Winning the Business

Is It Hammer Time?

How to use proposal managers as a force multiplier

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Business development (BD) organizations are under tremendous pressure to identify and close new opportunities. In response, BD managers are interacting with potential customers earlier in the acquisition process to ensure they present the best information about their companies’ capabilities, products, and services. This involves creating work products such as white papers, capability briefs, and presentations. Meanwhile, BD managers are also being asked to better document customer requirements and other data for the benefit of management and sales support teams. These tasks require significant investments of time and effort, and they are critical to positioning your company to influence potential solution requirements and selection criteria.

Making the Most of a ‘Hammer’

Enter the experienced proposal manager, someone who can be leveraged as a key force multiplier—a tool that dramatically amplifies your effectiveness, thus increasing the probability of success. Much like a hammer—also a force multiplier—is more effective than bare hands at pounding a nail, proposal managers are trained to create and manage diverse integrated teams in order to coordinate, gather, and organize critical data for the development of a winning proposal. In other words, proposal managers possess critical project management and communication skills, with a detailed understanding of:

  • A company’s organizational structure, product, and service capabilities
  • Project planning skills to lead subject matter experts (SMEs) through content development
  • Government/commercial procurement and business acquisition processes
  • Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and its application to final proposal work products

Enter the experienced proposal manager, someone who can be leveraged as a key force multiplier—a tool that dramatically amplifies your effectiveness, thus increasing probability of success.

Identifying the Dilemma

It’s no secret that difficult efforts are made easier when the right skills, tools, and knowledge are employed at the right time. The problem is that BD organizations often segregate resources by skill sets, engaging them based on procurement phase events, such as when an RFP is released. This approach fails to fully leverage internal capabilities and the potential to support opportunities earlier in the procurement cycle.

To multiply the impact and productivity of sales force personnel, BD organizations need to identify ways to tap into internal skills and abilities. Combining these skills in support of a sound BD and capture effort drives efficiency and frees BD professionals to focus on developing a better customer relationship and understanding customer needs.

Playing ‘Catch-Up’

Despite these advantages, organizations typically first engage proposal managers upon RFP release. That means proposal managers must catch up to the BD team’s customer knowledge, solution requirements, and solution offerings. This can lead to diluted, missed, or mixed messages and/or the loss of critical customer data, resulting in a lower win probability. Forcing proposal managers into a reactive versus a proactive position prevents them from engaging in activities that could better position proposals to win the business.

Reality Check

For industry sectors with short sales/proposal cycles, this earlier engagement may not be feasible. However, the most common obstacle to applying this approach is corporate culture—that is, management’s unwillingness to fully leverage proposal managers’ capabilities.

Engaging proposal management professionals earlier in the business acquisition process provides a valuable resource with access to customer knowledge and history, and it enables the development of truly outstanding proposals. When proposal managers provide critical support to BD professionals throughout the acquisition process, they become a force multiplier that helps BD organizations increase win rates.

Delegating to Force Multipliers

Where do you begin? Here are a few key activities that can be delegated to experienced proposal managers.

Business Acquisition Phase Proposal Manager Activities
Phase 0: Market Segmentation
  • Document customer requirements.
  • Develop white papers, statement of work (SOW), etc.
  • Conduct customer research.
Phase 1/2: Long-Term Positioning/Opportunity Assessment
  • Research previous RFPs.
  • Evaluate past win/loss debriefs.
  • Lead RFI response efforts.
  • Develop “best value” solution specific to customer requirements.
Phase 3/4: Capture Planning/Proposal Planning
  • Develop win strategy and win themes to support customer vision.
  • Develop solution offering.
  • Develop business case.
  • Draft executive summary.

Mitch Reed, CPP APMP, director of sales operations for Atlanta-based Envistacom LLC, has 30 years of proposal and capture management and technical communications experience for federal government and commercial customers. He can be reached at mreed@envistacom.com.

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