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How to write a better management approach for a proposal

Treat it like it's the opportunity it is

A management approach is a document that explains to the customer what you will do to ensure that they get what you’ve promised. It is not simply a set of operational plans. 

A lot of people find writing the management approach for a proposal to be boring and uninspiring. They even routinely recycle their boring management approaches, as if the customer doesn’t care. I love to compete against them because the management approach is often a great opportunity to win proposals.

Management approaches are inherently about trust. How does the customer know they will get all the technical proposal goodies you’ve promised them? What is the customer concerned about? Why should they believe that you can deliver? What good is your promised offering, no matter how great you claim it to be, if the customer can’t trust you to deliver? Writing the management approach isn't just answering the mail, it's proving that your company is reliable. More so even than the technical approach, it's where you prove your company's greatness instead of merely claiming it.

"Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics."  - Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) 

Most companies put far more effort into deciding what to offer than they put into how they will make sure that it gets delivered as promised. If there is any challenge at all to the project, then delivery is uncertain. And if there is no challenge to it, why does the customer need you at all? Why should the customer believe that you will do a better job meeting the challenges than their other alternatives? If your management approach is recycled boilerplate, you’re bidding at a competitive disadvantage. 

A routine management approach vs a winning management approach

See also:
Technical Approach

Project management plans are often operational tools, without much flourish or insight to them. But the management approach for a proposal needs to be insightful and accomplish a lot more:

  • A routine management approach for a proposal is an undifferentiated description of how you will run the project. It shows that you are capable of delivering. 
  • A winning management approach differentiates, earns trust, and adds value. It shows that you are not only capable of delivering, but that you will also overcome the anticipated and even unanticipated challenges. It proves that you will deliver more value and do it more reliably than any alternative.

A routine, recycled management approach is not competitive against a management approach written to win.

A simple approach for writing a winning management approach

While in the technical approach the central question is typically how do you do things, in the management approach the central question is how do you make sure the project accomplishes its goals. How do you make sure things happen as promised?

At every step in the value chain, there are opportunity to confirm, validate, anticipate, reallocate, communicate, record, track, monitor, and deliver. If you are making improvements for the customer, you are bringing positive change. But it's change nonetheless, and that creates opportunities to demonstrate you understand change management. Here are 200 additional topics to consider for your management approaches. All these things can earn trust by proving to the customer that you will deliver as promised.

For each step, activity, event, or service, consider what happens:

  • Before. What can you do to confirm expectations, anticipate problems, and prepare? What are your goals? 
  • During. What options do you have? How will you select among them? How will you detect problems? What will you do about them? How will you track progress? 
  • After. How will you validate that things were done correctly? How will you confirm you fulfilled your goals? 

This in essence is quality assurance, and quality is often a topic required to be addressed in your management plan. But for the management plan as a whole, think of quality more broadly. Think of it as reliability and trust. How do you prove that you are reliable under all circumstances and completely trustworthy?

Your org chart is not simply a hierarchy. Your reports are not simply reports. An invoice is not simply an invoice. Everything single thing is done for a reason that benefits the customer and its completion adds value. The reasons why you do things can be more important than what you do. They show you have insight and judgment worthy of being trusted. Before, during, and after wrap everything you do in reasons for doing them that add value. Let other people treat their management approaches as routine.

Channel your own distrust of salespeople and vendors into something more productive

Have you ever had a bad vendor experience? What did you do about it in the future?

What does the customer fear about selecting a vendor? Have they had problems in the past? Are they concerned about the project’s risks? What would you want a vendor to do to prove that they are worth your trust? What procedures should they follow? That’s what your management approach should be.

Even if the technical requirements are routine, you can differentiate by providing better delivery. How do you ensure that better delivery actually takes place? That’s what your management approach should be.

Turn your concerns about project risks into a demonstration to the customer that you are ready to face them

When you prepare your technical approach, you’ll solve many problems and have to hedge against many unknowns. Every single one of them is a chance to show the customer that you can handle the project. Think of the things you don’t know as opportunities and not as disadvantages. Show the customer that you have accounted for and mitigated those issues.

The winner will be the vendor that the customer is confident will be able to handle the problems that inevitably come up. You can inspire that kind of confidence by showing that your management approach:

  • Has methods for anticipating problems early and preventing them from occurring at all
  • Rapidly detects when problems do occur and quickly addresses them
  • Will prevent small problems from growing into larger problems
  • Already has an approach for dealing with problems that do become large so that you won’t be making it up as you go along
  • Has a means to determine when things have been done correctly and ways to correct anything that isn’t correct
  • Provides communication at every level and in every direction to the extent desired by the customer, which can range from full transparency to just informing them when they need to know
  • Addresses when resource allocation is not optimal and can reallocate resources as needed over the life of the project

These features can’t be simply claimed. They must be demonstrated. Features like these should be the results of what you will do. Blanket statements of what you’ll achieve without the details for how you will achieve them do not inspire confidence.

Imagine three proposals…

One has a routine management approach that is good enough to get the job done. 

The second promises much better results, but is short on the details for how this will be achieved. 

The third cites some of the things you’ve anticipated, explains what you’ll keep an eye open for when performing oversight, provides examples of things you’ll consider, describes what you’ll do in various contingencies, and includes some options you have ready if things go wrong. 

Which proposal would you pick?

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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