Expert insights for sales, operations, capture, proposal, and marketing pros.

Four Things Executives Should Know to Manage a Proposal Team

What to Know to Boost Proposal Win Rates

The crux of every executive’s job is focus. Executives are tasked with getting the most out of their resources, and the best way to do this is to prioritize objectives and hold direct reports accountable to those objectives.

As such, executives intuitively understand that every single business decision necessitates tradeoffs. Take on an additional project, and distract the team from other objectives. Allocate budget from one function, and the others will have less to work with.

With so many tradeoffs involved, it’s no wonder executives have so many well-developed processes in place to encourage focus throughout their organizations.

But when it comes to managing a proposal team, organizations rarely display the same commitment to focus. We get it. RFPs seemingly represent an easy way to capture revenue. But in reality, most RFPs require dozens of hours of labor and the active involvement of over nine team members.

Every RFP is a significant investment, and as such, the proposals function should be handled with as great a focus on prioritization as every other function in the company.

Below, we discuss the four key frameworks that help executives effectively manage a proposal team, win more revenue, qualify leads, and reduce stress across the company:

1. Understand Opportunity Cost

The average RFP response process takes over 24 hours of labor and involves over nine team members, including team members from Engineering, Sales, Marketing, Customer Success/Service, Legal, and Finance.

As a result, every RFP represents a huge diversion of company energy, resources, and focus. Of course, for a high-probability opportunity, this diversion is worth it. But for opportunities that are fixed for a competitor all along, this diversion distracts employees from their key initiatives and stymies growth.

As a leader, every decision you make will have benefits and costs. By understanding the true cost of pursuing a RFP, you can make more informed decisions that will help optimize your resources.

A handy formula for calculating whether a proposal is worth the opportunity cost is to calculate whether the expected win probability multiplied by the expected profit is greater than the proposal response cost:

Win Probability X Expected Profit > Proposal Response Cost

If the expected revenue isn’t greater than the cost of the proposal response, then pursuit represents a net loss of value. To quickly calculate the average opportunity cost of pursuit, use Patri’s Online Opportunity Cost Calculator.

2. Respect Bandwidth

In addition to labor costs, every unsuccessful RFP pursuit also represents lost productivity, as the respondents divert their attention from their key objectives toward contributing to the proposal.

Employees are most successful when they can focus on their core responsibilities. With fewer distractions, teams will produce higher-quality work at a faster rate.

This holds particularly true for the proposals team. Over 82% of proposal managers report being burnt out, and the field is notorious for its high turnover rate. And as a result of high workloads, most proposal managers focus on compliance over customization.

Helping proposals teams manage their workloads is essential to both achieving a high win rate and to retaining top proposal talent.

A proposal team gathers around a long table


3. Life Isn’t Fair and Neither are RFPs

Potential customers don’t go out to bid for a good or service in a vacuum. Most frequently, RFPs represent the end of a lengthy sales process or sales cycle, where the issuing organization has been in contact with several vendors that have helped shape their ideal solution, framing of the issue, and pricing expectations.

In fact, quite often organizations will ask preferred vendors to provide them with requirements and framing that will make it difficult for other vendors to compete. In other words, RFPs are just the tip of the selling iceberg, and if the first time you’re seeing an opportunity is when an RFP is issued, you’re probably already too late. Don’t overreact to the RFP’s issuance by trying to salvage an opportunity that is most likely already lost.

4. For Proposals, Focus Means Qualification

Executives encourage their sales reps to qualify every opportunity to avoid losing time on low-probability opportunities. In the world of proposals, qualification is just as important.

Winning proposals are customized to the customer’s specific pain points. To successfully customize proposals, proposal teams need time to craft win strategies, compile win themes, analyze the competition, and write to the specific customer.

Just like with sales teams, the key process to improve focus is qualification. To this end, every RFP should be qualified to ensure it is an intelligent investment of company resources. In the sections that follow, we’ll discuss the elements of strong qualification, the metrics that make it possible, and its benefits.

Putting It All Together

RFP responses are essential for capturing business but they can also be costly, time-intensive, and distracting. Companies prosper when they establish the right balance with their RFP strategy, pursuing the right opportunities and avoiding the wrong ones.

By understanding opportunity cost, respecting bandwidth, acknowledging RFPs are often influenced by competitors, and practicing disciplined qualification, companies can transform their proposals function from a liability into an organizational strength.

Learn how intelligent qualification for bids and proposals wins more business, reduces team tension, and increases efficiency.

Strong qualification processes are the backbone of the most effective sales processes. The same is true for the best-performing proposals functions. 

Yet too often, bid and proposals opportunities are treated differently than sales opportunities, resulting in too many greenlit proposal responses to low-probability opportunities.

Just like operating an effective sales organization, correctly identifying the right proposal opportunities to pursue is essential to running not only an efficient proposals function but to keeping the entire company focused on the work that matters most.

This eBook serves as a framework for how to think about the qualification of bids and proposals to win more business, reduce team tension, and optimize company efficiency.

Download The Executive’s Guide to Qualification to learn the following: 

  • How to think about bids and proposals
  • How to incorporate data into proposal qualification
  • The key metrics to track for proposal success
  • The benefits of intelligent qualification 
  • The best tools to optimize proposal opportunity identification and qualification

Download the eBook