- Get a refrigerator for the Proposal Center. The refrigerator allows the people working long hours to bring in the food and drink of their choice, and keep them cool. You don’t have to spend $900 for a fancy one; you should be able to get a decent one from a used appliance store for about $100. Failing that, the tiny new ones (about 1 cubic foot of space) are now down to under $100 at Best Buy or Costco. This is a cheap way to keep your people happy.
- If the Proposal Center isn’t near a convenient high-speed copier, get a low-volume copier and put it right in the center. You’d be surprised how much time and energy this saves when a writer needs one or two copies of a 2-page document, and can use a cheap, if somewhat slow, copier right in the Center, instead of walking down the hall, and up a flight of stairs to the nearest copy machine. Leasing a copier for the 2-month duration of the proposal effort isn’t all that expensive, and saves time and aggravation of the proposal team members.
- Have a convenient, reliable way of posting paper copies on the walls of the Proposal Center. 3M now has easel paper backed with the same sticky substance used in their Post It Notes. Using this special paper means that you can easily move from the pad to the walls, without damage to the walls. Further, you can quickly and easily shift the paper around on the walls as you develop your ideas. If you use the same space for proposals time and time again, consider a more permanent solution, such as Velcro strips, or magnets-on-metal solutions.
- Bring into the Center, and post in a prominent place, a chart of the customer’s organization, showing their names, titles, and relationships. If possible, make an estimate of the composition of the source selection team (often the Source Selection Evaluation Board, or some other similar term), either by name or at least by function. This helps the Proposal Team focus the response to meet the customer’s hopes, fears, and biases. It is an important element in answering the two most important marketing questions: "Who will make the procurement decision?“ and "What criteria will be used?“
- Ensure that Top Management shows their face or faces early and often in the Proposal Center, including at the Kick Off Meeting. These appearances, with the accompanying hands-on participation in the proposal effort, will help break down the "siege mentality“ than can develop in a proposal effort. And remember, the Number One reason for losing competitions is the lack of Top Management involvement in the process of proposal creation.
To improve your proposals, do the easy, inexpensive stuff first.