have a better offering, and there plenty of wealthy people here willing to pay for the best.
- Don’t copy the competition. People in Calgary shop – usually using the web. So if you lift text and content off a competitors’ web site, you’re just going to be found out – and that’ll make you look like a “me too” business instead of something original.
- Don’t think that because you’re small and new, you can only chase small businesses. Go ahead and go after the best possible clients based on the areas and industries you know best. Sometimes small business clients are harder to deal with than larger companies. Go with whichever segment will appreciate your value.
- Don’t hire unless you really need to. Best to build up a steady stream of work first. Remember, many tasks can be outsourced – warehousing, delivery, specific parts of your process. You don’t necessarily need to hire. There are plenty of small businesses in Calgary that price low enough that you can make a little money even if you subcontract and mark-up their services. And some of them will offer you volume discounts for ongoing work. Add some value to the package and it can work very smoothly.
- Be honest, and keep your reputation CLEAN! The Calgary business community is a small network of people who know each other. Most of the industries here seem to have evolved something like this: There’s an industry leader, and there’s a runner-up generally started by people who left the leader, and then there are many other competitors who have been trained by the larger players, or are from other places. There is no room for burning a bridge…word just spreads around too fast. If you have to walk away from some money to keep your reputation, it is probably worth it. When selling, it’s fine to say how you are different, but do not bad-mouth your competitors. If people come to me saying they had a bad experience with another marketing firm, I’m actually more likely to suspect there is something wrong with the client than with the other marketing firm.
- That said, it is just as important to treat your vendors well – as well as your clients. Sometimes vendors are even more important than clients. Pay them on time and treat them well. It can take years to cultivate a vendor relationship to the point where they will work until dawn for you without charging you rush fees…but it is worth having the relationship there when you need it. I’ve found price to be one of the least important factors in choosing a vendor. Yet still I see businesses choose cheaper vendors, and flip vendors constantly, forgetting that the best-reputed vendor would have been the one to actually help them out of a jam.
- There are amazing resources online if you want the lay of the land in Calgary, the best one being the City’s website. If you would like the rundown of the demographics, community by community, CLICK HERE and scroll down on the page.
- NEVER WEAR BUSINESS ATTIRE DURING STAMPEDE. (You’ll look like you’re from Toronto, which gets many Calgarians’ backs up!) That’s the spirit of this town. The beauty is that all the business people “seem to disappear” because they all look like cowboys and rodeo queens. Even just blue jeans and boots will do the job; but if you really want to impress, get an authentic western shirt, a Smithbilt cowboy hat and a nice belt buckle. Do it right. There are tons of places in Calgary to get good Western Wear (even the thrift shops!). Don’t talk too much serious business during Stampede week, just go party with your clients and make them LIKE you! And don’t book a meeting downtown on parade day (The first Friday morning), because you won’t make it anyway – downtown gets shut right down!
- Be prepared for the swings. People here make a ton of money when petroleum pricing is high, and then crash when things get low. Make sure you save during the high times, and prepare to deplete your savings when the low points hit. Resist hiring in favour of contracting wherever you can. Or, work to diversify outside the province so that your client base isn’t completely dependent on the economic swings.
Will you succeed and get rich in Calgary? Probably -the odds here are great! But remember the first few years you are generally learning, and not making much money. So if you give up within the first 3 – 5 years, you’ve probably have taken only the hard part of what your business had to offer, and given up just before things got profitable. In Calgary, you can succeed in any business. It just matters how keen you are, and how long you can stay keen! You can out-do others based on a higher commitment, and doing a better job. There’s not a lot of “who you know” here – it’s how hard you work to make it happen! If you want to know someone, call them right up and impress them. Word will get around, and soon you’ll know all the right people.
All the best in starting your new venture! Please give us a call to learn more about how we can help you. If you’re already doing business in Calgary, or have tried in the past, and want to add your thoughts and tips, drop us a line!
Jacqueline Drew, BComm, MBA
Finding an excellent person to handle the sales role in your company with knowledge, trust, and ambition can seem like an impossible task. At Tenato, we have helped many clients over the years to find excellent sales people, and we’ve developed a few unconventional techniques that seem to make an important difference.
- Attitude. In an interview, every salesperson will seem like he or she has a great attitude. I like to see if we can “scare” them out of the job first…that is, explain how hard it will be, that they will need to have great self-motivation, that there will be a steep learning curve, and that there will be great expectations of results. And of course, plenty of cold calling and new sales development. Regardless of the job, if a sales person isn’t thrilled about this in the interview, it’s only going to get worse after he or she gets the job. The ones without the right attitude (looking for an easy ride) will pretty much tell you they aren’t interested before they leave the interview.
- Aptitude. I like to throw zingers, right in the interview. Not industry-specific technical questions necessarily, but often basic math or writing. If you sold x units, at $x each, and then gave a 30% discount, what would be the final price with GST? Personally, if a salesperson can’t handle basic math on the spot (and yes, a calculator or scratch paper is fine to use), he or she will end up looking stupid at some point, which reflects poorly on the employer. I like people who can do math in their heads even better – they have great learning potential. And, at the end of the interview, I like to ask them to write me a paragraph (in their own handwriting) saying what they thought of the interview…that way I know if they can string a few words together, and also learn a little bit about how they handled the pressure.
- Homework. I love asking candidates what they know about the company, and why it interested them. This shows whether they are likely to do their homework before visiting a real prospect, which is always a vital step in the process.
- Lowering the Guard. This might sound like a surprise, after saying I put zingers into interviews, but I like to have a social conversation, off notes. I want to find out where they are at in their careers, and if this job is really a fit. I’ll often come right out and say, if applicable, “Wouldn’t you rather have a career in (x) area? You seem like you’d be really well suited for (something else.)” It’s a bit unconventional, but it allows me to find out if the person has really thought out this career choice. Sales is so very tough, you really have to want to do it if it’s going to work over the long term.
- Consider the Employer. Unfortunately, there have been times when as great as the sales person I hired was, the employer let them down. Employers sometimes use “baptism by fire” and neglect to bother executing on planned technical training, or turn out to be aloof, or overly critical. One client of mine likes to let potential salespeople spend a “day in the shop” prior to actually hiring someone, so that they can mingle with the staff, and see if they like the team. That way, he can also ask his other staff what first impressions they had of the job candidate.
The bottom line is, be honest with the person about how tough the job is (never, never downplay the job’s difficulty, or make it sound more fun than it will be), and take your time.