Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  |  July 1, 2011


In November 2010, I spoke to the PMIWDC dinner on why they and Proposal Managers, Capture Managers and Proposals writers should work as a unified team to “Bring Home the Bacon” of a winning bid. The reaction was quite surprising. I received several emails, calls, and personal comments urging me to “keep hammering away” on the theme of collaboration. I found a frustration on the part of many PMs that they are not consulted sufficiently when proposals are being written, and are often presented with the fait accompli of a detailed, multi-page proposal which they must convert in limited time to a 60 minute oral presentation. Can you blame them for being frustrated?

One PM claimed his company, an incumbent, lost “a recompete that was thought to be a slam dunk” because the Proposal Professionals, despite repeated requests from the PM, would not leave their “lovely campus in the suburbs of Washington” to come to the work site to see the challenges on the ground and amend  the proposal being written. Coordination was by email and conference call, and “critical errors crept into the proposal,” errors he is confident could have been avoided by a closer partnership between the writers and the people on the work site. The result was that the “slam dunk” became an air ball, the company lost the contract worth millions, and many were left unemployed.  This PM blamed the loss squarely on the failure of the Proposal Professionals to work closely with the PM and those on the work site. (As a courtesy, I showed him this article, and his response was “Keep up the good work.”)

I offer the following ten steps which I hope can be a useful guide to integrate the efforts of you who write and those who present, so the result is a contract-winning synergy that “Brings Home the Bacon.”

1. Proposal Professionals and PMs/Orals Team Leaders Should Collaborate From Pre-Release of RFP Onward.
The PM, giving technical advice, may be able to shape the customer’s RFP so it coincides with your company’s sweet spot. Moreover, the customer can determine they want to work with this PM.
2. Technical experts of the Orals team should participate in the initial drafting of the proposal. This enables their technical expertise to be applied early, and allows them to extract the “nuggets” of the written proposal.
3. Once the theme of the proposal has been decided upon, these technical experts should initiate first draft of the oral presentation, maintaining continual contact with the writers.
4. Include the Project manager/Lead presenter and other members of the orals team in Red team and other proposal reviews so they can  integrate results into the oral presentation.
5. Bring in an Orals Coach.
6. Conduct initial “Murder Board” simulated oral presentation, with the orals coach providing advice and Proposal Professionals playing the role of the evaluators.
7. Subsequent Murder Boards.
8. Conduct Separate Q &A Murder Boards.
9. The orals team sallies forth to “Bring Home the Bacon”.
10. The orals team, if possible in conjunction with the Proposal Professionals, should conduct an immediate “Post-Orals Analysis”.
I hope these suggestions will help Proposal Professionals and PMs/Orals teams see that their respective efforts are not ends in themselves but instead interdependent means to achieve the end of winning the contract, especially as the oral presentation can often be the deciding factor when the competing proposals are virtually identical in solving the customer’s RFP-expressed problem. Proposal Professionals can protect their investment of time and intellectual creativity best by working hand-in-glove with the PM and the orals team, not treating them like distant cousins.

The “family” that plays together, wins together.


Larry Tracy, author of The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations, available on, has been cited  in various publications, including The Information Please Business Almanac and Sourcebook, as one of the top presentation skills trainers/coaches in the country. A retired Army colonel, he formerly headed the Pentagon’s top briefing team, responsible for daily intelligence briefings to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). He supervised more than 500 of these multi-media presentations, and personally briefed the CJCS almost 100 times.  He was later detailed by the White House to the State Department to debate controversial foreign policy  issues to hundreds of demanding, often hostile audiences,  leading  President Ronald Reagan to describe him as “An extraordinarily effective speaker.”



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