Here’s the scene. It’s Tuesday. You’ve just shipped off a proposal after working all weekend. You’ve cleared your desk of all the old redlines, notes, resumes, and stuff that accumulates when you are “proposaling” and have sat down with a nice cup of coffee (or in my case, tea) that you plan to enjoy every sip of while it is still hot. Then Bob, the top sales representative, steps up to your desk and says½ “I got a proposal that needs done. I know I should have gotten this to you sooner, but I know you’ll have no trouble putting this together for Monday’s due date. Here you go. Call me with any questions!” What do you do? Finish your beverage. Short turn-around proposals don’t require panic. The same processes you use for your proposals still apply. Here are the steps I have developed over the years that I pass on to you, my fellow Rangers. Most of these are common sense but I hope you find some ideas here you haven’t thought of. Day 1:
- Find a proposal for a similar project that you won. Use that as your template/go-by.
- Edit your go-by to match RFP requirements, including doing global search for old client names, project names, etc.
- Create your outline and determine your schedule. Be bold. Tell every- one else what the schedule is. Don’t ask for suggestions. Lastly, enforce it!
- Send the RFP, outline, and schedule to anyone else who has to submit important data (legal, surety, estimating). Emphasize that this is a short turnaround and give them your deadline in the e-mail.
- Meet with your Project Lead. Identify the team. If you can’t get a definitive answer, then define your own team. Identify employees who’ve worked on similar projects. This can be done by using the key word list with the Windows search tool.
- If you have subcontractors, see if you have their information on hand from another proposal. Use that and send it back to them asking for updates.
- Create the organization chart and get it approved. Declare the org chart as fixed. (No more changes are allowed.)
- Identify writing assignments and talk with each person individually. Give them a detailed go-by to edit and revise. Never wait for others to provide you with content. It took me a long time to realize that most professionals hate writing and are intimidated by white space. They are usually glad for the help.
- Create your key word list.
- Create any standard data text and put in your draft document. Complete any forms. Even do your mailing labels! In other words, complete all the housekeeping stuff on this day.
- Find one or more good administrative assistants or junior engineers who are bored. Ask them if they will help proof the final document and confirm they are available the day you need them. Most will jump at the chance to do something different.
- Create your covers.
- Identify projects to include in your experience section. Use your key word list to find project write-ups by using the Windows search tool. Replace the project experience section in your go-by.
- Input personnel experience and resumes. Try and identify key points or highlights you can put in call-out boxes in your document.
- First thing in the morning, check with your authors to find out how they are coming. Get a firm commitment from them about when they will have the section to you. Do whatever you need to get their response. Individuals will respond to different tactics, so see who will respond to bribery, who will respond to praise, who will respond to guilt, and who needs the firm e-mail. One colleague of mine would go sit on their desk and hint at chocolate until they committed to sending her their write-up. If all else fails, send an “In no Uncertain Terms” e-mail and copy their upper management. By the end of the day, you should have all input (except for pricing).
- Review your draft document and check what you still need to do. I like to use a large post-it note on the front of the file (or my working document) with my “to do” list. Also review each section as you receive it for compliancy before you drop it into the document. If needed, go back to the author and interview them to obtain the needed content to make the section compliant.
- Start with a content edit. Fix long-worded text, create “call out” boxes from highlights you identify, and review one more time for compliancy. Then submit the document to your review team. Limit the reviewers to as few as possible. Give the document to your proof editor (remember your volunteer?) to start reviewing for typos and spellings. Have him/her do this on a hard copy with a red pen.
- While the document is in review, start producing all your supplementary documents–forms, resumes, etc. Once you get the comments, enter your changes and have your proof editor review the document one more time. At this point, you’ll need a bit of a breather so that you’ll do a good job on your quality control for the production. Once the final edits are in, you are good to print.
Adjust the above steps as needed to meet your requirements. Remember, by controlling the process, you’ll soon say “Hi Ho, Proposal, Away½” If you are a Proposal Lone Ranger, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear what your biggest challenges are.