Better RFP Responses & Management
Deep Breath

Deep Breath

Taste is individual preference, not absolute truth.
Seth’s Blog

Hah! Try telling that to an executive reviewer insisting on a different font or colour palette. Try telling that to the proposal manager making a late-night request for title case within every cell in every table because it looks better to them: a preference not disclosed when it might have been accommodated. Try telling that to the team member, recently part of the client’s organization, who conflates their own taste and the client’s.

Deep breath.

First, most people are trying to help. And they believe their input *is* helping. They strongly believe this.

Second, most intense behaviour comes from a place of fear: In this case, fear that we don’t know what “perfect” looks like to the evaluators and yet, somehow, everything must be perfect. Did I mention that we don’t actually know what “perfect” looks like to the evaluators? Did you understand that everything must still be perfect, somehow?

Deep breath.

In the mess that is Proposal Land, what can we do about these fights over taste?

Preventive Actions

“What’s possible” depends on staff/team continuity and how many proposals a company does and how formalized/documented its proposal process is and how, um, idiosyncratic the internal reviewers are. Try these steps:

  • People responsible for the look of all or most proposals for a company can:
    • Learn which executive/manager preferences are just easier to accommodate from the get-go.
    • Document and communicate these default standards.
  • A proposal manager can:
    • Spend 10 minutes to define who takes the lead in the non-default decisions on this specific proposal.
    • Communicate that locus of authority to the team as often as necessary. Once will not likely be enough.
    • Work with production/editorial staff to game the “blow-up” scenario ahead of time:
      • Know what you can change more-or-less easily.
      • Know what you’d really prefer not to change (given known client preferences or the opportunity cost of the time to make the change).
      • Know what you just cannot change (given client instructions or real time constraints).
  • People responsible for the look of a specific proposal can:
    • Ask corporate resources about any default standards or known preferences if this information is not already forthcoming.
    • Solicit input from the team so everyone feels heard, even if they don’t get their preference.
    • Remember that it’s not really about your own preferences, either. Even though they are, of course, perfectly right.
Reactive, um, ReActions

If it blows up in your face, it will be at the last minute.

Deep breath.

Remember, you’re dealing with fear: Don’t add your own to the mix. Drawing on the gaming work you did, respond calmly even if people are being insanely insistent. Give them the facts about timelines and performance consequences in other areas.

And then? Comply if you must. Not everything is a hill to die for.