Start fast to finish first

Last week we talked about thinking more, and writing less, to win more proposals. This week, I’m going to show you exactly how to plan your schedule so you will have the time you need to think, and to plan your proposal, even when you are stretched with other priorities.

A typical competitive tender schedule (the time from when the tender is released, to when it’s due) is four weeks. This goes by faster than you'd think.

Parkinson’s law says that “work expands to fill the time available to complete it.” If you think that all you need to do is write the proposal, four weeks probably sounds like a generous amount of time.  Add strategy, content and evidence planning into the mix, though – the things you’ll need to do to be convincing, compelling and emerge as the clear winner – and it suddenly doesn’t sound like such an easy run after all.

It’s pretty common to see people “sit” on tender requests for days, or weeks, while they are deciding whether or not it’s worth going for, waiting for feedback from others, or just working on other things.

Unfortunately, time lost at the start of the bid schedule has a compounding, negative effect on your chances of winning. Lose a week, and your strategy will suffer. Lose two weeks, and you will also miss key pieces of evidence to support your claims and maximise your evaluation score.

When you’re leading a proposal, aim to spend most of your time on strategy and planning. This minimises the time you will need to write, review and polish.

Here’s how to spend each day in those four weeks to give yourself the best chance of success:

Week 1 – Circulate the briefing to your team as soon as it is released. Give them a day to read it. Then run your strategy session. Once you have your bid strategy and Purchaser Value Topics ready, write a draft of your Executive Summary. Get agreement in principle to the strategy and key messages.

Week 2 – with your bid strategy and Purchaser Value Topics agreed, now you can get stuck into planning your response. Analyse the tender questions; really pull them apart. Figure out what they are really asking for. What is the buyer’s motivation for asking? Is there a question behind the question? What do they want to expect to hear? Plan evidence to substantiate all your claims. Circulate your content plan with instructions to any other writers.

Week 3 – gather all your content and start shaping it into a proposal. Circulate the first draft for comment and review.

Week 4 – Make final changes, format the proposal and get internal sign-off.  Submit it at least one day before the customer’s deadline.