How do you get the most out of inexperienced BD and proposal staff?

Sometimes hiring more people, especially people with proven experience, is not an option. Sometimes you just have to work with the people who are available, even if they are inexperienced. Most people learn business and proposal development on the job, starting off without any experience. But you don’t want them to fail while they are still learning how to win.

The first thing that comes to people’s minds when trying to improve the skills of their staff is training. But there are a lot of other things you can do as well.

If you are using inexperienced staff, then the most important thing to have is structure. You need a process that they can follow, and that others are required to follow. Inexperienced staff can manage within a structured environment, but even very experienced staff have difficulty producing in a chaotic environment. Training your inexperienced proposal specialists will not bring structure or enforce it. Structure has to be sanctioned or imposed at the executive level.

This puts most companies in contradiction. They need the proposal specialists to define the process, but the proposal specialists aren’t sufficiently experienced to do that. Besides, they’re too busy working on proposals to document a process. One of the reasons we decided to sell the MustWin Process as an off-the-shelf set of proposal process documentation instead of keeping it to ourselves is to solve this problem.

Inexperienced staff need more than just process and structure. They need to know:

  1. How to define quality
  2. How to achieve it
  3. How to know quality when they see it

This is what having a process really should give you. If the process doesn’t do these three things, then it doesn’t do what you need. Your inexperienced staff need more than just process, they need a process that has been turned into tools. Incidentally, that’s why we turned our process documentation into a tool called PropLIBRARY.

Inexperienced staff need quality assessment tools and procedures so that they know what they are trying to achieve. They also need them so they can determine whether something meets the required criteria. Most companies assume experienced staff can just do this on sight. But the truth is that most experienced staff can’t recognize quality on sight. Most proposals are ordinary. And if experienced staff can’t do it on sight, then inexperienced staff definitely can’t recognize quality on sight. They need guidance in the form of checklists, criteria, and assessment procedures. They need to be tangible so they can compare what they are doing with something that shows them what they are supposed to be doing.

They need tools they can use at the beginning to define what they need to accomplish, they need inspiration and guidance in the middle to help them do it, and they need assessment tools they can use at the end to determine if what they did was correct. When they have this, many talented but inexperienced staff can perform as well as staff with much more experience.

But ultimately, there is no substitute for experience. Especially when things don’t go according to plan. That’s why we’re also big fans of coaching. A few hours a week of a highly experienced person's time is the final ingredient that enables an inexperienced team of proposal specialists to function at a much higher level. With an experienced coach, instead of hiring a team of experts you can grow your own. And while you’re waiting for your staff to reach the expert level, you have your coach to fall back on. Over the course of a year or two, talented but inexperienced staff can grow to the point where they need little or no coaching and can stand on their own.

If you take those same talented but inexperienced staff and just send them to a class, don’t expect it to make much of a difference. But if you give them process documentation and tools, and back them up with an experienced coach, it can not only make a difference, it can be a competitive edge.

If you want some options for hiring a coach, use the contact link to the left to get in touch with us.



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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