You know what you’re bidding on. You know the effort it will take. But do you know who’s going to write and put together the response?
The Leadership Dilemma
There are a number of ways we see businesses responding to proposals, but hands-down, the most popular approach we see is for the executive team and senior personnel to do the majority of the writing. The supporting logic: they know the services, employees, operations, and clients the best. The problem with this model is that it ends up creating a perception that this small group of individuals are the only people who know the business well enough to support its growth. We also see businesses running into capacity problems because there’s just not enough time in the day for the CEO or small committee to write proposals alone—so bidding decisions are based on the energy and effort those individuals have available, not opportunity and win likelihood.
Maybe you actually have a dedicated proposal team, but what if several bids are released at the same time? If your plan is to load ‘em all on a single resource or team, you may find yourself walking into an empty office one day. Turnover among business development professionals, especially across sales support team roles like proposal managers and writers, is notoriously high. And expensive. The costs of hiring a new employee can range upward of 200% of their annual salary when you take into account hiring, onboarding, training, and termination investments—regardless of “why” someone is leaving. As we pointed out in our B&P planning post, even your proposal team has capacity limits. Not giving them additional resources during peak times can create a toxic environment for personnel, lead to increased turnover, and cause you to lose great talent.
Instead, Look Within
The best approach is to look within and throughout your business to create a revenue-generating culture where every role is engaged in identifying and closing opportunities. Spreading out the responsibility for proposals across an organization mitigates risk, taps into new resources, creates upward mobility, and establishes a reward path for junior staff. Here’s five ways to re-engineer your processes and go from a shortage to an abundance of proposal SMEs.
Review all functional groups.
Look across your leadership, technical, sales, and front-line staff to source and develop proposal fluency. Your client-facing personnel—analysts, programmers, SMEs, deputy program managers, and relationship managers—can provide data, anecdotes, and a first-hand experiential knowledge of customer pain-points since they’re on-site sitting next to the competition. Leverage this intel to develop your competitive advantages and win solutions.
Provide relevant and impactful development opportunities.
Junior-level professionals are always looking for ways to build their skill sets and advance through the organization. Why not have them own the process of updating past performance narratives and resumes? This allows them to get familiar with what goes into proposals and gets them thinking (and appreciating!) the great work your company is doing.
Modify performance reviews.
Evaluate employees based on the number hours and level of effort they put in to supporting proposals above and beyond their “day job.” Integrating this expectation into job description criteria and making it a requirement to grow within the company allows you to position employees for a raise, promotion, or both. This changes the message from proposal support as a burden, to you’re the best and brightest in this company and we’re going to recognize it by tapping into your expertise so you can help grow the company—and grow professionally as well.
Up-train your proposal team.
With a steady stream of new writers contributing willingly instead of grudgingly to proposal development, you will want to make sure they are trained on proposal writing techniques and best practices. Proposal writing is a different form of communication than white papers, client deliverables, or commercial sales presentations. Your core proposal team can host writing training sessions (proposal 101, writing 101, schedule and compliance, etc.) or webinars to non-writing staff across the company to develop their skills and ensure useable, high-quality content is funneled to the proposal team. Helpful hint: if your internal proposal team is gun-shy about conducting training, give us a call. We do this stuff all the time.
Incent the win.
Finally, human beings seek recognition for a job well done. When you win, don’t forget to recognize and compensate everyone who worked on the proposal, not just the traditional business development team. Recognition can be as simple as a thank you card or a shout-out during a weekly team huddle. Compensation can be a gift card or a hefty bonus. Regardless of what fits into your corporate budget and culture, the purpose is to publically share the win, praise those who contributed to it, and reward people for their efforts. Sometimes the reward for winning new work is the opportunity to lead the new project, which ties right back into the upward mobility just discussed.
Win More Together
Knowing what resources, time, and staff you have available increases your ability to produce a winning proposal. And reaching out across the organization to build a culture that promotes and acknowledges the hard work that goes into winning a proposal provides a mechanism to share where the company is going strategically and what new opportunities are coming in. We’re confident that with a little tweaking to your internal processes, you can:
- Find hidden gems within your own organization.
- Bring people together in ways you weren’t expecting.
- Get everyone asking the right questions about clients and prospects.
- Never have to soldier through stressful nights and weekends writing proposals again (okay maybe we went a little far on that last one).
Win More With Us
After you’ve looked across your company and are still coming up thin on qualified resources to support your proposal, we’re here to provide more support. We intentionally crafted a team of experts with experience from all over industry and across all sectors. Our proposal managers, graphic artists, technical editors, desktop publishers, and document production specialists have diverse backgrounds and interests, which makes them multi-dimensional and highly-effective. Their energy—combined with strategic consulting, oversight, and training—targets your just-in-time needs and augments the entire lifecycle of your proposal efforts to produce a winning response. We’re here—in whatever format, complexity, or role—that best fits your business.