No Small Parts


Some roles in business may get all the credit, receiving top billing for their performance, and their name in the by line. Because of this, others may feel like their job is small or unimportant. But when it comes to preparing a sales document, there are no small parts. Every role, every task, every person is necessary and important when crafting a winning proposal.

I suspect you’ve likely watched a movie or a play expecting to be swept away by the main character, only to find out that a side character stole the show and stole your heart. While writing proposals may not have quite the same dramatic flair as that, it provides a valuable metaphor for the proposal team.

Your task may be smaller than someone else’s on the team, but that does not mean that you have a small part to play. From capture/opportunity lead to page-turn reviewer, the value of your participation is important. If even one of those parts isn’t played effectively, there could be a glaring error in your proposal, causing the customer to lose trust in your partnership and not award you the business.

So how do we make sure all parts are played to perfection? (Or at least, as closely as possible.) Even on quick-turn proposals?

First, select the right cast. Make the right people available instead of making the available right for the part. You have a must-win proposal. Put the right people in the right roles. Many times, team members will have to play multiple roles, it is often even necessary. But don’t expect your sales leads to be the right graphic artists, or your writers to be desktop publishers. If they happen to be the right person for both roles, that’s great. Just don’t underestimate the value of each task. If the wrong person is selected for a role on the team, and if they don’t have the appropriate skills, your proposal can suffer costly rework.

For a play or even film, you also need ample rehearsal time for each part. In a proposal, that means a realistic and clear schedule. That way all the players have the time they need to execute their tasks well.

One of the most common mistakes in proposal management is poor scheduling. So much time can be lost to unrelated preparation up front, wasting valuable time that could be better used at the end. Be sure to schedule enough time for your editors, desktop publishers, and approval from senior management. In fact, a best practice is to start scheduling from the due date and reverse engineer the proposal from there. Account for all the roles that need to be played and give them the time they need.

Just as in most live productions, something is likely to go wrong. Electronic submittal portals could have issues, team members could fall ill, requirements of the RFP could change after it’s released. Expect something to go wrong. Plan for contingencies and cope with those changes.

Each part, each role is important. Show your customer that you’re the right fit for their business by submitting the best proposal possible. Don’t underestimate the value of every single role in the process. There are no small parts, and all are necessary to create a winning proposal.