I spent a couple of lovely days recently as chief cheerleader for a dear friend who was playing in a pretty high-powered tennis tournament. (You’ll be pleased to hear that said cheerleading was of the sit-drinking-coffee whilst shouting “Good shot!” variety, rather than involving me wearing a cute dress and waving pom-poms).
As I watched, a few parallels struck me that might be useful for us proposal folks:
1) The time devoted to preparation. The final two days of matches were played at Wimbledon. The previous five days were spent practising on grass courts. (How often do proposal teams come together for the first time after the RFP’s arrived?)
2) The role of the coach. The tennis team wouldn’t have dreamt of practising without bringing in a skilled coach – someone who’d help each of them to refine their technique and polish their skills. (Too often, proposal teams comprise the same old faces, with no fresh faces to stimulate improvements).
3) Unsettling the competition. Our friend was in no doubt from the start that she was going to win the tournament. That had a huge mental impact on the other competitors – the third-best player in the event, for example, repeatedly double-faulted on her usually-reliable serve when facing our friend. (What do you do that unsettles your competitors?)
4) Confidence at every stage. Tennis players facing a serve concentrate incredibly hard – on where they’re going to hit the ball, on the importance of winning the point. The moment they allow their minds to think, “Don’t miss!” is the moment they do precisely that. (Your behaviour as a proposal manager impacts your team that way; confidence breeds success, and you have the power to make your contributors think of themselves as winners).
5) Every point counts. (Every question in the RFP counts, too!).
6) Celebrating success. The women’s singles trophy that our friend won was almost as big as her. Her name went up onto the honours board for everyone to see, alongside the other winners dating back for fifty or so years. (Where’s your proposal centre’s honours board, of the bids you’ve helped to win? And don’t forget – when people look up at the boards, there’s no record of the losers).
Our friend won, naturally. It was all down to my cheerleading abilities, of course ☺