Are you running a proposal sweatshop?

In the two decades I’ve been observing people in selling situations, one thing has always been particularly fascinating to me. It’s the way that we will spend ten times as much effort on a presentation that we know we will have to give in person, when compared to a written proposal or a tender response.

Proposals have become the routine, marginal and painful work that no one really wants to do.

Yet we produce a lot of them. When I speak to people about the volume of proposals they generate, most say that their business, company or division produces anywhere from five to more than 30 proposals a month.

That’s a lot of information going out into the market representing your brand, your work, and your value, and with the potential to open doors for you.

Unfortunately, because proposals are seen as paperwork, rather than as an exciting opportunity to win new business, proposal teams may feel they are working in conditions that have more in common with a sweatshop factory than a modern business. Here are just a few of them:

1.     No choice in what to produce

2.     Inescapable grind; long days turns into long weeks, months and years

3.     Constantly working extra hours to meet deadlines

4.     Disconnected from the rest of the business

5.     Under-appreciated by managers and leaders

6.     Responsibility without authority

7.     Produces output at the lowest possible cost, which is later expected to be sold at a premium price

If there is a disconnection between the conditions in which your proposals are created, and the outcomes you want them to deliver, you have got a problem.

What you get is dull, mass-produced documentation, and not the dazzling, inspirational calls to action that you really need.

A proposal is usually the first piece of work a customer will see from you. It’s the gateway to the opportunity you really want, and the chance to get in front of the customer to do your verbal pitch.

As a business leader, it’s your job to invest in your proposal effort and give it the resources, respect and reward it deserves.

If not, your brand will be damaged, your work will be devalued, and those doors you want to open will remain firmly closed.