How Can You Get Your Federal Proposal Team to Produce the Most Wins?

  |  March 26, 2019

Tim Birdsell —

In the last 20 years, I have worked in, led, and created proposal groups for large and small business. I’ve seen some really good practices, and some not so good. Companies that are able to establish long-term success have one thing in common – they have practices and policies that inspire and energize their proposal personnel.

Below I will discuss some of the practices I have found to be best for inspiring proposal-winning performance among group members.

Comp Time

Your proposal team is the central nervous system for your company’s growth. They are what links all the discrete functional units of your company, and teammates, together to produce winning proposals. But most importantly, they are people. They have a life outside of work, and they need rest to remain healthy. A few years ago, my company assigned me to manage four large proposals during a six-week period. We worked every weekend including Easter day. When the last proposal was delivered, I approached the boss about taking Friday off since we were in a lull. His response was to take a vacation day. I decided I would not be staying there much longer.

Financial Incentives and Other Recognition

We all have heard how important recognition is in maintaining a happy workforce. This is often over looked. Some companies have a formal policy, that on every win, a percentage, usually around 1-2% of contract profit, is distributed among the team that worked the bid. This is a huge motivator for people in a proposal group, but the other forms of recognition are just as meaningful, and last longer. I have received multiple awards from previous employers, and they sit on my desk to this day. I can’t count the number of times I have looked at them and felt energized to continue pushing ahead.


In operations, you frequently hear of promotions. Promotions are great! They provide motivation for employees, and the company wins by moving achievers to more senior positions. But promotions are all too scarce for proposal personnel. Of the proposal people I have worked with, I’m the only one to get a promotion. I know of one individual at a large company, who has been a proposal coordinator for almost 10 years. If you have a proposal coordinator on your team, you should be grooming them for a proposal manager position – and they should be aiming for that position. The promotion could even be from Proposal Manager to Senior Proposal Manager. But at some point, you have to either advance people or lose them. And companies need to provide an infrastructure that includes the guidance and training needed to move capable people up.

As I said above, these are just a few of the best practices I have seen that promote a successful proposal operation. There are others, but they all focus on the people.

Do you have other ideas for incentives? What inspires you? Share in the comments below!