7 reasons why the proposal management process is about more than just production

What should the process really address?


If winning proposals is a mission critical function for your company, then you can’t treat the proposal management process as a support or document production function. The goal of the proposal management process is to guide the people working on a proposal and enable them to be successful by accounting for the information, planning, and quality assurance needed.

But this doesn’t really capture the importance of it. The proposal management process requires going beyond document production to ensure that it delivers mission critical growth to the company. The proposal management process must be designed around what it will take to win, and not be limited in scope to achieving RFP compliance, assembling the document, or supporting proposal contributors. Those things are all part of proposal management, but the function shouldn’t be limited to those things if you want it to drive winning new revenue.

The proposal process is a tool of the proposal manager. It is not simply the steps for completing the production of the document. It should be the steps required to integrate the entire company into the process of winning. To achieve this:

See also:
Proposal management
  1. The proposal management process requires understanding what information you need to win, and discover and deliver it to the start of the proposal part of the proposal process. This may involve better integration with sales, business development, and capture management functions.  But it starts with articulating what information is required so that delivering it can be assigned. We recommend Readiness Reviews and Proposal Input Forms.
  2. The proposal management process requires ensuring you also have a process for figuring out what to offer. Without this every change to the offering is likely to require significant rewrites. Reviewing the offering by first writing a narrative about it and then deciding whether it’s competitive is putting the cart before the horse. Figuring out what to offer may require getting the operations side of the company and the subject matter experts who perform the work to develop and implement a methodology for doing that. It may involve coordination with pricing and contracts. It may require implementing an offering review with executive participation so that the proposal can start with a reliable offering that the company believes is the most desirable.
  3. The proposal management process requires figuring out what to write and how to present it before you start writing. If you don’t, your writers will not only produce lower quality, but the process will require more edit cycles. Instead of a deliberate process of figuring what to write and how to present it, it will devolve into endless cycles of “is it good enough yet?” that only end when you submit what you have instead of what you should have created.
  4. The proposal management process requires providing a great deal of structure regarding the content of the proposal. It must go beyond tasking sections and accepting whatever is provided. Winning requires mapping the evaluation criteria, customer concerns, RFP instructions, offering elements, and presentation format. Proposal writers need a structure that shows how these things fit together in order to get it right. Winning depends on it. That structure could be an annotated outline, tables, graphics, placeholders, etc. But whatever you choose must enable you to drive the information you have and your goals for what should be written into the document. We recommend using Proposal Content Planning.
  5. The proposal management process requires decisions. So identify and assign them. Make doing this part of the process and not just an ad hoc request. Make reporting on the decisions part of the process. Indecision can kill a perfectly good proposal and decision makers are often above the proposal manager’s pay grade. Identifying the decisions you need and the timeline you need them made on into the process is better than calling out decision makers in the moment.
  6. The proposal management process requires quality to be defined and validated. One or two subjective reviews will not deliver quality at the level a mission critical business function should provide. We recommend Proposal Quality Validation instead of subjective milestone based reviews to validate that the quality of what is produced fulfills the definition of proposal quality, meets all quality criteria, and that the proposal produced reflects what it will take to win.
  7. The proposal management process requires understanding ROI. If you want it to be treated like a mission critical function, you must be able to prove your ROI. If you want support for your decisions, you must be able to demonstrate the ROI of them. ROI is a language and you must learn to speak it. It may also require data, analytics, and integration with finance. Build data gathering and reporting into the process itself so that it actually happens.

Keep your steps for achieving RFP compliance and for document assembly, because they are part of it too. They are just not the entirety of the proposal management process.

Don’t let all that text fool you. Put them all together and see what they add up to:

  • Understanding what information you need and delivering it to the start of the proposal
  • Figuring out what to offer separate from writing about it
  • Figuring out what to write before you starting writing
  • Bringing structure to proposal writing
  • Accounting for and expediting decisions
  • Defining quality and validating it
  • Tracking and delivering a positive ROI

Feel free to drop any of these that you think the proposal management process doesn’t need.

If your proposal management process starts at RFP release and only addresses the tasks related to achieving RFP compliance and producing the document, you might want to rethink that. If you are responsible for profit and loss and see the proposal function as specialized administrative support, you might want to rethink that, too. 

If you can’t figure out how to do it all, then begin by adding them as requirements in your process and focus on articulating the goals. Let people figure out how to accomplish the goals. Let people challenge the goals. But any goals that remain are worth figuring out. And then only put as much effort into it as you think you should for mission critical future revenue. 

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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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