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Why proposal professionals are better than proposal heroes

The proposal “hero” is really a villain in disguise

Two days before the proposal is due, just as final production is about to begin, the proposal hero looks at the document and is aghast. “It’s all wrong!” he declares. Pandemonium ensues. Papers fly. And the re-writing begins. For the next 48 hours, nobody sleeps. They are fed pizza intravenously. With no time for further review, they hand things in to final production a few hours before it’s due. With less than a minute to go they click the button to submit the proposal. By some miracle, nothing goes wrong and the submission is made. Now the proposal hero leads the celebration of a job well done.

Except that it wasn’t a job well done. It was a disaster. There was little or no quality assurance at the end. A submission was made, but nobody really knows what was in it. The proposal “hero” is really a villain in disguise. The only triumph that day was the proposal “hero’s” ego.

But did the proposal “hero” fix the proposal? No. The proposal had been reviewed. If the reviewers did not do their job, the proposal “hero” did not fix the review process. 

But didn't the proposal hero make it "better?" What do you mean by “better?” How do you define proposal quality? If you’ve defined it, then that becomes the standard by which you measure change recommendations. If you haven’t defined it, that’s the real problem.

Here are some better questions to ask…

What do you mean by “better?” How do you define proposal quality?

Why didn’t the proposal “hero” write the proposal that way to begin with? Oh, that’s right. The proposal "hero" was too “busy” to get involved with something as unimportant as a proposal. The proposal "hero" couldn’t be bothered with all that planning and reviewing. The proposal "hero" had plenty of time to cause a disaster at the end of the proposal.

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Improving win rates

Why wasn’t the proposal “hero” on the review team? If the proposal hero has such great insight and knowledge, why did he wait until after the review to make changes? There is a reason why one review is worse than none. There should be a series of reviews that validate proposal quality in steps. If someone’s opinion is vital, then it’s vital they participate along the way.

Why didn’t the proposal “hero” engage earlier? It’s not like it was easier to wait and redo it. It’s not like skipping quality assurance leads to a more reliable result. It’s not like it cost less or took less time.

Since when is the best way to do things to jump in without a plan, rely on one person’s judgment, rush things, skip quality assurance, and ship at the last minute?

If your organization has done this more than once, the proposal process is not your problem. Look inward.

And here is what a real proposal hero looks like…

It’s really hard to avoid the temptation to just start writing, but the proposal hero starts by putting together a content plan for the proposal. It defines quality as well as what the proposal should focus on. The proposal hero holds a review and stresses how important it is to make sure the outline, plan, and quality criteria are correct before they start writing. The other proposal heroes pay attention and actively engage. They pick apart the plan. They disagree. They work it out. They rebuild the plan. 

Then the team of proposal hero writers go write it that way. Once. They hold another review for the draft. The proposal hero reviewers know they’ve already addressed the strategy issues, and instead focus on presentation and articulation. They make some wording changes. The team of proposal hero writers makes the changes and hands the document in for final production. The proposal hero production team takes their time to make sure everything is perfect. Then they submit it. They wait for the win, and then they celebrate.

I’ll take a proposal professional over a proposal “hero” any day. 

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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.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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