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Stop Wasting Precious Proposal Time!

“Time” has been one of the most talked about topics since the ancient Egyptians established the 24-hour day. Time continues to be a popular and increasingly diverse topic. My recent Google search yielded a whopping 63 million hits on time management subjects ranging from time-and-motion studies to self-help. It is no coincidence that when asked about the most significant issues and challenges proposal professionals face, the responses most often mentioned are related to time. “Not enough time to respond”…. “no respect for proposal schedule deadlines”…. “limited resources that increase time pressures,” and the list goes on, and on, and on.

It’s a fact that before most proposal efforts start, precious days (and sometimes weeks), are seemingly wasted away. Capture managers are either struggling to get a bid/no bid decision, or securing the resources to kick off the proposal. To make matters worse, most proposals require accelerated development schedules (15-30 days) with little or no regard for the people managing, writing, and supporting the proposal.

The challenge of creating a compliant, compelling response to an RFP becomes a daunting task apparently doomed to failure even before it begins— largely because there isn’t enough time. With so much time wasted and so little time to respond, proposal teams have to sacrifice their nights, weekends, and (in too many cases) even their health, just to get a competitive product out the door on time. What’s a proposal manager to do?

Unfortunately there isn’t enough time to describe all the ways you can better manage your proposal — I have time management challenges of my own and so do you! In the interest of time, here are 10 tips to help you get more out of your next proposal effort in less time.

  1. Up to 15% of the total proposal development schedule should be allocated to carefully planning the kick off meeting — that means 4-5 days after RFP receipt for a 30-day turnaround schedule.
  2. The kick off meeting should include a detailed Proposal Management Plan already reviewed and approved by both the capture and proposal teams, especially the calendar/schedule, resource assignments, daily stand-up/status call logistics, and rules of engagement.
  3. The industry average for writing new proposal narrative is four pages per day. If a 40-page section is assigned to a writer with only five days to complete the task, you either need to request another full-time resource or agree that the section will be based primarily on boilerplate (not recommended).
  4. Set daily stand-up calls for an off-hour time that is generally convenient for all participants to avoid rush hour traffic and to take additional time zones into account (if applicable). For example, stress the importance of being in the room or on the 3:05pm call five minutes early at 3:00pm. If you start the meeting on time, every time, people will get the idea that you mean business and that showing up late wastes everyone’s time.
  5. Set the expectation in the kick off meeting that pens-down deadlines are for the last section submitted.
  6. Avoid a COB deadline that can be interpreted many different ways and can lead to late night typing and thinking errors.
  7. Stress specific deadline times (more specific) in addition to deadline dates.
  8. Your daily stand-up meeting should include a status summary that includes each section/sub-section; with a simple color-coded status indicating how each section is tracking according to plan. The meeting should include a review of action items with specific owners and dates.
  9. Proposal war room walls, meeting minutes, and status meetings can be effective, but are usually no replacement for managing by simply walking around. On the surface it may seem like a time waster, but this simple act is likely to uncover potential miscommunication landmines. This management approach demonstrates your interest in individual team members and makes the communication channels more efficient and effective.
  10. Know what method of communication to use and when. For example, use tools available to you such as documentation management software like SharePoint, but don’t rely on email messages and file downloads to accomplish what a simple telephone call or “how is it going?” visit can do.


Chris Simmons is the founder and principal member of Rainmakerz Consulting—a business development solutions company specializing in proposal management, writing, and review. He is a member of's Partners Program and can provide hands-on help with your business development and proposal efforts.

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