Four Ways Proposals Are Like Backpacking Trips

I recently went on a fairly intense backpacking trip to Havasu Falls, Arizona. For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am not a big backpacker, nor am I very outdoorsy. But, I was presented with a trip of a lifetime, so I decided to stretch out of my comfort zone and prepare for this somewhat daunting adventure. And through this experience, I discovered that backpacking is not unlike proposals. Here’s what I learned:

1. Preparation is key
Like with proposals, preparing for an intense overnight hike requires the right preparation. The more work you do up front, the smoother things go when things go live. With our backpacking trip, the better we prepared in terms of researching the environment, having the supplies we needed, breaking in our shoes, and making sure our bodies were trained and ready, the smoother things went on the trip. Similarly, with proposals, preparation goes a long way. A well researched and implemented capture plan, a pre-trained proposal team, and having the right resources before the RFP is released all help the proposal process go smoothly.

2. Checklists can prevent missteps
Like with proposals, preparing for a backpacking trip has a lot of moving parts. When we were doing our final bag pack, we accidentally brought two camping stoves, but only one propane tank. Such a simple mistake wasn’t a fatal flaw for our trip—it simply meant we had to limit the amount of hot food we ate over the course of three days—but for a proposal, this mistake could cost you the win. A simple checklist would have ensured that we had packed everything we intended on the trip. Likewise, a simple quality control checklist can help ensure you include all the required items in your final package that you deliver to the customer.

3. The right attitude goes a long way
Like proposals, long, difficult hikes can be somewhat painful. One key difference is that typically on a hike, the hikers have chosen to be there. On a proposal, not all parties are necessarily willing participants. However, a hiker that is constantly complaining about aches, pains, blisters, and being too hot or cold can ruin the experience for the other hikers and negatively impact the positive momentum. Similarly, a proposal team member that is constantly negative can ruin the positive progress of the proposal. When on a hiking trip, you can’t necessarily remove the negative Nancy from the group once the trip has started, but on a proposal, sometimes you have the capability to remove toxic team members from the process. This will make the experience better for everyone involved and can help translate to a better proposal overall.

4. The end result is worth it
Somewhat like proposals, our trip had two ends: our destination (the campgrounds and falls), and then two days later, our cars. Similarly, with proposals, there are also two ideal ends: the submission, and then (hopefully) the win. The hike into Havasu was exhausting, through what seemed like never ending canyons, but in the end, we were rewarded with beautiful falls and amazing scenery. On our way out, we had more hard work hiking back out of the canyon. With the final push up two miles of switchbacks, we kept the final end goal in mind: the warmth and comfort of our cars—and the promise of an eventual shower. With proposals, the initial development process is often grueling, but with hard work, the result is typically well worth it: a solid and well-developed proposal. Once evaluation notices or requests for clarification come, there is more hard work—but like with our trip, it’s critical to keep the end goal in mind: a contract win for the company.


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