Use Time as your Ally in Proposals

In proposal development, time can be either your enemy or your ally.  Time will become your enemy if you start late and do not use your time efficiently and effectively.  Time will become your ally if you can make it a resource to strengthen your proposal.

Chris Simmons, the founder and principal of Rainmakerz Consulting, has a number of sensible, practical recommendations about how to use time wisely in proposal development.  I will highlight several of Simmons’s recommendation that match my own observations and experience.

Start as early as you can.

It is difficult and time-consuming to develop a complete, compliant, and competitive proposal.  Try to make an informed bid/no bid decision early so that your proposal team can get started as promptly as possible. 

Provide the proposal team with detailed proposal instructions, including a schedule.

The Proposal Manager’s first order of business should be to prepare a detailed set of proposal instructions for the team to review.  These instructions should include, at a minimum, the following:  basic information about the bid, such as when the proposal is due; a detailed outline of the volumes; and a detailed schedule that goes from the kick-off meeting to delivery.  This schedule should include major action steps, milestones, and deliverables.

Organize proposal development into small manageable chunks.

At the beginning, creating and delivering a proposal may seem a very daunting task.  For many small businesses, it may seem impossible.  Help your proposal team feel confident about producing a highly competitive proposal by subdividing the work into small, manageable chunks that build on each other and that show progress.  Clear milestones, deliverables, and dates will help you make progress.

Communicate briefly and clearly.

Unfortunately, too many proposal team meetings are long, boring, and uninformative.  Provide agendas for your meetings, hold them frequently, keep them brief, and keep attendees on task. 

Communicate face-to-face as much as possible.  Be concrete and very specific.  As the Proposal Manager, one of your main tasks is to mentor, coach, and motivate your team.  Keep your interactions brief and constructive.

Use daily status meetings to adhere to the schedule.

Brief daily status meetings will help you and your team better understand what has been accomplished and what remains to be done.  Team members should report on their tasks.  Daily meetings also make it less likely that individual members of the team will hide or shirk their responsibilities.

Learn from your experience.

You and your team always can always learn and improve.  Every proposal should serve as a pedagogical experience for the team.  Formally meet after the proposal has been submitted to discuss what lessons you have learned, big or small, and document them for the next proposal effort.

Use time as an ally in the proposal development process by thoroughly organizing your process and by using effective communications to achieve your goals.  The results will make you happier and more successful.


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