Fast and Furious
Fast work, is better than slow work, and is certainly better than no work. I’ve been reading a lot about speed-working, and it is beginning to improve how I work. As a proposal writer, I respond to plenty of business tenders each month, and sometimes have to deal with multiple tenders at the same time. Over a span of time, I realised that working on so many deals was slowing me down. So, I took a day off, cleared my calendar and decided to see if there was any way I can be more effective at what I do.
As I did this, I realised I was being a passive planner. I was setting small goals too frequently and was being content in achieving them. For example, if I had a proposal that could be done in 3 days if I worked at 80% efficiency, I was telling the sales team that I needed 5 days so I can work at 60% efficiency. Over a span of time, I stopped being lazy and decided to improve. Improvement could only happen if I planned for it. Here is my take on better planning:
When I assess my tender response or my team's tender responses, I only see if their latest response document is 1% better than the last response document. If you sit down right now, you can think of at-least 10 ways to make your proposals sound and seem better. As bid managers, we get pockets of free time when there are no bids to respond to. In these times, look at 5 proposals you've written, and assess them for improvement areas. Make notes of what you have inferred. Use this input next time you write a proposal.
Ask yourself questions like these: In the creation of the last 5 proposal responses, what was the root cause of the most delays? Is the customer the center focus of the proposal response or is it just generic? Have we customised it to meet with the customer's business needs?
Don't wait for your next RFP to start research. You typically know what kind of clients you get. So spend some time proactively researching into their industries.
When you do your research on your typical clients, keep reading into their industry material. Find any interesting statistics you can use to your advantage? Any hidden problem statements that your solution indirectly solves? Note them down and put them in your proposal. Solid research backed with references always adds credibility to your proposal.
Usually, your customer's decision makers wont read into all the document. They will just read the first 10 pages at best. Hence, it is important to make the beginning of your proposal response as interesting as possible, atleast in the first 10-20 pages. Put as much focus as you can on executive summaries, cover letters and solution overviews. These usually comprise of 10% of the overall document, but they matter the most. Sweat the small stuff. You want your organisation's image to be presented as well as possible.
I personally take 20 minutes everyday to build my collateral library. It may seem too little, but over a span of 1 year, that is roughly 9 days of collateral improvement. It goes a long way especially when we have thin deadlines. It also helps me know where my documents are, which ones are recent, which ones need updates and which ones must no longer be used.
Build great internal relationships. No matter how well you plan, your customers will certainly ask you something you may not already have content on. Make friends with colleagues at work. You may need their support with RFIs that you dont readily have answers to someday. Also, don't gossip at work. It's annoying and does not do anyone any good.
Aggression: A lot of us are not aggressive in our planning. We are lazy by nature, and pick goals we can easily achieve. But if mankind only picked easy goals, we would not have reached the moon and planned settling down on Mars. Jargon, the enemy of business simplicity, has given us the SMART methodology of setting goals. While the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) methodology is good in many ways, I've noticed that most of us may restrain ourselves to goals that way too easy. For a lot of the "S" of "SMART" stands for "small". For some of us "achievable" means "easy" and timely means "as long as possible". An aggressive mentality turns this system of thinking upside down and makes business happen 10X better. You will be more satisfied with yourself too! :)
Have a great day! May the force be with you!