Toward the end of the year, people tend to spend a lot of time planning. Some may plan gifts for family and friends. Some plan how they will maximize what is left of the corporate budget for the year. Others begin to plan what they want their personal goals for the next year to be. Whatever type of plans are on your mind right now, it is hard to deny the importance of having a plan and adhering to it.
Planning is especially important when developing a proposal. Planning efforts should begin before writers ever begin typing, and it should carry the proposal writing and editing through to submission. Even when limited time is available, taking the time to plan proposal development will save you valuable time.
One-minute spent planning saves ten minutes of execution.
A primary concern of proposal managers and writers is that if you aren’t writing, you aren’t making progress. This is not true. If you dedicate time to implementing tools that help you plan the proposal, you will prepare better content and save time in the long run.
Effectiveness tools improve process consistency, generally resulting in more responsive and persuasive proposals. Effectiveness tools are documents like decision matrices, bidder comparison matrices, strategy statement templates, and storyboards. The layout of these tools may vary by company, but the details they capture should be similar. These tools not only help writers plan what to write, using them will often increase customer focus throughout the proposal.
Another way to increase customer focus—and therefore create a stronger proposal—is to plan how you will incorporate the customer’s hot buttons into your writing. When you know what the customer’s hot buttons are ahead of time, you can cater key sections of the proposal to addressing each primary need or concern. Hot buttons are not tidbits of information that can be sprinkled in during editing; they should help you plan how you will organize whole proposal sections.
Doing things right the first time saves time.
This is the primary reason that holding a proposal kickoff meeting is so important to proposal efforts. Proposal managers know that proposal development begins even before the kickoff meeting. Use approximately 15 percent of your preparation time to plan out the core team and prepare for the kickoff meeting. If roles and responsibilities are clearly defined from the start, you will save time answering contributors’ questions later.
A successful proposal kickoff meeting includes the right people for the appropriate topics. Senior management, subject matter experts, and capture leads should only attend the parts of the kickoff relevant to them. Once you get into the nitty gritty of designating volume leads and assigning proposal sections to writers, others should have already left the room.
Proposal managers should also have a complete kickoff package ready to distribute during the kickoff meeting. Key elements of a kickoff package—like writers’ packages, a customer profile, and a proposal schedule—are essential. Having these materials ready at the kickoff sets clear guidelines for proposal development and gives writers what they need to produce a persuasive, customer focused proposal. Providing this detail upfront minimizes wasted time spent answering questions later.
Preparing effectively for a proposal kickoff meeting saves you valuable time as you and the core team develop the proposal. Especially now, when many proposal teams are virtual, holding an effective kickoff is vital to winning new business.
Deadlines, no matter how far away, bring stress with them. One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it often minimizes stress. When you know how you and your proposal team will use available time, you are better equipped to create a successful, customer-focused proposal.