Monday, May 18, 2009

Proposal writing and relationships

When you write a proposal how much contact do you have with the organisation that it's been submitted to?

Perhaps you are the Account Manager, in charge of the account and the bid. But perhaps you are a software developer asked to contribute to an important part of the bid, yet have no real connection with the client. In this case the client seems a long way off: Software Developer-Bid Team-Account Manager-Client.

It may be that the developer writes some really good technical input into the proposal, but the chances are they won't unless they are really brought into the bid team and feel as if they are part of the proposal development.

In an ideal world when writing business proposals it would be great to have all the bid team meet with their counterparts at the client organisation so they can see and understand first hand how things need to fit together. Then a co-ordinated response can be developed, with everyone singing off the same hymn sheet (or at least from the same executive summary).

Even if this level of commitment isn't possible - and we have all been in situations where members of the extended proposal team simply don't have the time to spend as long as we'd like on a proposal - there are other ways of bringing these team members closer to the bid. Put yourself in their shoes; you are busy doing project work and someone you maybe don't know very well asks for your help in writing some content about something. You don't have much time, you don't really know what it's about and so you get it done, out of the way and back onto your project.

So how do you involve these important people in your tender response without costing them a lot of time? Easy. Get them to come to a short proposal kick-off meeting, where the big picture is explained. Send them emails about the proposal from the client. Ask them for their help on the solution, not just to write up a section on an already decided solution. If it's possible, give them direct access to the client to ask questions - it removes those degrees of separation that exist.

There are ways of getting your proposal team not just involved, but truly committed to your proposals. Treat people like they are an afterthought and that's exactly what you'll get back from them for your proposal.