For the writers at Andana, the highest impact meeting to the proposal writing process is the kick-off meeting. The Kick-off meeting puts the proposal plan in place and gets the whole team on track to get the proposal started AND keep them moving.
We’ve been there. The RFP comes out, the team sets to work, ad-hoc meetings to share information, 100s of emails. The deadline gets closer – and closer. Subconsultants don’t send information. Teaming partners change at the last minute. Then the owner, division chief, marketing vice president, wants to review the proposal. It isn’t ready, so they get a draft. They. Don’t. Like. It.
It doesn’t sing.
It doesn’t tell the right story.
Something is missing.
The team switches gears, jumps back in, changes the approach, changes a consultant, adds another resume, rewrites projects, finds better pictures. Drafts are written, rewritten, redesigned. Mercifully the deadline comes and the proposal is submitted. Lesson learned – we don’t want to do THAT again.
In a previous post, we mentioned that proposals could be fun – but not when they become fire drills.
The planning step of the proposal process doesn’t have to take too much time, but it can set the foundation to create proposal that the whole team is proud of.
Once you finish the go/no-go, there is a sense that everyone is on the same page. We all know it is something we want to pursue, so the pieces should fall in to place, right?
As the proposal manager, you’ve put together the directive and checklist and outline. You know the requirements inside and out. You know the weaknesses of your team and where you need to pull in some experts. But, what does your business development team know? What do your in-house experts bring to the table? Which ones are the right past performances to use? A strong kick-off meeting will answer these questions and provide an opportunity for the team to create a clear outline of the response.
A common message we hear from clients is that their proposals don’t have a clear theme. They don’t adequately tell the firm’s story. Or they do, but only in the cover letter. The kick off meeting is THE time to set the proposal strategy. Identify key issues the client is trying to solve with the RFP – read between the lines, review reports and feedback from your business developers and capture managers, research previous contracts that are similar. Then, clearly and concisely provide your firm’s solution to the client’s problems. Perform a quick SWOT analysis of your firm, and do the same for the competitors you know of. Understanding your firm’s strengths and weaknesses versus your competition’s will help your team pull in needed consultants, or write stronger work plans and technical approaches that underscore your strengths (and subtly reference the weakness of other firms). Finally, you want discuss stakeholders and evaluation committee members. Who do we know? Do they know us? (and what do they think?) What do they know about our competition? This is the audience you are writing your proposal to – if you are writing to a CFO, CIO, a facilities manager, and a board member from outside the industry, you want to make sure the proposal response speaks to each of their pain points and is clearly understood by each stakeholder. This strategic conversation must be part of the team discussion at the kick off meeting. It will be used to guide your subject matter experts as they write the technical approach, to guide your marketers as they align projects and resumes to the requirements, and guide your review team at the end to make sure you’ve hit the key win themes that differentiate your firm and make your response stand out.
The next reason for a kick off meeting is to review the proposal outline, evaluation criteria, production schedule, key review milestones, and assign roles and responsibilities to team members. This critical piece of the meeting will open dialogue with everyone to make sure they can meet the deadlines, have availability to work on the proposal, and understand all of the moving parts. Identifying the qualifications (resumes, past performance, etc.) the firm will put forward, and what is needed from consultants, is also a key element of this meeting. You should leave the meeting with a draft organizational chart, a list of data call items to collect from your consultants, and a clear understanding of which past performances you want to include. It is possible the RFP requires only 3 and you have 7 to select from, get those 7 on paper and then cross walk them against the evaluation criteria and RFP requirements to narrow down your best. This evaluation can be done for personnel as well, and can be done after the kick off meeting. But know who is making the matrix and who is evaluating for the final selection.
For us, the kick off meeting is a chance to energize the team. Few people see proposals as something to get excited about. But a kick off meeting that creates a clear strategy and gets the team excited by writing out clear win themes can build momentum to focus on the response.