If you want to produce winning proposals, you need to make wise strategic use of three key members on your federal contract team. We call them the “triumvirate of managers.” You know them as the program manager, the capture manager, and the proposal manager. Their leadership can ensure you deliver the winning combination for any government proposal–compliant, persuasive, and executable.
Why are these managers critical for the win? Because together they strike the balance necessary to show your federal customer that your company can deliver what’s needed. Each player contributes critical expertise to your proposal effort:
- Customer knowledge and sales perspective (capture manager)
- Program execution within budget, schedule, and performance characteristics (program manager)
- Focus on compliance, quality, and minimal proposal risk (proposal manager)
This month, Alaris presents the last installment in our three-part series that reveals how each manager plays a crucial role in more federal contract wins.
PROPOSAL POINTER #3: SUCCESS IS A BALANCING ACT–YOUR PROPOSAL MANAGER IS THE RINGMASTER
Engage your proposal manager (PM) in early collaboration with your capture and program managers to ensure they work as a team. That way, your PM can gather the information needed to coordinate a winning effort.
To help you succeed, your proposal manager must have a comprehensive understanding of two essential areas:
1) The opportunity offered by the government customer.
2) Your company’s capability to deliver the required products or services.
The PM is responsible for bringing in the proposal on time using your company’s resources, including partners, subcontractors, and outsourced capabilities. Whether the PM is a staff member or an outside expert, he/she can lead a successful effort only if fully integrated with the rest of the proposal team. This includes the capture and program managers, writers, and your company’s executive leadership.
Your PM should have proven success in developing the components of a comprehensive proposal management plan:
Organize the Team
An essential early step for the PM is identifying key proposal staff and leadership. It is his/her job to coordinate these players into a defined, disciplined, and responsive team that can deliver a high quality, persuasive, and compliant proposal on schedule. Team members include:
Writers – This category includes writers who tackle specific assignments as well as those who lead teams of other writers and oversee major elements of the proposal.
Subject matter experts – SMEs are drawn from the technical, managerial, and financial functions across your company to enhance proposal content with their specialized knowledge. SMEs may also be writers, but more often they contribute information through data submissions or interviews.
Reviewers – Typically identified from among SMEs, leaders, and other proposal stakeholders, reviewers can evaluate your document throughout its development to ensure it remains accurate, compliant, and persuasive.
Stakeholders – This category comprises people with an interest in your proposal who also have contributions to make and/or need progress reports. One category of stakeholders includes partners and subcontractors. The PM must communicate with them regularly to ensure that data calls are timely, easy to understand, and fully addressed. Proposal staff are also key stakeholders and include the proposal coordinator, editors, and production staff.
Company leadership – Executives give the proposal team the authority to act. Their involvement and cooperation is essential for a well-organized and successful proposal effort.
Tackle the Writing Requirement
Before federal agencies release a final Request for Proposal (RFP), they often send early signals about the content of upcoming contract opportunities. These public announcements include Requests for Information (RFI), sources sought requests, or industry day events. While these documents and events generally do not reveal proposal details, they do provide insights into what an agency believes is important.
Such revelations can inform development of a value proposition, win themes, competitive analysis, price to win analysis, past performance requirements, scope, and other key proposal elements. Your PM is your expert guide regarding the RFP and all proposal writing requirements. Once the agency releases a draft RFP, the PM can lead efforts to thoroughly study the document and begin proposal design. By the time the agency issues a final RFP, your PM will have research well underway, and may even have begun the writing phase.
Refine the Messaging
Effective messaging is consistent and persuasive across your entire proposal, which may run to multiple volumes. This crucial messaging task falls to your PM, who is aware that each government source selection committee member is likely to read and evaluate only portions of your proposal. This means the highlights of your value proposition, win themes, technical solution, managerial approach, and past performance must be conveyed clearly, repetitively, and effectively across the entire document.
Strong messaging connects multiple volumes of a proposal into a consistent story line about your company’s strengths and competencies.
Recognize that Communication is Key
Teamwork and buy-in are the direct results of a carefully planned and well executed communication plan. The PM is responsible for developing one that addresses the needs and expectations of all participants, including writers, SMEs, reviewers, partners, subcontractors, and other stakeholders. The PM should chose the communications frequency, timing, content, and venue that works best for each group. For example, an in-person daily progress review may be necessary for writers, while a weekly teleconference is the best choice for subcontractors.
Select Compliant Templates and Collaborative Tools
The choice of document templates and formatting may seem like minor technical details, but they are important PM duties that ensure compliance with the government RFP. PM responsibilities also include the choice of collaborative tools that will connect your team. These range from physical workspace shared by writers to internet-enabled virtual workspace and collaborative software. Technical tools should facilitate an important part of mission success–team cooperation at any distance.
Set a Realistic, Responsive Schedule–and Keep It!
It falls to the PM to establish, communicate, adapt, and enforce the schedule for your proposal project. The PM must strike a balance between adequate time for quality work on assigned tasks and proposal delivery by the agency deadline.
Your 3-step action plan to make the best use of your proposal manager’s expertise:
- Integrate your proposal manager into your triumvirate of managers as early as possible.
- Fully empower and focus your proposal manager on the essential tasks of a winning bid: build your proposal management team, start proposal activities as early as possible, and ensure early commitment of adequate resources to the proposal effort.
- Execute all tasks in your proposal management plan at the earliest opportunity – time is always your enemy.
Write Early, Write Often!
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