Five Common Challenges for Proposal Development Teams

All organizations, be it small businesses or large multinational companies, have some sort of challenges and constraints in order to produce well-crafted and competitive proposals. So here are a few common challenges that we, as proposal writers, often come across. 

1. Tight Deadline

RFPs with a short turnaround time are a nightmare for all proposal development teams. We often hear the clichéd stories of proposal development teams burning the midnight oil to submit a proposal on time. But that’s a bitter truth. Proposals with a tight deadline often trade-off speed over quality.  

We can churn out a template-based proposal more quickly with 60 to 70 percent of boilerplate content. But we seldom get such opportunities to work. The scope and complexity of the proposals decide the time required to build them. While qualifying the RFP itself, we should consider the response due date as one of the criteria to take the bid/no-bid call. We should be realistic about the timeline and better not to spend time and money submitting a half-baked proposal for the sake of submitting it.

2. Delayed Response From Other Teams 

Each proposal is unique in its own way and requires significant inputs and contributions from teams within and sometimes, outside of your organization. The proposal might have questions about your company insurance and financial statements that you need to procure from your finance department, the response may require information from your legal team, HR team, HSE team, etc. Moreover, every proposal needs a tailored technical solution that is heavily dependent on your SME group. Your SMEs might have too many proposals on their plate at the same time.

So, aligning everyone to the same timeline is a herculean task and sometimes proposal teams fail to achieve it. In some instances, especially in smaller organizations, other teams may disregard your request to share the latest resumes, new cases, the resource estimation, etc. These could be the speed brakes in the whole process and adversely impact the delivery of proposal on time.  

3. RFPs With Inadequate Information

Often, we receive RFPs with inadequate information to put together a proposal response.  This is especially true when the buyer doesn’t have a clear picture of what they want. The Q&A session or bid conference may help you get a little more clarity on requirements but there probably will be more questions and confusion while writing the proposal and the window to ask the questions might have closed by then. Moreover, the lack of clarity on scope items will make the pricing part more challenging and intricate. We may have to assume lots of things in such projects, which will possibly bring undesired surprises during the project execution phase.  

4. Resource Crunch

Everyone who works in the proposal world must have gone through the weeks and months where loads of proposals land in their inbox with a short turnaround time. Your team might not have the bandwidth to pick up all the proposal requests at the same time. During the peak time of proposal influx, the team has to make tough calls on whether or not to pursue a particular opportunity.  

Most organizations maintain a relatively smaller proposal development team. This isn’t just the case with the proposal writing team. The supporting designing team may also only have one or two resources to work on your proposals. This is due to the fact that many organizations fail to recognize the significance of a well-established proposal writing team.  

In addition to the human resources, the right tools and repositories are also imperatives for creating quality proposals. A well-built content management system, editing & designing tools, and communication & collaboration platforms are essential for speeding up the entire proposal development process. Small businesses would not have the luxury of owning such tools and systems as it has high-cost implications associated to possess them. 

5. Absence Of A Well-Structured Proposal Development Process

Many small and medium-sized organizations lack a solid framework or process documents for proposal development. This will create chaos in the team. Each member on the proposal team may adopt their own style of writing and approach. These will often lead to quality dips, lack of uniformity, deviation from branding guidelines, make the review process tiresome, and so on. There should be a proper proposal development plan in place and all the stakeholders who are part of the system must be hooked to it. 

The success of proposal writers comes when they win the business by dodging all the challenges and roadblocks. Whatever the challenges you face as a proposal writer, just conquer all of them, because the show must go on!!! 

About the Author

Navas Kilikkottu is a Senior Proposal writer and Bid coordinator. He has 7 years of experience in a variety of fields including proposal writing, bid management, requirement analysis, market research, proposal designing and business development. He has experience in working with IT and Professional Services sectors. Connect with him on LinkedIn

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