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Career Ideas: The Joy of Proposals

Ah — the joy of Proposals! We’ve all been there: from the late-night, last-minute mad dash to finalize a proposal that just magically dropped from the sky the day before it was due, to the mega-proposal that you feel you spent half your life working on, and if you don’t win, you think you really think might curl up into a ball and cry.

The fact is, we probably all have a horror story or two about a proposal effort gone bad. But I have good news: it doesn’t have to be this way! To eliminate proposal horror stories from your life, put a well-thought-out proposal process in place. Instead of taking each RFP as it comes, with all the madness that entails, a proposal process will allow you to determine which opportunities are truly worth pursuing, and exactly how to pursue them most efficiently.

Instituting a sound proposal process that has support from your senior management can make a huge difference. It can mean both spending less time chasing fruitless proposals that you’re never going to win anyway, and increasing your chances of winning those high-value, highly-vetted opportunities.

Preparing proposals is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Many variables need to be considered when deciding how to organize the proposal effort. Your proposal process should allow you take into account profitability, strategic importance, complexity and size of proposal, proposal level of effort, and resources available for each RFQs/RFP opportunity.

However, all your proposals should meet the following criteria as a baseline:

  • Written with a clear, concise message that is responsive to the client’s needs and demonstrates why your firm is the best firm to be selected for the project
  • Meets the non-negotiable deadline
  • Can be completed in tandem with billable work

As you structure your proposal process, include the following key items:

  • Define roles and responsibilities of the technical and production staff
  • Describe the organization structure that supports proposal efforts
  • Describe the key components for the content of a proposal
  • Provide a typical schedule required to meet the demands of an ideal 30-day timeframe between release of the RFQ/RFP and the submittal deadline

Creating a process like this will communicate the key expectations and responsibilities for everyone involved. It will help ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. I have no doubt that your team will quickly see value in implementing a sound proposal system. And in keeping with the theme of our series, driving this process forward for your team will show leadership potential!

Questions for Ben? He can be reached at

Benjamin Sawa


Benjamin Sawa is the Director of Marketing at GEI Consultants. He served as President of SMPS Boston in 2014-2015.

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