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9 things proposal management must accomplish to be successful

Plus 6 more things that are nice to have and 1 thing we left out on purpose

Proposal management involves doing a lot of different things. But the things that it needs to accomplish is a much shorter list. It’s easy to get lost in all the things that need to be done and the tools and techniques for doing them. It’s so easy that some companies build their organization based on those things instead of what those things should accomplish. Instead of starting from people, process, and tools, here are 9 things that proposal management must accomplish to be successful:

See also:
Proposal Management
  1. Progress tracking and time management. If the deadline for your proposal is absolute, then the first rule of proposal management is don’t be late. Accomplishing this requires more than just publishing a schedule. It requires tracking the progress of proposal writing and development in order to synchronize activity and bring everything together with absolute certainty by the deadline. Progress tracking should involve something more accurate than asking people how things are going and time management will be more than subjective reckoning.
  2. Compliance. The second rule of proposal management is don’t get thrown out. The proposal management function must deliver a proposal that meets the minimum requirements to be evaluated. While not ultimately as important as winning, winning won’t occur unless this is accomplished. Done well, and every proposal will make the competitive range and no customer debrief will ever cite a compliance issue.
  3. Surfacing and resolution of issues. During proposal development, people will have questions and there will be gaps in resources, the solution being proposed, and the company’s knowledge about the customer and opportunity. One key reason we need proposal management is to address these issues. Before issues can be addressed, they must be surfaced with enough time to resolve or mitigate the issue. Proposal management must implement the means to accomplish this. Done well, and the team will be not be surprised by any last-minute problems.
  4. Prevention of problems. The best issue resolution is the prevention of an issue in the first place. Preventing issues enables people to focus on writing the proposal. All problems that can be prevented should be. Preventable problems should never recur. Done well, and the proposal will look easy.
  5. Situational awareness. Who is doing what, when will it complete, and what follows? What contingencies are anticipated? What is the status of all of the moving parts that will become the proposal? Proposal management must accomplish a continuous situational awareness for everyone on the proposal team. Done well, and the team will have it without apparent effort.
  6. Lines and methods of communication. People working on the proposal should not have to figure out how to ask questions or get information. The lines of communication should be obvious and the methods should deliver the information needed. When this is accomplished, everything will flow better.
  7. Expectation management. Expectations should be clear, known in advance, and flow in both directions. Otherwise, conflicts will occur and dissatisfaction will settle in. When expectation management is done well, the conflicts get surfaced and resolved immediately. Expectation management does not mean that everyone always gets everything they want. It just means that no one is surprised or left with an unmet need that impacts the proposal.
  8. Quality control and quality assurance. Achieving proposal quality requires more than subjective reviews. It requires defining quality, enabling self-assessment, and validating that what gets produced meets the quality criteria. Proposal management is more than production or process implementation. It is also the application of quality control and quality assurance to the proposal effort. When done well, you produce the proposal you think is needed to win. When not done well, winning depends on luck instead of strategy.
  9. Collaboration and configuration management. How should people work together? On what platforms? With what standards and conventions? Proposal management should enable the team to be greater than the sum of its parts by enabling the members of the team to work together in ways that are frictionless. Done well, and people don’t have to figure out how to work together, they just do it. It also makes the other accomplishments easier, as situational awareness occurs without extra effort by anyone, lines and methods of communication are obvious, issue identification and reporting are timely and easy, progress tracking is effortless and continuous, and everyone knows what quality criteria they are trying to achieve.

Plus 6 more things that are nice to have

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the following are top priority items. They come after you’ve accomplished the above. But it is nice when your proposal management can also provide them:

  1. Inspiration and acceleration. Instead of leaving it up to proposal writers to figure out, it’s nice when proposal management provides guidance regarding what to write and how should they present it. It’s nicer still if that can be provided in ways that make writing go faster.
  2. Articulation. Optimizing your wording to reflect the instructions, evaluation criteria, win strategies, and RFP requirements is extremely difficult for people who have been drafted into proposal writing. It’s nice when your proposal management can help them figure out how to articulate things.
  3. Pursuit strategy. How should what you propose be positioned, taking into consideration the evaluation criteria, competitive environment, the RFP, and your strengths and weaknesses? Should this be left up to individual contributors to figure out? Ideally you should start your proposal with this positioning already determined and articulated. When this doesn’t happen, it’s really nice if your proposal management can help you get there. 
  4. Training and guidance. The vast majority of proposals have a significant number of inexperienced contributors. It’s nice when your proposal management does more than issue and track assignments, and can help people understand the issues and what is required to be successful.
  5. BD/Capture/Proposal transition support. Business opportunity pursuit should start well before the proposal. Business development and capture efforts should provide input to the proposal. It’s nice to have proposal management actively participating in what form that input should take and creating process artifacts to make it easier to provide.
  6. Offering design. A major factor in what should be proposed is what it will take to win based on the evaluation criteria. And the information you need about what you are proposing will depend on the RFP instructions and requirements. It is nice to have a proposal management function that can have a seat at the table in deciding what to offer and guide the team to make the right choices and then provide the right information.

 

And one thing we left out on purpose

Winning. If a proposal manager doesn't have authority over who decides what to bid, what to offer, how to price it, and how to present it then they only contribute to winning and don't have control over it. They can’t be responsible for the win. 

How to best use this list

All of these things can be used to define responsibilities. But they are better used for determining how to structure your team, how it should function, and what people need to successfully interact during a proposal. Most companies just leave it up to people to figure out or fight it out amongst themselves, often in unproductive, win rate reducing ways. If you figure them out ahead of time, you can watch your win rate soar.

For PropLIBRARY subscribers, we’ve taken these necessary accomplishments and turned them into potential performance measures to take it to an even higher level.
 

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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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