How to bring a proposal team to a single POV? Ask the Proposal Doctor

Dear Proposal Doctor,

As a newly-accredited APMP member (Foundation Level), I appreciate the importance of making everything customer-focused. That is a big part of the curriculum. I get that. Here is the problem: our RFP has been out for several weeks, and everyone on my team has a different idea of who the customer really is and what they really want.

This divergence of opinion is making it very hard to come to closure on important parts of our solution that should have been decided a long time ago. Some people on the proposal team are senior, with a lot of expertise and many years of experience. Others are more junior, but in closer contact with people likely to be influential in the final decision. The discussions go in circles with no clear conclusion or resolution. At this rate, not only will we never get done, we will never get started!

As the proposal manager, how can I bring everyone around to a single point of view so that we can get on with it?

Swirling in Discord

Dear Swirling,

I love your question because some version of this comes up on almost every capture. And, it directly affects the proposal effort.

You already know that there is no simple answer as to who is right. But, there is a simple answer to how you should resolve this situation, and it is definitely not to try to bring everyone around to the same point of view. A proposal is not a democracy, and it is not run by consensus.

Of course, if you can document who is likely to be on the selection board, the profile of those individuals should influence the discussion, but even when individuals have been identified, opinions about them could vary (from your description, it sounds like they will).

This is a time for leadership, and in my experience, it is the capture manager or the senior executive from the business unit who has to make the tough call and decide which customer you should pitch to. That is one of the things leaders get paid to do: exercise judgment.

Once the decision is made, then it is also the responsibility of the leader to make sure that everyone salutes. You’ve heard the expression, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” I appreciate the need to get buy-in during the capture phase, but once the clock is ticking it comes at too high a price.

As the proposal manager, it is your responsibility to escalate this to the person who can make the tough call and insist that it get made. Soon.

All the best,

Wendy Frieman, The Proposal Doctor

author avatar
Lohfeld Consulting