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How Your Proposal Group Can Add The Most Value

The secret to:
  • Being perceived as adding the most value,
  • Gaining process acceptance,
  • Being a joy to work with,
  • Looking like you really know what you’re doing,
  • Becoming indispensible, and
  • Being appreciated
Is simply to do everyone else’s job for them.

As unrealistic as that sounds, I’m not joking. You will be perceived as adding the most value when you make things easier for everyone else. The truth is you add the most value when your contribution to the company’s win rate most exceeds what you get paid — even though no one knows how to calculate how much that contribution is.

But the way to look at this isn’t to seek being liked. It’s to realize that you can best do your job as a proposal developer, when people bring you the right inputs. To increase the quality of your own work, you need to increase the quality of the inputs people send you to work with. Begging and pleading, in addition to being demeaning, just don’t work. That’s why so many people dream of being able to give up the carrot and use the stick. Unfortunately, forcing people also won't get you better inputs, although it might get you poor inputs delivered on time and a lot of resentment.

Instead of a process that you can beg or force people to follow, you need:

  • Ways to accelerate what they have to do to get the inputs to you
  • Guidance so they don’t get stuck and are able to get those inputs to you
  • Inspiration to help them figure out what to write
  • Tools they can use to check their own work, so they know if it’s right before you even get it
Instead of thinking about the proposal process as the steps people need to follow, try thinking of it as things you can do to accelerate, guide, inspire, and ensure the quality of the inputs you need. Instead of making your process a necessary burden that they must comply with, make it a gift that will help them achieve their goal of putting their proposal assignments behind them.

The way you achieve these goals is to create process tools. Documentation tools can actually achieve more than automation tools because they can help people think, whereas automation tools help by eliminating repetition and there isn’t a lot of that in the proposal process. We do a lot of things that are similar, but hardly any that are the same. That’s why, for most people (at least those who don’t sell products), there is no such thing as a push button proposal.

When it comes to documentation tools, the humble little checklist is your best friend. Checklists can accelerate, guide, inspire, and ensure quality. Templates, samples, and boilerplate on the other hand, are often less beneficial than you might expect.

You should also structure the steps in your process differently. Instead of forcing people to do things, the steps should accelerate, guide, inspire, and ensure quality. This is how we developed our approach to Proposal Content Planning. We kept looking for better formats for annotating outlines, until we thought about how the outline should be prepared instead of what format it should be in. The result was a series of iterations that each add something specific to the outline so that when you are finished you have a high degree of confidence that you have identified everything that should go into your proposal. It accelerates, guides, inspires, and integrates into a similar approach we developed for quality assurance.

We went wild with this approach and added a pre-RFP process called Readiness Reviews to accelerate, guidance, inspire, and ensure the quality of the information we needed to do the Content Planning. By the time we finished, we had our end-to-end MustWin Process Workbook. It’s very different from the traditional approaches we struggled with through our early years. It’s more of a tool than the kind of process you’d see on a flow chart. It’s also a workbook full of things that people can use as opposed to things people have to do. It makes a huge difference. It’s the difference between being a burden and being a gift.

But the most important aspect about the MustWin Processis Workbook that it reaches deep into what people have to do to be prepared, to provide what they need to know, and to set everything up so that it all quickly falls into place. In other words, it guides them through doing their jobs. If you want to add the most value to your organization, you need to reach beyond simply doing your job (which you should already know how to do) and help the others make their contributions to the proposal (which they may not know how to do). The result will be better inputs so that you can do a better job. This will, in turn, not only increase the perception of how much value you have added, but by giving you what you need to achieve higher win rates, will enable you to actually deliver more value to your company.


We get a lot of inspiration from the discussions
in the group on LinkedIn. So can you!
Also check out our new subgroup for Bids, Tenders, and International Proposals
(Click on the more pull down and then click subgroups)

The MustWin Process Workbook enables you to instantly add value to your proposal efforts...

Our Off-the-Shelf Process Documentation
provides step-by-step guidance to help you:

  • Get ready for RFP release
  • Develop win strategies
  • Produce a winning proposal
  • Achieve quality assurance
  • Comes with online training!

Click here to find out more

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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