My travels for work took me to Brittany last month – a great group for the course, in a lovely part of the world. I had work to do most evenings, but writing whilst overlooking a picturesque harbour certainly beat being in the office!
I was staying in a small, family-run hotel: clean, comfortable but a little basic. I arrived at 9pm on the first evening of my stay, and the ever-so-friendly receptionist gave me a code for the front door – ‘just in case’ I needed it. I dropped my bags in my room, set straight off for dinner – and returned an hour or so later to find the hotel in darkness, the front door locked. Thank goodness I’d remembered the code – and thank goodness my plane hadn’t been delayed on the way in!
Many proposal teams engage with the sales team purely up to the moment at which a document is delivered. Some recognise the value of staying engaged until the team presents the proposal to the customer. Many support the bid effort throughout endless rounds of clarification and negotiation, struggling to disengage and even risking being dragged into transition and delivery!
In our desire to be helpful and to win business, there’s certainly a danger that some proposal folks stay involved too long. Certainly, salespeople will try to keep you on board for as long as they can: after all, you make their lives easier. But we’re not there as comfort blankets for account managers or for the team who are responsible for designing and implementing your offer.
The optimal point of disengagement depends – to an extent – on the skillset within your team, on where you can add the most value with the capacity / headcount you have available, and on the definition and perception of your role within the business. For me, the default ‘door shutting’ moment for a proposal team is the proposal presentation – I think the continuity that we bring at such a critical stage, helping to translate the written book into a powerful presentation and helping to coach and rehearse the team, are hugely important. But after that? It’s time to lock the door and give the salesperson the code for use in emergencies.
After I’d stumbled through the front door of the hotel after dinner in near-total darkness, searching in vain for a light switch and struggling up the stairs to my room, I also reflected that there are good ways and bad ways of handling the proposal team’s disengagement from the bid. You need to communicate clearly up front, and then to handle your exit professionally and in line with expectations – you don’t want to leave the team with whom you’ve been working feeling suddenly unloved, or thinking that you’re abandoning them!