Setting the Bar for RFPs
See Teknion Uses Proposal Automation to Adopt Proposal Standards 

In the world of RFPs, competition is fierce. If you are not winning, you’re losing – in more ways than one. Teknion wanted to improve their results and embraced Qvidian. They chose Qvidian for efficiency, accuracy and speed. By choosing Qvidian, they got a robust and complete solution, one that was able to give them the opportunity to truly distinguish themselves from the competition and even set the bar for industry winning RFPs.

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BUSINESS DRIVER

Before implementing Qvidian’s proposal automation software, most Teknion sales representatives created their own proposals, for their own customers, using information stored on their own computers. “While there was an attempt to share a corporate standard, no single resource existed for upto- date information,” said Cynthia Kirkland Odell, Teknion’s Vice President of Marketing Services. “Furthermore,” she remarked, “sales representatives spent a lot of time searching for specific information needed to tailor the proposal to meet their customers’ unique requirements, which sometimes diverted energy from creating a response which distinguished us.”

The company thought they could solve this problem quickly by implementing an automated proposal solution. But, after doing so, they soon discovered that while proposals could now be created faster and with more current content, the proposals still did not meet the expectations of their mprospects.

“Our proposals were typical to our industry—a lot of words in a big binder,” said Kirkland Odell. “When I spoke to prospects whose business we did not win, the most frequent comment was, ‘I just don’t have time to read everything in your proposal.’ We clearly were not meeting market expectations, and our proposals weren’t an accurate reflection of the quality solutions we provide, either,” Kirkland Odell concluded.

APPROACH

To make it easier for sales staff to create winning proposals that contain the most current information, Teknion’s first move was to implement Qvidian for proposal software. “We thought that enabling sales representatives and sales support staff to choose pre-approved and relevant contentfor each proposal from a repository of best in class responses would solve our problem entirely,” Kirkland Odell recalls. “Looking back now, I can see that was naïve. Proposal automation is powerful, but its true benefits can only be unleashed if the right proposal format and structure are created first.” 

It was at this juncture that Teknion embarked on a program to come up with that format and structure. “Essentially, we’re in the design business,” Kirkland Odell says. “So we wanted to be sure that our proposals presented not just words, but also images and a graphic layout that conveyed our design aesthetic and branding message.”

To create their new proposal paradigm Kirkland Odell consulted with customers and interior designers to determine what they wanted in a proposal document. Teknion then took this information to a team that included external design and graphic professionals, as well as internal sales, design and marketing staff, who, together, re-crafted their proposal format.

Teknion realized the importance of images and graphic layout to grab the reviewer’s attention and draw them to the proposal, and they took it a step farther. They looked at the proposal from the perspectives of the members of the buying committee who would be reviewing and evaluating it. Rather than simply focusing on products and solutions, they described the benefits each person on the committee could expect to experience.

In their Executive Summary, Teknion wrote brief statements, only 14-20 words each, targeting each role on the committee including: Purchasing/Finance, End User, Owner (maintenance), Outside Consultants and Technology (IT professionals). They highlighted the benefits specifically affecting those roles believing that if they could catch the attention of these individuals up front, then they would be inclined to read the rest of the proposal and see Teknion’s true value.

IMPACT

Teknion Corporation generates more than 500 high value sales proposals each year for their office systems and furniture. These customized proposals, prepared with Qvidian proposal automation software are carefully designed, graphics-rich, and professionally formatted to convey Teknion’s brand image. Individual sales representatives, regional sales support staff, and central corporate resources all use Qvidian either individually or collaboratively. The solution eliminates the need for a sophisticated graphics package cutting the initial proposal creation process from more than four hours to just a few minutes.


Interested in learning more? Please download our whitepaper Seven deadly sins of proposal writing, to get a closer look at seven proven strategies for developing highly effective proposals. 


“In our first trial proposal with the new model we were essentially the seventh of six contenders,” Kirkland Odell said. “The prospect wasn’t even seriously considering us. But we shot to the top of the pack after our proposal submission. When I spoke with the lead reviewer, he said that a key reason for our dramatic rise in the standings was our proposal. ‘It called to me,’ he said. ‘It was the first one I read and it set the benchmark for everything else that I reviewed.’ That’s when we realized we’d solved the puzzle,” she remarked.

The initial successful format was executed with a sophisticated graphics package. But because this package was both difficult and time-intensive to use, Teknion ported the new format into Qvidian. “After loading the new proposal format into Qvidian, proposals were just as impressive as if they had been crafted with the graphics package,” Kirkland Odell said. “And, best of all, any of our sales representatives or sales support staff, anywhere in the world, can create draft proposals, without needing a degree in graphic design.”