Late nights and weekends working on proposals that are still incomplete as deadlines loom, we’ve all been there.
There’s an adrenaline high – then a deep exhaustion at the thought of doing it all again.
When I wrote my first proposal for Shipley, that was my expectation. But I soon learned that a few principles, consistently applied, can transform the working week for everyone in the proposal development team.
I’m going to share with you five principles that can help you to manage the pressure of bidding – and to deliver winning proposals that will grow your business.
1. Be clear about what you do
Many bids wind up in confusion because the participants are not sure who they are answering to and are trying to fulfil the agendas of different levels of management. Knowing where you fit, when you are empowered to make the decision and when you need to refer it, immediately makes it easier to guide the team.
2. Leverage the work that’s already been done
The proposal isn’t the first communication that you have with the prospect (or if it is, that’s a red flag – but that’s another story) so it needs to build on the work your business development and marketing teams have done before you. You don’t need to start from scratch. You will get a good start by listening to, and appreciating, those who have already been in contact with the customer.
3. Engage the team’s creativity
So often proposal teams are drawn out of different parts of a business and do not feel ownership of the bid effort. They won’t understand, or care about, the interdependencies of the proposal unless you can inspire them with a vision. Once they are inspired, they will bring their own creativity to help you deliver the goods.
4. Make compliance the starting point
The downside of unleashing that creativity is that some individuals may find their own inspiration so compelling that they decide that they know better than the client. If you don’t set out clear requirements for compliance, you run the risk of a proposal full of good ideas that still doesn’t meet the brief. Achieving brilliance within the constraints of the requirement will be your winning edge.
5. Keep checking in
You are flat out and so is everyone else, but not necessarily on your project. Help them stay on track with frequent, scheduled check-ins. A structured series of reviews ensures they maintain progress throughout the bid period, not just in the last weeks, and keeps them aligned with your agreed objectives. That way, no last-minute surprises will derail your program for completing and approving the proposal in the final days – so, no 2am finishes and Sunday marathons!
Apply these principles and your life as a proposal professional will become more sustainable and successful. Enjoy the opportunities you will win, and lessen the wear and tear on yourself and your teams.
These are the principles we teach in the Shipley Managing Strategic Proposals online workshop. If you want access to the insights and tools that give our proposal consulting customers an 88% win rate, click here for more information.