Most proposal assignments come with failure built in. They are a plea for proposal writers to figure out how to win the proposal on their own. This is not a winning strategy.
To avoid this, you need to give proposal assignments that are less about tasking and more about guidance.
Start by giving better instructions
Proposal assignments should cover not just what to write, but also how to write it. And all proposal assignments should come with quality criteria that let the writer know when they have completed the assignment correctly. Is that too much to ask?
Quality criteria can be simple checklists, as long as they are reliable. Following your instructions and passing the quality criteria should not result in negative proposal reviews. Writers need to know how to fulfill expectations before they start writing.
You should also supplement your proposal assignments with helpful suggestions, things to consider, and questions writers need to answer. Good instructions save people time and point them in the right direction.
If your proposal assignments don’t address your win strategies and the points you want proposal writers to make, what do you think the impact will be on your win probability? If on the other hand, you provide assignments that explain what to write, how to write it, what points to make, and criteria they can use to assess when they’ve completed their assignment successfully what do you think the impact of that will be on your win probability?
Focus on goals instead of steps
It is far more important that proposal writers achieve your goals than it is to submit something on time that won’t win. So what are your proposal writing goals? These should shape your proposal assignments. Proposal assignments are not simply fulfilling outline items. They are fulfilling a vision based on what it will take to win.
If you goal is to win, then can proposal writers realistically achieve that on their own? If your goal is RFP compliance, that is an achievable goal. But is it enough? And do your quality criteria enable writers to know when they’ve achieved it? The same applies to any particular style, results, or preferences regarding the proposal.
Without proposal quality criteria defining success, you are assuming the writers know what you are thinking and waiting until after they’ve completed their drafts and the deadline is near to find out whether that is true. This is very risky.
This is another reason why I prefer to do a thorough job of Proposal Content Planning. It makes the goal fulfilling the plan. And that is measurable. A Proposal Content Plan helps in many ways, by informing writers, accelerating writing, and giving you a way to measure progress and results.
Get your priorities straight
I have seen too many proposal kickoff meetings focus on writers complying with a 30 plus page style manual that will smooth out production but not only have little or no impact on winning, they can actually reduce your win probability by taking attention away from other things with a greater impact. If you are under resourced, as most proposals are, you should very carefully focus writers' attention on the things that will impact winning the most.
Think in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applied to proposals. Sure, you want everything on your wish list. But what are your must haves vs nice to haves? What are your priorities?
The instructions and assignments you give set the priorities. Do so wisely.
What’s in your writers' packages?
What are you giving your proposal writers other than a section title and a copy of the RFP? Is it what they need to be successful? Is it even based on what it will take to win? Does it explain to your writers what the customer needs to make a decision in your favor, or are the writers supposed to figure that out? What you give to your proposal writers has a direct impact on your win rate.
If you prepare a Proposal Content Plan, it essentially is your writers' package. It’s a tool for achieving all these goals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.