Proposal production across the business development life cycle – phases 1 and 2 (Part 3 of 6)

In her previous post (Part 2 of 6), Briana Coleman, PPM.APMP outlined a typical business development (BD) life cycle with five phases:

  • Phase 1 Opportunity identification and assessment
  • Phase 2 Pursuit
  • Phase 3 Pre-proposal preparation
  • Phase 4 Proposal development
  • Phase 5 Post-submittal

In this post, she discusses the key production activities you should perform in Phases 1 and 2.

Remember, these are the activities you should be performing before you ever have a real proposal on your plate. There are two main activities that you should accomplish in this phase.

1. Document your production plan

Your production war plan is not something to be written in an afternoon and put on a shelf. It requires numerous trade-off assessments, decisions, and training of staff when it is complete.

The goal of the production plan is to ensure that you have thought through all elements of production—desktop publishing, editing, graphics, printing, and delivery—and determined how your company will accomplish each.

As you make decisions, always keep in mind this goal: eliminate single points of failure! This means that you should have a backup plan for every step in your production. For example, don’t rely on a single desktop publisher to do all proposals or a single printer. Always ask yourself, “What could go wrong with this plan,” and then develop a contingency for that potential point of failure.

So what goes into your production war plan?

Who will perform? Identify all of the positions that will have a hand in your proposal production, and ensure that you have multiple resources identified for each. Remember, even if you have a primary desktop publisher/graphic artist, etc., develop relationships with secondary resources that you can call on when you’re in a jam. People get sick, hurt, or quit—so don’t rely on one person!

Software decisions. How will desktop publishing be done? Will you use Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or something else? What about graphics? What version of software do you need? Does everyone need to have the latest version or will only the production team? How will this affect your document-sharing procedures? Consider the pros and cons of each software platform, the users and skills you have at your disposal, and your budget. Make a decision, and then ensure that your assigned resources are experts in the software—or train them until they are!

Version control and archiving. Are you going to use software like SharePoint, or are you going to use email and network folders? Develop guidelines for sharing documents, updating documents, and maintaining version control. Consider who will be ultimately responsible for maintaining a master file—is it your desktop publisher or your proposal manager? How will you ensure you incorporate changes from multiple sources without compromising version control? How will you archive old versions and name final versions? Who will be responsible for this?

Printing and assembly. This is a HUGE decision. It includes how you will print (internal versus external), what type of printers you’ll use, paper you’ll use, printer settings, how you’ll do tabs, how you’ll print covers and spines, will you print full bleed or not, labels for boxes, CD labels and how they’ll be printed, etc.

Style guides. A style guide documents your editing preferences. What standards will you follow? What are your punctuation preferences, spelling guides, etc.?

Templates and corporate branding. Discussed in detail below.

Staffing Decisions. Production roles are not mutually exclusive. Many graphic artists can also desktop publish, and many proposal managers serve as the production manager, etc. Determine how many people you need based on the size, complexity, and turnaround time of your proposals. For a 2-week task order response, don’t expect your proposal manager to have the time to do everything; for longer responses, you may be able to double dip on duties.

2. Develop company templates

Design, develop, and agree to your company templates. These templates will, of course, change with each proposal, but hopefully it will be a matter of tweaking and not developing from scratch.

When you develop templates, consider how you could tailor each to be client specific—perhaps creating placeholders for graphics or images that could be swapped in and out for each cover or a placeholder for a logo in the header or footer.

Ensure you have templates for:

  • Paragraph styles/headings
  • Headers and footers
  • Title pages
  • Covers/spines
  • Tables/charts

By developing your production plan and company templates, you will prevent your company from reinventing the wheel every time you work on a new proposal!

What key production activities do you perform before you ever have a real proposal on your plate? Send your thoughts to me at, and I’ll share your advice in upcoming posts!