Thanks to those of you who emailed in response to my last post, which contained copies of the presentations from a recent event for heads of bid and proposal management in the UK.
In response to the interest, I thought I’d share a little more from my own presentation. I started by explaining that the ancient Chinese used the phrase, “May you live in interesting times” as a curse, not a blessing.
Yet for proposal people today, these interesting times create significant opportunities. So as well as describing a number of projects we’ve delivered successfully for clients recently, and the challenges posed to proposal teams by the current economic climate, I therefore presented something of a call to action for these senior managers.
Few know that, apparently, the ancients had an even-more damning curse: “May you come to the attention of those in authority.”
We see any number of reasons that trigger change to an organisation’s proposal capabilities. Many of these are “done to” the proposal centre:
• There’s the deal that goes horribly wrong. That “must win” deal that you don’t – or sometimes worse, that deal that you do capture, where “did we really say that in the proposal” becomes the order of the day.
• There’s the Chief Executive or Sales Director, who “gets it” – and gets that he or she doesn’t like what they see of your current proposals.
• There’s that damning piece of customer feedback.
• There’s a new head of proposal management – that person standing by to step into your shoes, bringing new ideas and fresh energy, securing visibility and support at senior levels for how things could and should be done better.
But if you’re the head of your company’s proposal team, then maybe that new leader, with the new drive, is actually you?
It’s not enough for you to wait until someone lets the cat out of the bag as to the inefficiency of your current proposal processes, or the relatively disappointing documents that you submit as a result. How much better for you to drive that change yourself.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s down to you personally to keep the light at the end of the proposal tunnel flickering. The hopes, fears, careers of those working in your proposal organisations – they rest in your hands. So too do the jobs of so many of your colleagues in other parts of the business: nothing gives me more pleasure when visiting some of our clients than to see the groups of staff working to deliver the projects that we’ve helped to win.
I’ve long held the view of the proposal centre as the heart of an organisation’s job creation function – capturing the deals that need the staff to deliver. Perhaps now, more than ever, your importance as proposal professionals – and as leaders – comes to the fore. Perhaps those who really ‘get it’ will look back on 2009 as the year in which their organisations really started to embrace the need to take proposals far more seriously.
For the alternatives are too worrying to contemplate. In 2009, “must win” really does mean “must win”.
Are you one of those folks who are ready for the battle ahead? Tough times call for leaders who are personally tough, to stand up and be counted. Your teams depend on you. Indeed, your organisations depend on you, as winning (and protecting) business becomes ever tougher – and ever more important. So are you personally up to the challenge of taking your proposals to the next level? If you are, we’d love to work with you!