Winning proposals is a team effort. Even if you are a one-person shop, you have to find someone to check your work. It is easy to miss or misinterpret requirements because they are so numerous. Someone else also has to review and edit your writing because you are too close to it. Proposal reviews are a best practice, and you should have at least one, no matter how quick the turn-around is.
When you respond to large proposals, you will need to involve numerous parties to shape your proposal into a winner. Your and your teammates’ Subject Matter Experts have to participate and lend their technical know-how and ingenuity to find innovative solutions to customer’s problems.
Your business development and capture personnel have to contribute customer insight. Your writers have to translate all the work into persuasive text and graphics. Human resources personnel will find the right candidates with compliant resumes and also provide competitive insight into what your rivals’ labor pricing may be. Your pricing experts will price the entire offer competitively and in line with the technical proposal. Your desktop publishers and graphic artists will have to make the proposal attractive, and your editors will polish it. Your contracts manager will make sure you are compliant with all the regulatory requirements and clauses. Your subcontracts manager will ensure all your teaming agreements are in place, and will help you with data calls to the teammates. Your reviewers will ensure that your proposal “answers the mail”—in other words, that it speaks to every requirement; will score high during the evaluation where it comes to approaches, offers, and facts; and is winnable.
When you are a one-person shop, you have yourself to hold accountable to the deadlines. It may be as challenging as sticking to a diet, because we tend to break promises to ourselves all the time. Your goal is to make yourself accountable to others – whoever they may be – and hold to those deadlines so that there is enough time to check your work. Your leadership skills will enable you to make the most out of limited resources.
When you deal with a larger team, you need to become its coach. Your job is not only to manage everything like you would a project, with a schedule and a set of deadlines. You have to also act like a coach to get your team to yell, to rally your troops, to inspire, to guide and train, to talk them through setbacks and get them back on the right path, in order to fearlessly lead them to the victory.
Proposal managers with great track records realize how important team leadership is to their and their companies’ success, just like coaches in team sports.
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