7 ways the proposal process changes when you do everything yourself

Do you still need a process when you are the only one who prepares your company's proposals?

Companies start to embrace a proposal process when the number of people involved grows large enough to become difficult to coordinate. It would be better if they began to embrace process as soon as they start caring about their win rate. 

The MustWin Process on PropLIBRARY enables a team of people to work together to maximize the company’s win rate. That’s great, but what if there’s no team? What if you are the team? Then doesn’t a proposal process designed to support large teams become overkill?

Are you really alone? Sure, you might be the last one to touch the proposal. You might be the only one producing it. But if you have stakeholders, you are not alone. If you need input, you are not really alone. If people depend on your output, you are not really alone. If you are not really alone, you need to coordinate with the others who are involved or impacted. And that coordination can become a need for a proposal process.

Even if you are truly the only one working on proposals you still need to do things in a repeatable way that can be optimized, both for efficiency and for effectiveness. But your process needs do change in some key ways.

See also:
Process Implementation
  1. Instead of steps and procedures, build your proposal process around goals, reminders, and checklists. You don’t want to forget things, and it’s quicker to not have to figure things out every time. Sometimes checklists function as reminders, being lists of things you don’t want to forget, but sometimes reminders are simply that. And sometimes checklists are quality assurance or planning tools. You can accelerate thinking about your proposal by including things that aren’t always relevant but are worth considering on your checklists. When you’re under volume pressure and near your maximum capacity, sometimes it’s good to not have to remember and think through everything. Checklists can not only speed things up and improve quality, but they can also inspire you to create better proposals.
  2. You may not need written procedures for coordination, but you still need stakeholder reporting and communication. Instead of communicating to coordinate the production of many moving parts, you need to be prepared to communicate with the people who are impacted by what you do. Instead of thinking of it as “communication,” it may be better to think of it as expectation management. The best way to streamline communication is to build it in, make it automatic, and eliminate the need for communication as a separate or ad hoc activity. If people can see the status or automatically get updates, they won’t have to interrupt you to ask about things as often.
  3. Document the inputs you require and whether you got them. Don’t expect other people to just “do their jobs.” You must itemize the information you need or they may not reliably get it for you. Once you itemize the information you need, you can track whether you get it and correlate this with your company’s win rate. This can be used to help them realize the importance of getting the information to you.
  4. Quality validation is necessary to maximize win probability. On your own, it’s easier get by with informal quality assurance and you may not need a formal proposal review process. But you still need to check your own work. Being careful does not count as quality assurance, even if you’re really good at it. Knowing what you need to validate and turning that into quality criteria will help you ensure that everything gets validated. Using written quality criteria will not only increase the reliability of your efforts, but can also be turned into checklists to accelerate things.
  5. Even people on their own need a plan. However, the plans that people need when doing things themselves are different from the plans that a team needs to get everyone on the same page. Individuals often call their plan a “to do” list. Instead of making your “to do” lists an ad hoc batch of reminders, make them deliberately considered lists of items required to effectively perform the necessary tasks. “To do” lists can also be turned into checklists, and you can also save, reuse, and improve them over time. 
  6. Your history is defined by the records you keep. Under deadline pressure, it would be understandable if you gave up on keeping orderly files that weren’t directly needed as part of your workflow. But you need to keep track of your history. Don’t keep records just for the sake of doing it. Keep records so that when you need to look back you’ll have the data you need.
  7. Evidence of win rate and ROI. If you want to be more than just a production resource, you must prove your value. If you want to prove your value, you must do it quantitatively. You must prove that you deliver a positive ROI. The good news is that this shouldn’t be too hard. If you are the only proposal resource and you increase your company’s win rate by as little as 1%, you will likely bring in more revenue than you get paid. Learn the mathematics of win rate calculations so you can prove this. And gather the data. At a 20% win rate, increasing you company’s win rate by 10% is the same as finding 50% more leads. What would your company be willing to invest to get 50% more leads? You need to be able to get past hypotheticals and talk real numbers. Otherwise, you risk being seen as just a production resource that the accounting system classifies as an expense. The truth is you should be treated like a profit center, with as much impact on the company’s bottom line as its best salesperson. But that won’t happen until you prove it. With numbers.

Notice how much of The Process can become simple checklists when you’re on your own? Just don’t think of them all as checklists. Divide your checklists into categories like plan, act, communicate, and review. Then your checklists will align with your process needs. You will have a proposal process, but it will be the kind of process that is useful even when it’s just you. This approach also creates a foundation so that when things grow and the proposal function no longer is just you, you can easily provide guidance to the newcomers.
 


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Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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