Last week’s post identified proposal kick-off meeting goals—to motivate, inform and direct the proposal team.
Successful kick-offs result from careful preparation—taking time to build, test and package a strategy, so team members know exactly what’s expected of them.
For any major proposal, the core proposal team should spend a week (or more if the response window allows) developing and testing strategy. Time invested here pays big dividends in team morale and focus.
To help with proposal strategy development, we’ve devoted more than 50 posts to the subject. Find these by scanning down the strategy column in our Blog Index, or jump straight to one or more of the following:
- Understanding the economic buyer
- Understanding technical buyers
- Understanding user buyers
- Analyzing prospect needs
- Deploying your differentiators
- Using a Competitive Solutions Matrix
- Using value propositions in bids
- Writing executive summaries
- Why you need a Blue Team review
When complete, your strategy will identify the prospect’s issues and your relative competitiveness for each, key differentiators and value propositions—and an approach to each major proposal section. Collectively these are the win themes that drive your proposal.
When your strategy is set, draft the executive summary and have it available for circulation at the kick-off. Presenting your argument for selection in one coherent narrative is as important for your team as it will be for the prospect.
Assembling a proposal plan
Use a proposal plan to organize your strategy outputs and process components in one comprehensive and coherent document.
Strategy components include the following topics:
- Prospect: Strategic drivers; hot button issues; perceptions of your company, etc.
- Competitive Factors: Your strengths and perceived weaknesses; comparison matrix of bidders
- Proposal Themes and Strategies: Key elements of your solution; your experience and performance; project partners and contractors; section strategies, summaries, and value propositions; executive summary
Process components include:
- RFP summary: Deadlines; scope of work; duration and value of contract; client information; compliance matrix
- Team: Members names, roles and contact information
- Project management: Project schedule; reporting procedures; available support, etc.
Providing SME and/or writer guidance
The most important members of your kick-off audience are subject matter experts and writers. They’ll do the heavy lifting. If you can get these two groups on the right strategy track from the beginning, your proposal effort will run smoothly.
In our experience, SMEs and writers produce much better results, faster, when they:
- Receive specific guidance tailored to their section(s)
- Devote time to analysis and outlining before content writing
- Check-in daily with the proposal manager for feedback on their section(s)
Prepare and distribute a customized Section Content Planner (SCP) to each SME and writer at the kick-off meeting. Prepopulate each SCP with a subset of the proposal plan contents tailored to his or her section(s). A junior member of the core team should be able to do this. For more on SCPs, see this post on tools and frameworks for proposal writers.
Does this sound like a lot of work?
Preparing for and conducting a professional kick-off meeting takes more work than the sessions many bidders deliver. But your team will appreciate your effort and the respect it shows for their time—and they’ll produce more winning proposals as a result.
In the next two posts, we’ll cover:
- Kick-off participants and their roles
- Running the meeting