The Ultimate Guide to Proposal Building

Chapter 9: Process Management

1. Kickoff Meeting Management

  • A kickoff meeting is an early, major milestone in a proposal response. Kickoff meetings are a team’s introduction to a proposal effort.
  • A successful kickoff sets the stage for a successful proposal response. It is included in the proposal management plan and should take place after RFP release.
  • Kickoff meetings set the tone for the rest of a proposal effort. Good kickoff meetings inspire teams; poor ones demoralize them.

1.1. Best Practices

1.1.1. Understand when and why to conduct kickoff meetings.

  • Figure 9.1 shows the main goals of a successful kickoff meeting.

Figure 9.1. The Goals of a Successful Kickoff Meeting. A successful kickoff meeting will set the stage for a productive response, as it aligns all core people with critical activities.

1.1.2. Develop necessary materials prior to a kickoff meeting.

  • There are three critical documents that must be in place in advance of a kickoff meeting:
    1. Overall response schedule
    2. Requirements checklist
    3. Proposal outline.

1.1.3. Include all team members.

1.1.4. Stick to a schedule.

1.1.5. Adjust operating procedures for virtual kickoff meetings.

1.2. Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

  • Confusing kickoff with initial planning meeting
  • Not allowing sufficient time to plan a kickoff

2. Daily Team Management

  • Day-to-day management of the proposal team is the engine at the center of all successful proposals.
  • Daily check-ins are essential for identifying issues and risks, assigning and following up on actions, and updating the team on any changes to customer initiatives, bid budgets, and so on.
  • One reason daily management is critical is that proposal team members have limited budgets and time.
  • Day-to-day management helps everyone focus on what is important and it keeps the entire team moving towards the ultimate objective: delivering a winning proposal.

2.1. Best Practices

1. Make sure that daily activities are consistent with a written proposal-management plan.
2. Conduct a short, daily stand-up review or call.
3. Identify roadblocks on the daily stand-up or call, but resolve them outside of the daily review in a smaller meeting.
4. Track actions with imminent deadlines or long lead times on the daily stand-up and track other actions outside of the stand-up.
5. Listen for potential problems that are not always articulated clearly.
6. Clarify roles and responsibilities to avoid duplication of effort and ensure complete coverage of all proposal functions.
7. Track activities enough to be able to show progress, but not in so much detail that the tracking interferes with the development of content.
8. Use appropriate techniques to keep the team motivated and productive.

2.2. Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

  • Overreliance on virtual communication
  • Failure to ask questions of team members

3. Review Management

  • To effectively manage organizational cycles of reviews, teams must understand, regularly practice, and work to improve execution of reviews.
  • Effective functional review management shows executive and organizational commitment to disciplined business acquisition.
  • Structured and timely reviews throughout the proposal process ensure compliance, completeness, and a higher probability of winning bids.

3.1. Best Practices

1. Use appropriate reviews to improve the quality of your bid.
2. Set up each review to answer a series of key questions.

  • A key element of the BD process is a series of appropriately timed reviews.
  • The reviews that should be included in a mature BD process design are:
    • Competitor Review
    • Opportunity Plan Review
    • Proposal Strategy Review
    • Final Document Review

3. Adhere to the following guidelines for more effective review management.

  • Standardize company review templates.
  • Establish review teams early
  • Select the right review team lead
  • Keep the same core team throughout the review cycle
  • Incorporate teammates into reviews
  • Use consultants in reviews as needed
  • Conduct effective review kickoffs and debriefings
  • Record comments and decide which to incorporate
  • Use subreviews effectively
  • Debrief management on review results

3.2. Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

  1. Reviews are just a “check-the-box” exercise
  2. Little value comes from reviews
  3. Reviewing late in the proposal cycle is all right
  4. You can cut review time to gain time for authors
  5. Reviews can be planned quickly and easily
  6. Anybody can be a good reviewer
  7. The Proposal or Opportunity Manager should lead the review

4. Production Management

  • Production management is the process of getting a proposal formatted, published, and delivered to a customer.
  • Production activities require significant time, effort, and attention to detail, and their ultimate success depends on the planning activities initiated long before proposal writing and functional reviews begin.

4.1. Best Practices

  1. Begin planning for production during the pre-RFP stage.
    • Be sure to:
      • Identify the people, tools, and facilities you plan to use for production
      • Complete your draft proposal-production plan
      • Get your draft production schedule on the team’s calendar
      • Reserve the equipment and facilities needed to complete production
  2. Assign responsibilities for key roles involved in proposal production early.
    • Proposal production requires coordination, cooperation, input, and effort from the team members listed below in the table below.
TEAM MEMBER ALTERNATE POSITION TITLE ROLE & RESPONSIBILITIES
Proposal Manager A Proposal Manager is responsible for proposal development (e.g., written, oral, demonstrations), including maintaining schedules, organizing resources, coordinating inputs and reviews, ensuring bid strategy implementation, resolving internal team issues, and providing process leadership.
Proposal Coordinator Facilitator, Specialist A Proposal Coordinator is responsible for all administrative aspects of proposal development, ensuring security and integrity of all proposal documentation, coordinating internal flow and review of all proposal inputs, coordinating schedules, and directing submission of the final master proposal to production.
Production Manager A proposal Production Manager is responsible for planning and directing the printing, assembly, and final check of proposal documents. This may include both traditional print and electronic versions.
Proposal Graphic Designer A Proposal Graphic Designer is responsible for developing customer-focused visual information that highlights an offer’s features, benefits, and discriminators. The Graphic Designer communicates with other members of the proposal/bid team to conceptualize and create visual elements to persuade the customer. Graphic designers may develop multiple deliverables, such as proposals, presentations, sales collateral, and brand identities.
Proposal Editor Proposal editors are responsible for ensuring the writing structure and words used in the proposal persuasively convey the offer to the customer. They edit for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, clarity, readability, consistency, and persuasiveness.
Proposal Desktop Publisher A Proposal Desktop Publisher is responsible for designing, formatting, and producing proposal templates, documents, and related materials.
Final Production Quality Reviewer Book Assembler, Checker A Final Production Quality Reviewer is responsible for helping assemble hardcopy proposal volumes, checking for completeness of each volume/copy, and ensuring each page/tab/insert/cover/spine is printed and inserted correctly into the proposal binder (e.g., not smudged, skewed, ripped, or out of order) in accordance with the master copy of the proposal volume. Ideally, this individual should be a member of the proposal department staff for security/continuity.
  1. Scale your proposal production plan based on proposal size and complexity and on your organization’s size and capabilities.
  2. Consider outsourcing proposal production.
  3. Carefully plan contingencies to mitigate risks for final delivery.
  4. Maintain senior management visibility to ensure support throughout the production process.
  5. Ensure version control in all phases of the proposal development lifecycle.
  6. Do not make last-minute changes to your proposal.

4.2. Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

  • Failure to plan adequately

5. Virtual Team Management

  • A virtual team is a team in which proposal team members, including SMEs and teaming partners, are geographically distributed and interact primarily through electronic means.
  • Virtual teams can also include peripheral team members, such as SMEs, and team members from partner companies.
  • A virtual team relies primarily on electronic communication, such as emails, faxes, teleconferences, and virtual meetings. This requires more planning and requires a strong focus on communication and team building.

5.1. Best Practices
1. Create a virtual proposal center.

  • Because virtual teams rarely, if ever, interact face-to-face, they need a single, easy-to-access place to share resources and information with team members. This platform is called a ‘virtual proposal center’.
  • Next, define what your virtual proposal center will look like and will provide, whether it is document sharing, scheduling, version control, or estimating and pricing.
  • A good virtual proposal center is easy to use, access, and administer.
  • Find tools that meet your budget and have good reviews from organizations like yours. Document what each tool does and how it will be used. Tools may include:
    • Conference Line
    • Screen-Sharing Tool
    • Cloud Computing/Centralized Document Sharing
    • Shared Calendar
    • Instant Messaging (IM) Tool
    • Video Screen Capture
    • Virtual Video Meeting

2. Set a foundation for clear communication.
3. Communicate clearly by email and phone.
4. Conduct virtual reviews.
5. Close out projects upon completion.

5.2. Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

  • Insufficient infrastructure and communication
  • Failing to build rapport among team members