Effective Proposal Management: 5 Strategies for Success

We all know that proposal teams are not always made up of willing participants. As proposal professionals, we continually struggle to find ways to motivate our teams and ensure we are getting the best results possible. This article will explore strategies to energize and add life into your proposal teams.

Tina Benson suggests in an article published on the Chartered Management Institute website that, “By and large, team reflect their management. So being an effective, proactive manager increases your team’s changes of achieving success.” In line with Benson’s suggestions, as a Proposal Manager, you can make great strides in increasing the motivation level of your team with the following five steps.

1. Contextualize the Contributions of the Team. We write proposals to win business. This means that the contributions of your proposal team create (or keep) jobs—often for those participating in the proposal development. Proposals drive revenue growth and maintenance for companies, and ultimately support keeping the company in business. Remind your team that their contributions are critical to the company in these important ways!

2. Ensure Assignments Are Matched to Each Contributor’s Strengths. Your team will perform best when contributors are delivering pieces of the solution that align with their individual strengths. Because contributors are often assigned to support proposals by line-specific leadership, you may not always have seasoned proposal professionals supporting your team. Often, you also don’t have any previous experience working with the individuals supporting the effort. When this is the case, it becomes critical to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. Use your initial strategy sessions and storyboarding exercises to test the skillsets of your team. As you complete various exercises, note 1) who in the room drives the solutions with solid ideas and thought-leadership; 2) who drives development (takes notes, develops complete storyboards, etc.); and 3) who really doesn’t seem to be contributing much at all. Keep this in mind as you adjust assignments for the initial draft development, being sure to pair thought-leaders with development-drivers to support quality proposal content development.  

3. Instill a Sense of Ownership to the Final Outcome. Building on the contextualization of the team’s contributions, encourage a winning attitude among the team. Submitting the highest quality product possible will increase the team’s chances of winning; make sure to reinforce this fact regularly. Winning can mean different things for different contributors: a bonus, a new job opportunity on the upcoming contract, retaining work on a current contract, etc. Remind your team that all parts of the proposal process are meant to support the win, and encourage individual contributors to work as a team to achieve that goal.

4. Keep Meetings and Strategy Sessions as Brief as Possible. According to an article published by Time Magazine in May 2015, “The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects [sic] of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.” For this reason, and because people are generally busy, you should strive to make meetings as short and effective as possible. Come with a set agenda, as well as slides or prompts to drive the discussion, and limit your meeting to the time allotted. Daily stand-up meetings should be no more than 15 minutes. Try to limit strategy sessions and other meetings to 30 or 45 minutes. You can always schedule additional time later if necessary.

5. Keep Things Interesting. Proposals are stressful and difficult tasks. Especially for contributors with other day jobs, proposals can mean long hours, and time spent away from family or friends. Some of the most successful Proposal Managers I know find ways to break the monotony and keep things interesting. I’ve seen this done with mini contests, boasting prizes like $5 Starbucks Gift Cards, coffee mugs, company swag, and other small items; short team-building exercises; and special treat days (e.g., donuts, cookies, etc.). These small efforts go a long way in maintaining positive morale and keeping the team motivated.

Remember, a motivated proposal team starts from the top. Positive proposal leadership can go a long way in delivering the win. Find ways to encourage your team and make them feel appreciated. If your team stays happy, they are more likely to work hard and deliver for you!

Written by Ashley Kayes


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