Basics: Executive buy-in

Many proposal teams have experienced “higher-ups” jumping in just before submission to demand (sometimes major) changes to the response. This typically happens in high-stakes opportunities, forcing the team to reschedule work and even neglect other proposals with concurrent deadlines.

These changes may be valuable—even critical to winning the business. The issue is timing, not quality. How can teams engage senior decision makers and gather their input earlier in the process, so they don’t become last-minute disrupters?

Managing executive engagement

Minimize last minute surprises by formally soliciting input at critical points in the process. Key opportunities follow:

  • Bid/No-bid decision: A structured bid/no-bid decision process focused on factors related to the prospect, project, competitors, and internal implications is the first opportunity to engage senior people and solicit their input.
  • Strategy: Preparing a complete, well-structured strategy document is the next opportunity to get input from execs. See this post on developing a proposal strategy.
  • Pre-kickoff reviews: No matter how well managed, a bid/no-bid decision is always based on imperfect knowledge. Before kicking off a large team of solution experts and content developers, subject your documented strategy to a blue team proposal strategy review and, in the case of large projects, a black hat proposal strategy review. At a minimum, these reviews will affirm and strengthen your strategy. In some cases, they’ll lead to a major course change or abandonment of the pursuit altogether.
  • Proposal reviews: Conduct a red team review when the proposal is 50-75 percent complete. Focus on assessing how well the strategy is expressed in the response. See this post on organizing and managing a proposal red team review. Close to the deadline, conduct a gold team review focused mainly on contractual risks and pricing. Despite their intended focus, gold team reviews always turn up gaps and errors, so build time into the schedule for post-gold review editing.

Scale to suit and execute well

For large AFP proposals Complex2Clear supports, executives from consortium member companies gather at an agreed location and sometimes meet over multiple days. Everyone receives the document in advance and arrives armed with specific input.

Clearly most projects don’t warrant this much executive time. But rather than skipping reviews entirely, we recommend scaling them to fit the opportunity. A two-day review could become a half-day or two-hour session.

In all cases show senior people you respect their time with careful preparation and crisp execution.

Keep your expectations reasonable

Despite your best efforts, last minute disruptions will still occur, for good reasons and bad. Persist in encouraging early engagement and, over time, the incidents should diminish in frequency and intensity.

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