Low Energy Proposals

We’ve all seen it. That proposal that goes into its sequential color team reviews, never really hitting the mark and never really picking up steam. This can happen for a few different reasons and can lead to some detrimental proposal setbacks and mistakes. A proposal is a product of its team. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but there is a direct correlation between the attitude and outlook of the team and the product they put forth. So, why is your team coming to the table with such low energy and producing such a mediocre product? 

1.   Bad Nutrition 

Yes, everyone loves junk food. You may think that providing your team with a plethora of yummy snacks, vending machines, and catered high carb lunches is a good motivator, but you’re setting them up for failure. If you put your entire team into a food coma by lunchtime, you’ve limited productivity to a maximum of four hours per day. You’ve literally just cut productivity in half. Try providing lower carb, higher protein options for your team throughout the day and make drinking water available at all times. 

According to Jess Cording of Forbes, “…if you’re going longer than four hours between meals, I generally encourage having a snack that provides a balance of protein and complex carbs. Aim for about 100 to 250 calories with at least five grams of protein, at least four grams of fiber and added sugars under five grams.” 

2. Unnecessary Meetings

Meetings, including the Proposal Kickoff, Stand-ups, and Color Team Review In-briefs and Debriefs should all be conducted with purpose, agendas, inputs/outputs, and deliverables. If the meeting does not have these key elements, it is probably unnecessary. Meetings for the sake of meetings pull your team away from the real work, force them to lose focus and create a culture of negativity. Forcing 10 people to sit through an hour-long meeting that should have been an email costs you 10 manhours of productivity! 

3.   Schedule 

A good proposal manager will always respect the needs of their team for rest and time to recharge with their families. We are at the mercy of the deadline. However, there are tools and processes that can be put into place to streamline authoring and make a shorter deadline a little easier on the team. 

  • Take time during longer lead proposals to identify “recyclable” content and graphics, creating more generic versions for future use. This goes back to the whole, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
  • Create a condensed process for shorter turn proposals. Instead of a full-blown pink, red, gold, and white glove process, for example, condense your pink and red or red and gold into a single review.
  • Save evenings, weekends, and holidays for emergencies ONLY

4.   Lack of Resources 

Good proposal writers can write about a lot of varying topics and can learn about new technologies and processes as they go, but they need the resources to gather good, effective information. Writers pride themselves in the ability to conduct good research and distill that information into effective words for the proposal. There is nothing more demotivating than an organization not providing any resources to lean on to develop quality products, but then responding with poor feedback when the writer just can’t produce. Help them help you!  

  • If your organization has ongoing relevant programs, you likely have program employees that could put for the a few hours to be interviewed.
  •  If you don’t have the in-house resources available to tap into, try to identify external contract resources that can assist during the proposal (preferably during the pre-solicitation phase).
  •  In a situation where the prime has no relevant programs, inhouse resources or external contacts, there is typically a subcontractor filling that capability gap on the effort. Tap into these subcontractors for their in-house resources to supplement writing or to be available for an interview.

5.   Low Energy Leadership 

Snap out of it! If you are a low energy leader of a proposal effort, with no urgency, organization, no real understanding of the requirements, and no holistic view of what a good end product should look like, you can’t possibly expect your team to be the opposite. As a proposal manager, you should be guiding the schedule, the outline, the expectations for products at each review….and the energy level of your team. If you’re obviously un-amused with the effort and have little faith in the solution and the direction of the proposal, your team will never be motivated to put forth a good product. 

  • Work closely with capture and leadership to understand the importance of the opportunity for the organization and the strengths that the organization brings to the customer
  • Clearly communicate the goals and strengths to the proposal team in a way that they can digest for their particular section and that motivates them about the importance of their writing
  •  Be on time, awake, and prepared for all status meetings, reviews and solutioning discussions
  • Be an example of using your time at work wisely so that you can leave on time at the end of the day and reset for another high energy day tomorrow. 


Author Info: 

Melissa Palmer is Vice President of Proposals for Strategic Growth Advisors (SGA). Our team provides innovative cost efficiencies to our small business clients, benefitting even the smallest companies with top notch proposal support without the typical exorbitant cost. We are passionate about helping to drive down the cost of proposals and helping our clients win!  Contact Melissa for your proposal needs at 720-427-3281 or melissa.palmer@stratgrowthadvisors.com. 

Join the Conversation