I am in foggy San Jose in Silicon Valley, teaching a course for Stevens at NASA Ames. It is an intense, inquisitive, and exceedingly bright group of students. Some of their questions got me to remember some truths in the proposal profession that I began to take for granted – so I am sharing them with you after quickly jotting them down at 4 am (I am still on the East Coast time).
Olessia’s 5 tips for proposal professionals
Here are some of my proposal lessons learned for you:
- Adapt the process to serve you – do not be slave to the process. Every proposal is unique in duration events that take place during the scheduled proposal time, quality, and availability of proposal resources, and so on. If you need to cancel a review or two because they would be meaningless or would take too much time, do. But don’t cancel all of them – have at least one. And, make sure you stay out of trouble – we are all fallible and human and make mistakes – if you involve your management in a review early, you can prevent some mistakes or share the responsibility.
- Always carefully read everything that’s related to your proposal: the whole RFP with all its appendices; the documents that fly around such as templates, background, and boilerplate; and especially draft sections. You can course-correct earlier.
- Triple-check everything. It means after you have read the final copies, made sure you have included everything you need to include, you have checked compliance, do it again, even if it feels unnecessary. You will be shocked and grateful more often than you can imagine.
- Do not trust what you cannot see: if you are told section is in progress, you need to see the section in progress. If you haven’t seen it, it does not exist. Procrastination has deep roots – and the most professional and trustworthy of people suffer from it – if you don’t believe me, check out the proposal procrastination flowchart: http://bit.ly/ugVDLh .
- Do not back yourself into the corner with your schedule. It does not matter how tight it may be – always leave a contingency. Murphy lives inside printers, PDF generators, email transmission speed, and other accoutrements of the final days or hours of proposal delivery. Plan to be early so that you are on time. If you plan to be on time, you may be late.