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Say you’ve just received an RFP from a key client. It’s comprehensive and will require input from the global team. As you read through the requirements, you remember the missed milestones and miscommunications—and late nights and weekends—on the last global proposal that nearly derailed the project. You wonder how you can do better this time. The following eight tips can help you use your global proposal team to give you an edge over the competition.
- Use technology wisely. Make use of collaboration tools such as wikis and SharePoint to exchange information. Use video conferencing and online tools (e.g., GoToMeeting, Webex, etc.) to pick up on nonverbal cues and build rapport among team members. Ensuring that everyone has access to tools such as Skype and WhatsApp can also enhance communication.
- Time zones are your friend. A global team can work 24/7—with the European group sending data to the Singapore group members for them to compile a report in time for review by the North American team in a single 24-hour cycle. But if anyone misses a deadline, the project can be delayed by an entire day.
- Time zones are your enemy. When setting up team meetings, there is a natural tendency to make them at a time convenient for the group scheduling them. A Webex set for 11 a.m. in California means that Frankfurt will be missing dinner (8 p.m.) and Tokyo will be waking up in the middle of the night (3 a.m. the next day). Setting up “core hours” for each group’s time zone can help set workday boundaries.
- Use the same language. Team members may be most comfortable writing to each other in their native languages, but all correspondence related to the proposal should be in a single language—and preferably the language of submittal. This makes it easier for other team members who may need to refer to the information later.
- Use the same standards and conventions. When Americans send an email indicating 11/10/18 as the due date, they expect the information on Nov. 10. But much of the rest of the world reads that as Oct. 11. Spell out dates to avoid confusion—and missed milestones. Also be careful with commas and decimal points in numbers as well as metric versus imperial measurements.
- Use “one voice.” Although your proposal is being written by people from all over the world, you want it to sound the same throughout. Designate one team member to edit the final proposal, to keep the voice consistent and easy to understand. While this is important for all proposals, it can be especially critical when team members speak multiple languages. Creating a style guide can help with this as well.
- Make use of your team’s diversity. Use the cultural expertise of your team members to guide the proposal through differences in language, key selling points, country politics, and even logistics.
- Above all, communicate. When you’re managing a proposal team spread across the world, communication is critical. Use all the communication tools available to you (phone, video, web conference, text, email, etc.) to exchange information and build relationships for this—and the next—proposal. Also, avoid idioms and sarcasm, as they may not be understood by everyone.
Although your proposal is being written by people from all over the world, you want it to sound the same throughout.
While managing a global bid team may seem daunting at first, you can take advantage of different time zones, cultures, and technologies to create winning proposals.
Pamela Dickerson is president of Apex Business Communications, a proposal and technical writing company based in Southern California. She can be reached at email@example.com.