Minimize Your Proposal Risks

Developing a proposal in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) is a risky undertaking.

As Brenda Crist, the Managing Director, Strategic Solutions at the Lohfeld Consulting Group points out, there are predictable risks in proposal development that should be recognized and addressed.  If you do not, they will either affect your proposal development process; affect your proposed solution to the problem identified in the RFP; or both.

Below are Ms. Crist’s four most common risks and her mitigation strategies for addressing them.  I think that most of us will recognize that these risks commonly appear in proposal bids.

1.  Insufficient Information about the Client

Conduct electronic research about the client

Engage the client outside the office at professional meetings, conferences, and other venues

Use ethical and reliable people and legitimate sources to provide more information and insight about the client

2.  Tight Schedule

Create a schedule that works backward from the deadline to the kick-off meeting

Build time into the schedule for delays and other problems

Get the resources you need to meet the deadline

3.  Scarce Resources

Establish a realistic bid and proposal budget

Identify and secure needed resources to do the proposal well, from equipment to people

Use consultants when necessary to bolster your proposal team

4.  Incompetent and/or Delusional Senior Management and Colleagues

Use a solid bid/no bid process to reject RFPs that you have little or no chance of winning

Create a risk mitigation plan that focuses on accountability

Provide sufficient time within your schedule to resolve difficulties and bottlenecks

Develop a good sense of humor and a stoical attitude about the proposal effort

I recommend that every proposal team develop a risk strategies/risk mitigation plan before starting a proposal.  There should be five steps in this plan:

  • Risk Identification includes the transformation of risk factors into distinct project risks and risk consequences that can then be described, measured, and controlled.
  • Risk Analysis involves evaluating the properties of a risk to determine the expected impact and probability of the risk’s occurrence, as well as the likely time frame during which the risk can be expected to occur.
  • Risk Response planning is done to determine what should be done with a risk.
  • Risk Tracking and control occurs as data related to individual risks is collected, compiled, and analyzed on a regular basis.
  • Risk Reaction involves developing and executing risk responses as risks occur.

As Ms. Crist shows, risks are common and predictable in proposal development.  Anticipate them and you will be a happier person and develop more successful proposals.


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