Using a Repeatable Process for Writing Business Bids and Proposals

By Neil Cobb, Charlie Divine

Part of Writing Business Bids & Proposals For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Winning business through proposals takes a plan — a repeatable, flexible process that you can implement whether the window of opportunity is short (a matter of hours or days) or long (many weeks or months). A repeatable proposal process provides a road map with consistent milestones so proposal teams know where they’re going, where they are at any given moment, and what steps remain to reach their goal.

Organizations with a defined end-to-end proposal process win more deals, reduce their bid costs, benefit from increased leadership support, and improve their proposal team’s morale.

Keep these tips in mind as you develop and deploy your proposal process.

Before you begin

To successfully craft winning proposals, you have to stay one step ahead — and the only way to do that is by never falling behind. Get ahead of the curve by following this list of pre-proposal activities:

  • Build a core process for your most typical engagement. This provides a baseline framework that prevents you from having to reinvent the wheel for every opportunity.
  • Use industry best practices to construct your processes. These include opportunity qualification, in-progress reviews, and clear inputs/outputs.
  • Document your process and use just-in-time training to instill and reinforce the skills your contributors need to follow the process.
  • Make the process scalable to adapt to different opportunity values, time frames, and resource requirements.
  • Get senior management buy-in for the process. Provide a senior-manager “champion” to help implement and reinforce the benefits of the process.
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities.

While you’re working

All opportunities are unique, and no standard plan will anticipate 100 percent of the issues that a given proposal will throw at you. Don’t set your process in stone — you must test and track every activity and milestone as you go, and be ready to stop and change direction immediately if the proposal requires. You should also remember to

  • Keep the process flexible. Align with your customer’s buying process — the customer’s interests, priorities, and accessibility will vary. Tailor elements in the process to be responsive to the customer.
  • Define levels of authority for decision making. Tailor the “level of authority” for decisions based on the size and risk associated with the opportunity.

After you’re done

A proposal writer’s work is never done. Every opportunity yields a chance to refine your process and improve your deliverables. Shortly after the ink has dried (or the file is transferred):

  • Conduct postmortems to review your process after each major effort.
  • Apply the lessons you learn to improve your process.