Bottlenecks In Proposal Delivery

Written 2014-04-29 by Chris Bianchet

In the journey for “More” business for AV Integrators there are always a few challenges.

There are, of course, the challenges of every business such as prospecting, competition and a rapidly shifting buyer’s journey, and then there are the challenges of most integrators, which are almost always based on resources, starting with financial, and then leaning toward human capital.

Financial resources are always tough, because with more work means more need for capital to buy equipment, hire additional personnel and train them accordingly, and even if the financial resources are there it isn’t always easy to find the right people in short order who can sell, design or install a highly complex system.  In fact, many leaders of successful integrators will tell you that it isn’t just difficult, but at times near impossible, to find quality talent when you need it most.

But hey, that is part of the AV Integration business and the reason some succeed more than others is often in who figures out the formula for success, which is likely based on having the right visibility into your business coupled with the right partners for scaling your operation.

Today however, I want to back it up a second and talk about what happens before just before we get more business…“The Proposal Stage.”

During the proposal stage, integrators are scurrying to  provide customers with a scope of work that they deem appropriate and then an estimate that they can count on and that can be installed profitably.

With customers often seeking to get proposals in their hands in days or even hours that can put tremendous stress on a sales executive to properly capture a needs analysis and put the appropriate equipment and labor onto an estimate before sending it back to the client.

This short-circuited process creates two tremendous challenges for integrators:

  1. Design Resources: While at times account executives are more than qualified to handle equipment determinations and pricing, much of the time proper design requires the touch of a pre-sales engineer or a systems engineer. This helps to properly account for all of the parts and pieces that are needed to make a system operate as advertised.
  2. Costly Errors: When design resources aren’t available or are asked to design at too high of a level without adequate time for review the errors can prove costly for integrators. Whether leaving out a few key converters or interfaces or completely underestimating the amount of labor required, both can prove extremely costly and can erode a project profit and hurt a client relationship.

What Should Integrators Do?

If fixing the proposal bottleneck was an easy solution then it wouldn’t still be on the top of the list of pain points for just about every integrator we come in contact with, but shared pain hardly means better results, so what should integrators do to resolve the proposal bottleneck?

A few ideas from the team at Herman-IS

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: While we know sometimes telling a customer it will take five days to return a proposal, we have found that by setting this expectation up front, and explaining why, it has gone over better than an affirmative nod and a poorly thought out proposal.
  2. Dedicate Resources: Some of our partners have found success by dedicating certain personnel to pre-sales design and support.
  3. Standardize: This is an ongoing debate in the industry but the more you can standardize system design, products and installation the faster you can turn around systems. This has been proven in IT and Security industries that have both grown at a much greater rate than AV.
  4. Say No: My least favorite of the options, but sometimes we have to know when to no to bad business. Saying yes to all the work that comes along is a great way to get into a giant pickle. Sometimes the best deals you will do are the ones you don’t.

How about you? What are your secrets to getting more proposals done right? Inquiring minds want to know! Leave your comments below or let’s connect here.