Develop an “elastic” proposal team to have more “at bat” oppys.

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Always be ready to swing at a good ball over the plate.


How many of you Federal Contractors / Integrators have been here: It is the middle of June and three RFPs that you have been capturing for two years are “let” at the same time. Your proposal management team is already at 110% capacity, with its members looking out the 10th story windows and they are harboring enough emotional energy that HR is collecting all sharp objects.



You follow your processes and after completing all required Bid-No-Bid gates you have to make the tough call to pass on one or more of the RFPs because you simply do not have the bench to get the proposals done. And yes, your team was diligent in all capture work; and no – all of your partners are busy too, so they can’t “prime” the proposal for you, or simply help.

This may sound like “2020 – written by Stephen King; directed by Quentin Tarantino”, but it is a situation that happens more frequently than we would collectively would care to admit. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Proposal Management work is more often than not seasonally predictable. If you are disciplined in your CRM housekeeping, your capture practice and your contract management you should be in good shape. That said, we all have been there – Friday 1700 EST when the RFP that was not expected for another two months hits the street. We know that even the most disciplined Proposal Management, Capture and BD teams can be surprised. Then let’s plan ahead, and avoid having to pass on an opportunity that is part of our greater BD and Capture plans.

Why should you consider an “elastic” proposal team? Here are four reasons to consider:

1. It helps your budget –

If you size your “in-house” Proposal Management team for maximum capacity, you will have substantial personnel inefficiency in the off-season; and that can be a fairly long period. Conversely, if you size the team to handle even 20% above the minimum activity expected the stress levels in the team will likely translate into poor quality of work and inevitable losses.

A good Proposal Management augmenting consultant or agency can provide the capacity needed to accommodate unexpected surges in proposal activity for likely less cost and less impact to you G&A.

2. It helps to “round out” your team’s skillset -

Short of having an unlimited (huge) budget, it is extremely difficult for small and medium sized companies to have a bench with all of the skills needed to prepare every proposal. Having a graphics designer, an editor, an illustrator, oral presenter/speaker on the bench for 80% of the year is just not good business. Having different flavored SMEs (SATCOM, IT, CYBER, Army, Navy, USMC, Logistics, FSR) is cost prohibitive and asking your line manager to work on proposals while running the business 100% of the time is sheer madness. No one needs to work 70hrs/week and then work on proposals.

A good pool of resources or a Proposal Management team that can provide needed expertise on demand is a more practical approach and one that can bring outside “fresh” knowledge to your team.

3. It helps you stay out of “your bubble” and grounded in reality -

Most “A” types (speaking to all of us in BD) are legends in our own mind. That is why we rely on co-workers to keep us “checked” when the good idea fairy makes a fly-by. Left to our own style and acquired knowledge we can fall in a rut, and fail to see mistakes that are in the category of “BFOs” of Blinding Flashes of the Obvious. An external body can help bring in a new POV on how to answer a question or better present a case. It may also help an in-house proposal team get the perspective of the evaluating officer without putting the proposal at risk.

A good external Proposal Management team can be an impartial advocate for change or different POV that can save a Proposal Team from its own hidden shortcomings.

4. Every Olympic level athlete uses one or more coaches –

In our current business environment solicitations are complex and often used to weed out unqualified bidders while meeting the FAR rules. Bidders must compellingly demonstrate that they represent the best value and lowest risk to the US Government through evaluated written and/or oral proposals, that are frequently artificially constrained in such manner that even the most qualified bidder is not guaranteed success; but rather the one that can more succinctly and compellingly state it’s case in the allotted time.

With fewer contract vehicles options, and an ever-increasing number of bidders competing for every dollar, Capture team strategies need to be in full synch with their Proposal Management team plans in order to maximize their Pwin.

A seasoned “coach” in the form of an external Proposal Team can help your in-house proposal team elevate their game and win more proposals by being more compelling and crisper. Even if your winning stats are in the 90% range (and we know you are bidding only sure-shots), your Capture and BD teams can use an outside voice to mentor them to success when the difference between winner and loser is just one grade in one criterion.

A well-groomed, trained and elastic Proposal Team is as important to your business livelihood as your BD Team. Be in the enviable and best position to answer overnight any RFP you so choose to pursue, with compelling proposals that are 100% compliant.

Remember, years of business development effort and thousands of corporate hours and dollars can be wasted by any single mistake in a Proposal; by not being 100% ready to answer a TOR at moment’s notice. Make every effort of your Capture and Proposal teams count. Don’t waste time or money; just your competition

Answering an RFP should be your choice; not a function of how many W2’s you have in your Proposal Team.

To learn more about how to make sure your proposal team is ready for FY2021 and beyond, click here.

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