What Would Seth Do?

It sharpens everything.

Seth is talking about doing “date-certain” work as a freelancer or as a service business, noting that it should cost more to get it “at 11AM on Tuesday” than  to get it “soon.”

Well, all proposals are date-certain work — aka drop-dead-deadline work — and that fact sure *should* sharpen everything:

  • Focusing us on what matters to the client as we design our solution
  • Reminding us to train and coach newbies so they’re productive sooner
  • Leading us to create more-reliable and, hence, faster processes to draft our response
  • Getting us to accept the “good enough” and to let go of the “perfect”

Of course, we can do that other thing instead, and just throw an unprepared team against an impossible mountain of work and hope for the best. But that actually costs more: in bids lost and in people chewed-up.

Seth would not be impressed.

Related post: The Most Important Thing in RFP Responses

Buddy & Me: We Can’t Bid on This Thing

We all know about the tension between Sales (Give the client whatever they want! Promise anything!) and Operations (Sell what we already have on the shelf. Sell what we know we can do.). In this encounter, I learned that there can be a similar disconnect between Sales and Contracts, where the former is maybe a little more inclined to hand-waving (Yeah, yeah, they don’t mean that.) and the latter is maybe a little more inclined to anticipatory hand-wringing (IT SAYS WE HAVE TO DO THIS!). Accompanied by a side of hyperventilation.

Everyone brings a useful perspective to proposals. (Well, almost everyone. There was that one guy . . . .) The trick is to give voice to the disagreements in such a way that they’re resolved well:

  • Allowing the company to make a good decision on whether to bid
  • Enabling the team to develop a winning and yet feasible-to-deliver plan if you do decide to bid

Buddy & Me: We can't bid on this thing

This Is Your Chance

Get the strategy right,
then implement small changes,
repeated with persistence and generosity.

On proposal teams, I never had the chance to determine the strategy of the pursuit: Which business lines? Which opportunities? Which partners? Which pricing strategy?

Did I always think the strategy was right? Hell, no.

But, à la Seth’s blog: Small Adjustments, I did have the chance to make the proposal process right-er by implementing small changes:

  • Designing a fail-safe protocol for handling submission mandatories while respecting the proposal manager’s prerogatives
  • Putting the schedule on a wall where we could all see it
  • Habituating executives to early briefings on the operations concept and to a risk-management focus in reviews
  • Recording outcomes of otherwise free-form meetings
  • Using a variant of the Kanban board to track progress, especially in the latter stages

And so on.

And every other team member had the same chance to implement small changes. And so do you. (I’ve got the persistence covered. Can you look after the generosity?)


You Can’t Always Git What You Want

You’re unlikely to get everything you want.
That’s a good thing,
because wants are part of what define us.
It’s entirely possible
that you’ll get most of what you need, though.

It seems a bit new-agey, no? All self-validation and positivity?

The trick is in being clear
about what you put into each category.

As usual, Seth is headed down a practical track, and here’s where this post touches down in Proposal Land.

Even with all the money in the world, a client can’t have everything they want. And no client *has* all the money in the world. So this post is for people developing RFPs, not for those responding to them, or only incidentally.

Before letting the technical customer specify everything under the sun as a requirement (or worse, as a mandatory requirement), procurement specialists should look at that lovely pile of capabilities and deliverables and features to see whether some wants have snuck into the list of needs.

It’s OK to want things. It’s even OK to ask for them in an RFP. But you’ll get a more-creative solution and a better price if you distinguish the musts from the optionals and let the suppliers figure out how to do the best they can for you, after meeting all your true, no-kidding needs.


Buddy & Me: Please Submit . . .

If you’re a proposal minion, you might want to watch for irrational reactions in yourself, as hard as that is.

If you’re a proposal manager, you might want to keep an eye out for irrational reactions in your team.

They signal overload, and they shouldn’t be ignored.

Not that I was irrational, you understand. Just in case you or those you work with ever get like that.