The league ladder of proposal engagement

It's fascinating to watch what really happens inside an organisation when there is an important bid, tender or proposal on the table.

Most now have some kind of specialist proposal team or proposal resources in-house. However, to do their job effectively, they need input from other people – such as operational leaders, commercial specialists, and technical subject matter experts – to provide insight, help build the win strategy and customer solution, and develop content.

When you really need them, where are these other people? Who is putting their hand up willingly to work on the proposal? Who isn’t, but should be? Who is being dragged along, kicking and screaming?

What pattern of behaviour is emerging for each person? 

Once you are attuned to this, you will start to see a kind of ‘league ladder’ emerge, based on the level of contribution each person is actually making to your proposal effort.

The discretionary effort they are willing to give has a direct impact on your chances of success, from highly positive to hugely detrimental:

proposal engagement value ladder_2.png


At the very bottom are those who are actually sabotaging your proposals: the refuseniks.

Refuseniks may have valuable knowledge, but they refuse to share it. They don't come to meetings, or respond to requests for information, and their disengagement is a burden on everyone around them. They are like a dead weight, slowly drowning your chances of success.

Also dragging your proposal effort down are those who are always resisting getting involved. There are two types of resistors:

  • Complainers, who can usually to be found saying how much work they have to do and that they don't have time to work on proposals.
  • Procrastinators, who don’t do or contribute much either, at least not until the very last minute. What procrastinators will give you is very sketchy and probably not at all what you asked for.

Then there are the contributors, although they are definitely not created equal:      

  • Cut and pasters are the lowest form of contributor. They look like they're going to contribute good material to your proposal, and they certainly say that they will, but what you receive instead is a great slab of stuff that’s been copied and pasted from somewhere else without any original input.
  • Creators are much better. They’re enthusiastic. They say they want to contribute, and they actually do. Creators are the people who are most likely to bring some of their own thinking to the proposal, and to contribute original material that is helpful.

Finally, there are the drivers – the people who are really going to help your proposal effort to succeed.

  • Collaborators are a clear step above creators. They know they need to work with others to get the best outcome, so they will voluntarily pull others in, go off and have their own team meetings, and drive the development of content that has the best of their own thinking as well as other people’s.
  • Champions are rare, but hugely valuable. These are the people who really drive the proposal, even when it isn’t necessarily their job to do so. Champions think strategically, contribute strategic content, and do everything they can to deliver success.

So, what does this league ladder look like in your organisation? If you named every member of your team or business, where would they sit?

And how many people do you have above the line, and how many below it?