Time hacks to win more proposals

Successful proposals show quality thinking, not just quality writing. So where should you be spending your time if you want to win a proposal?

That's a good question, when time is the one thing we have precious little of.

The fourth General Social Survey of Australians, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found that Australia is below average in work-life balance compared with other OECD countries. An alarming 45% of women and 36% of men reported feeling “always” or “often” rushed, or pressed for time, compared with just over 20% who reported feeling pretty chilled.

If you’re a busy professional, you’re probably among this growing majority.

And unless proposal writing is your full-time job, it is discretionary work you are expected to fit in around other tasks. This is not easy, when many of us spent our official working hours in unproductive meetings. A US study found that most employees spend at least 37% of their time in meetings, and that the more meetings you go to, the more exhausted you’ll feel and the higher you will perceive your workload to be.

Because we are under pressure during the day, proposal writing ends up becoming something we do after hours (a “five-to-nine job”). This isn't good news when we want to win.

Successful proposals need strategic thinking. Unfortunately, because we are pressed for time, most of us spend too little time on thinking, and instead jump straight into writing. As a result, we end up doing a lot of re-writing, when the proposal doesn't match the expectations that the boss had in their head (but often, failed to tell us about).

This model shows how to divide your time if you want your proposal to be successful. Spend more time up-front exploring what the customer most wants, what you can best deliver, and what positions you most favourably against competitors. Take the time to structure your offer, think deeply about the customer’s questions, and find evidence to substantiate your claims. 

Next week, I will show you a day-by-day schedule you can use with your team, to make the most of your time within a typical four-week competitive tendering cycle.