Making the Case for Proposal Team Investment

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Building a proposal development team can be an arduous task when vying for headcount and budget if you are not tracking and measuring data that tells your story of success.

The proposal team is not really sales or marketing alone. We usually sit between the largest revenue generating (and, oftentimes, largest spending) groups in most companies that can easily point to the impact they are making to the bottom line. The proposal team, however, often relies on both because without marketing and sales talking directly to prospects and customers, there wouldn’t be much for the proposal team to do. But we cannot simply track their successes and call them our own with the hope for added people and budget allocations.

What should we measure and report to executives who don’t live in our proposal world so they can understand what we do and our impact on the organization’s bottom-line? What key performance indicators (KPIs) do they want to understand when making investment decisions?

Measuring the Right Data

When you measure the right data, you can illustrate your team’s current condition and what is needed for future investment. The following data points are what all proposal team leaders should be measuring monthly, quarterly and annually:

  • Number of projects completed: How many proposals has your team — and each member — completed in any given timeframe?
  • Project deadline timelines: How much time is given to complete each project?
  • Number of projects declined for no-bid: Are you bidding on everything or are you more selective with your resources?
  • Outcome of projects: How effective are your proposals on your bottom line?
    • Win percentage and number
    • Loss percentage and number
    • Pending decisions percentage and number
  • Age of projects from request to decision: Are proposals sitting without a decision for more than a couple months or even more than a year?

Adding People with Purpose

Considering who to have on a proposal team depends on an organization’s size and requirements. However small or large your group, it is important to step back and evaluate what roles you have and what the normal workloads include, or should include, without burnout. What is missing?

Once you begin to measure the right data points, you can optimize each role for efficiencies and effectiveness. Many teams include the following roles or a subset of these roles:

  • Proposal director: Leads the team strategy and engages in strategic projects
  • Proposal manager: Directs the process for a proposal with SMEs, writers and reviewers.
  • Proposal writer: Gathers the content from SMEs and the content database and creates the proposal response based on the prospect/customer’s specific needs.
  • Content specialist: Maintains the content database of responses/attachments with new/updated information as it is created.
  • Graphic designer: Creates and maintains all graphics for use within proposals.

You are more likely to get approval for more headcount if your reporting shows that you have evaluated the following:

  • How much time does each person spend on each proposal task? (E.g., a proposal manager spends half of his time working on content creation instead of working with SMEs to ensure content alignment.)
  • How are any overlapping tasks alleviated? (E.g., the proposal writer and content specialist are no longer both editing content within the database tool.)
  • Have there been significant changes in proposal deadline requirements? (E.g., 75% of RFPs only allow for 10 working days for completion instead of the formerly consistent 15 working days.)
  • Have there been significant changes in the number of proposal completions? (E.g., the team is now completing an average of 30 proposals in a month after going through a robust bid/no-bid decision process instead of the historical average of 15.)

Requesting the Tools of the Trade

We all know that it is best practice to create each proposal as a responsive reply to each opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you have to start each project from scratch. However, databases, collaboration platforms, and ongoing training and development are not free. If you want to arm your team with the tools of the trade, you need to provide detailed justifications for budget spend.

Once again, measuring the right data will provide the “why invest in the proposal team” perspective at budget time. Diving deep into your data, you will be able to provide justification for tool investments by answering:

  • What is each person accomplishing each day without the tools? (E.g., a proposal writer spends six hours of a day searching for similar questions and responses in old proposals without a database tool.)
  • What efficiencies can be found for introducing a specific tool? (E.g., more proposals can be completed in a shorter amount of time with a shared database in place.) Do you have case studies to back up your thoughts?
  • What can the organization expect in metric improvements with the addition of tools? (E.g., the company can expect a 10% increase in win rate with the addition of team training/development.)

When it comes to budget dollars for tools and people, a proposal team has not traditionally been top of mind for executives’ investment decisions. It is up to us as proposal professionals to measure and report our successes and areas needing improvement with a focus on the organization’s bottom-line. While we might not be as prominent as the sales and marketing functions, we are vital to ensuring message continuity and closing many deals. Just as sales and marketing track and measure everything they do, the proposal team must do the same to ensure executive interest and investment.

Gina Kutsch, CF APMP, is the director of proposal development for OnSolve, LLC. She is Shipley certified and has been leading proposal development efforts at organizations for many years, with a focus on measuring data and providing visibility into team productivity while leading to increased win rates and executive sponsorship/support.

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