I was struck by a fascinating phrase in a recent article in The Times by Colonel Richard Kemp – a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. “Soldiers,” he wrote, “don’t begin to earn their pay until the bullets start flying.”
Whilst one can see what he’s trying to say, this sounds like very strange indeed in the context of the modern military, where keeping the peace is just as important a role as combat operations, never mind being disrespectful to those of his colleagues whose postings at the time happen to be away from the front line.
And, much as I wouldn’t for a moment try to equate what we proposal folks do with the valour of our military friends, I see a parallel in attitudes. Too many senior executives and salespeople believe that proposal professionals are best-used in the heat of the battle, under pressure, against tight deadlines. Yet so much of our value-add comes at the pre-proposal stage, doing the reconnaissance, getting the logistics in place, preparing the ground for success. Where we really earn our pay isn’t in the late nights trying to persuade the copier to work or the PDF to upload; it’s in those early days where we make it far more likely that we will win the ‘fight’ and that we’ll fight on our terms.