Are You Recession Ready? 3 Proactive Tips For Proposal Professionals

From the news to LinkedIn, chances are you’ve been hearing weekly predictions of an upcoming recession. Indeed, it feels like there’s an abundance of speculation but no consensus on what specifically we should do about it. While individual bid and proposal professionals have little control over global economic conditions, we are uniquely positioned to directly influence business outcomes by being proactive. 

Ideally, we’d have days or weeks to focus exclusively on considering, building and implementing proactive changes. But that simply isn’t the world most bid and proposal professionals live in. All too often, our work is reactive — moving quickly from deadline to deadline with little time to debrief, strategize or even think in between. But if you have 10 minutes a few times a week, you can make progress and prepare. 

Each of the three tips below focuses on an area of bid and proposal management that delivers long-term value and can be improved incrementally: processes, relationships and return on investment. Within each of these proactive tips, you’ll find an overview of its potential impact as well as examples of tasks, exercises or improvements you can tackle in 10-minute sessions.

1. Map and improve your process

Almost every practitioner dreams of making their RFP response process more efficient, but no one seems to have the time. Unsurprisingly, during a recession, process efficiency quickly becomes a key initiative. 

Depending on your role, you may be able to influence your RFP process or strategy individually, within your proposal team or at an organizational level. Regardless, by exploring your process and adopting best practices proactively you ensure you won’t be caught off guard when you’re inevitably asked to do more with less. In addition, having a plan to improve brings visibility to your expertise and role as a part of the solution. 

10-minute tasks to map and improve your process 

  • At the highest level, create an RFP response timeline with major milestones. 
  • Break down each step in the timeline: What happens and who is involved? 
  • Identify roadblocks and causes: Where does the process break down and why? Are too many people involved? Are there checkpoints that no longer add value? 
  • Create a new, ideal timeline, marking the changes required. 
  • Explore RFP automation options both with existing technology and additional tools. 

Even when distilled into bullet points, it may seem like a lot. However, you don’t have to do this all at once. Save your work in a centralized folder and come back to it when you can. Cultivating this knowledge proactively ensures that you can quickly articulate your strategy while advocating for any necessary changes. 

2. Invest in relationships

Bids and proposals are a team sport. Consequently, there’s no doubt that the quality of your relationships influences your ability to achieve your goals. During any given day, you navigate through process roadblocks, communication challenges and competing priorities with both internal and external stakeholders. To be successful, you must use a combination of tact, emotional intelligence, compromise and good-old-fashioned gumption. For most people, it’s not easy. But you probably don’t even give it a second thought. 

These skills may just feel like part of the job, but using them proactively makes them even more powerful. Luckily, in our world of transactional interactions, making a meaningful and memorable connection doesn’t take long. When approached with sincerity and empathy, these 10-minute touchpoints help create trusted champions. Within your network, these peers understand the value you deliver, prioritize your requests and advocate for you even when you’re not in the room. 

Internal conversations 

In tough times, healthy stakeholder and SME relationships are essential to success. Cultivate those relationships now. As you reach out to your peers, keep their workload, challenges and role in your RFP response process in mind. 

10-minute touchpoints for colleagues 

  • Ask SMEs what communication channels and times work best — then use them. 
  • Schedule routine meetings to ask for process feedback. 
  • For challenging collaborators, ask how you can improve their experience. 
  • Offer to set proactive content reviews to ensure your answers are accurate. 
  • Close the loop and celebrate wins by personally thanking key collaborators. 

External connections 

While direct access and contact with buyers is often limited, you can still make an impact. If you can, build a rapport to better understand the needs and motivations of your buyers.  

10-minute touchpoints for prospects or customers 

  • If presales or sales suspects an RFP is imminent, have them broker an introduction so you’re on a first-name basis with the contact. 
  • Send a concise and cordial intent or decline to bid email for every RFP. 
  • Always ask follow-up questions before responding to an RFP. 
  • Request specific feedback or an RFP debrief from both won and lost opportunities. 
  • Identify buyers who reissue RFPs regularly and send a proactive outreach to ask if there are any new challenges to address before a repeat RFP lands in your inbox. 

3. Quantify your return on investment

Bid and proposal professionals undeniably influence company revenue, but do the decision-makers in your organization know that? In a recession, positions viewed as non-revenue generating are intensely scrutinized. So, if you’re feeling concerned about the economy, now’s the time to make your role in winning business crystal clear. 

Ideally, your team already has an RFP system in place to easily calculate your proposal ROI. If not, it’s a great place to start. Use these 10-minute tasks to measure (and highlight) your revenue-generating, data-driven, strategic role. 

10-minute tasks to quantify and highlight value 

  • Gather historical RFPs and quantify key metrics. 
  • Chart how many RFPs you responded to. 
  • What is the total of RFP-influenced revenue? 
  • What is the average value of an RFP? 
  • What is the company win rate? What’s the RFP-influenced win rate? 
  • Benchmark these metrics and note any process changes that improved them. 
  • Create and share monthly or quarterly RFP-revenue reports with high-level metrics. 
  • Make your role in wins clear. Send congratulations to sales and add the win to a team scoreboard. 
  • Explore adding a field to your CRM system to note accounts that were RFP-influenced for easier future reporting. 


Being proactive can sometimes feel like a luxury for people less busy than you. But by nature, bid and proposal managers are uniquely resourceful, agile and savvy. So, as you consider how to tackle proactive optimization, remember that every bite-sized task you complete is progress that empowers and prepares you. Indeed, by taking action now to improve your process, relationships and ROI, you’ll be ready to thrive — come what may. 

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