Building your proposal muscle

Getting better at proposals is like building muscle. It takes time, it takes practice, and it takes effort.

When I teach people new ways to develop proposal strategy, answer buyer questions, substantiate claims with evidence, write persuasively, or target their effort where it will help them to win, some ‘get it’ immediately; some take a little longer; and some may struggle without extra help.

If you have ever attended an inspiring training program, been super-motivated to do things better – and then ended up back in ‘business as usual’ – there is a reason for that.

The 70/20/10 model of learning & development was first developed by Morgan McCall and the Centre for Creative Leadership in the 1980s. It suggests that:

  • 70% of learning is experiential, occurring through daily tasks, challenges and practice;
  • 20% of learning is social, occurring with and through other people, like mentors, managers and co-workers; and
  • Only 10% of learning is formal, occurring through structured training courses and programs.

The 70/20/10 model acknowledges that while learning comes from many sources, experience is still the best teacher, and the most effective learning comes from doing –not simply knowing what to do.

However, formal learning remains dominant in most organisations. It’s easy to budget for workshop-based training. Workshops don’t take people away from their day job for too long.

And there is also the potential for workshops to deliver a lot of information, coupled with a boost to motivation, which builds new skills in a very short space of time.

Here are five ways to build your proposal muscle after attending proposal training.

  1. Revisit your learning. Pull out your workbooks, slides and notes from the session. Repeat the exercises. Re-read the examples, paying particular attention to the framework (not just the content).
  2. Implement useful tools, templates and processes. My proposal training programs offer new ways to organise your workflow, and methodologies that get better results in less time. Revisit these, choose which ones will work best for your business - and use them.
  3. Share what you learned with colleagues. One of the best ways to learn is to teach.
  4. Set yourself experiential challenges. Which proposal skills do you most want to improve? Make a list in priority order, and challenge yourself to work on one new skill a week.
  5. Find a mentor. A mentor is someone who has walked the path before, and can accelerate your success by busting problems, sharing tips and tricks, and offering a sounding board for your ideas.  This could be someone in your business, or an external proposals coach like me.