An amusing debate the other evening discussed props that we use when running proposals. The usual range of items came out – post it notes, pre-printed flipcharts, laminated cards with questions that provoke debate, toys in the war rooms to reduce stress and engender creativity. I recalled BJ’s black plastic rat, brought out so that anyone in a session could wave it prominently should they feel that the discussion was disappearing down a rat hole!
And then I remembered my white pocket handkerchief, from my days running a corporate proposal centre. A team in a qualification meeting I was observing was poised to decide to ‘no bid’ a major deal, without adequate, objective debate. Rather, they seemed to bruised by recent losses to want to return to the battlefield – despite the fact that the opportunity was eminently winnable and deliverable.
Yours truly duly reached into his pocket and pulled out the clean, white handkerchief. Slowly and solemnly, I started to wave it in the air.
“OK, Jon, go on….” (The Sales Director was used to my maverick ways by now!)
“It’s a flag of surrender.”
I went on to explain that it seemed to me that if the team were to turn away from this opportunity, they might as well all resign and go and work for the competition. Soon, the debate was focusing on what the team could do to win the opportunity if they really put their minds to it; confidence started to creep back in to the debate; they were on their way.
Now, it’s not the role of proposal managers role to own the qualification decision. But we do act as coaches, as motivators, and we should never lose sight of the importance of this element of our value add.