Building and Leading Successful Proposal Teams

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Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, CF.APMP. OST Global Solutions, Inc.. …Because There is No Second. Place in Proposals™. About the Presenter. Olessia . Smotrova-Taylor, CF.APMP President/CEO and Federal Proposals/BD/Capture SME. ID: 706780 Download Presentation

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Building and Leading Successful Proposal Teams

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Building and Leading Successful Proposal Teams

Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, CF.APMP

OST Global Solutions, Inc.

…Because There is No Second

Place in Proposals™


About the Presenter

Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, CF.APMP President/CEO and Federal Proposals/BD/Capture SMEWon $19 billion in new business

President of APMP-NCA 19 years’ BD experience, including 4 out of top 5 government contractorsAuthor of How to Get Government Contracts: Have a Slice of a $1 Trillion Pie  


Proposal Development Process: Let’s Understand the Context

Our goal is to be fully compliant and to give the customer compelling reasons

why you should win, because there is no second place in proposals!

Integration Phase

Planning Phase

Read RFP

Make Bid-No-Bid Decision

Prepare for Kick-Off

Conduct Kick-Off to Reach 9 Goals

Annotated Outline


Work Packages

Compliance Checklist

Style Guide

Background Materials


Brainstorm & Research

Develop Work Packages

Prepare Draft


In-Process Review(s)

Conduct Pink Team

In-Process Review(s)

Prepare Draft


Prepare Draft


Conduct Red Team

Pink Team Recovery

Outline Frozen

DTP, Edit

Red Team Recovery

Decision to proceed

Prepare Final Draft

DTP, Edit

Writing Phase

Polishing Phase


Conduct Gold Team


Check, Deliver



Implement Post-Delivery Win Strategy, Orals, FPR

Collect Lessons Learned

Attend Debrief

Update Lessons Learned





Proposal Management and Leadership

There is much more to proposal team leadership and management than kicking off the proposal, issuing a schedule, and running status meetingsEnforcing the deadlines is not a one-dimensional whip-cracking jobFailing to deal with people where they are and figuring out their individual issues may lead to failure to deliverLack of training/skillsLack of management support

Limited timeNo motivation or incentivesTreat adults with respect, but need to provide extra aids for better retention and understandingProposal managers who relegate themselves to “cracking the whip” and treating professionals like petulant children my disenfranchise the team; Proper team building and leadership are fundamentally important to proposal success.


Kickoff is the Most Important Part of the Proposal Nine Kickoff Goals

Recap of 9 Kickoff Goals:Build a Team Set the Right Tone

Manage ExpectationsObtain Management Buy-InCommunicate Proposal Roadmap and PlanIntegrate and Issue Proposal Assignments

Educate Your Team About the OpportunityTrain Your Team to Develop Great Text and GraphicsGet the Ball Rolling


Team Building Principles

Articulate a vision: Energize the team through ambitious and exciting vision of beating the competition, to engender passion which fuels creativity, hard work, and heroicsSet goals: To prevent overwhelm, explain how they can tackle work through smaller goals – concrete and manageable (use JIT Training and coaching)

Encourage constructive debate: Don’t succumb to groupthink and censoring of dissent – some task-focused conflict is constructive – if the team fails to debate, play devil's advocate Encourage initiative: Whenever any member of the team takes the initiative to direct work activities, give them credit for initiative, and encourage it while ensuring their direction are in

line with the process You have to serve as the team’s catalyst for better performance


Losing Credibility with Your Team

Poor integrity: not keeping promises and confidential informationLack of confidence in expressing direction: being dogmatic instead of self-assured; being closed to discussion; being gullibleLack of positive and optimistic encouragement: not complimenting team members' achievements; not offering encouragement and assistance when performance is low; forgetting to express optimism that “we will win”

Not finding and using common ground: forgetting to focus on points of agreement when trying to influence othersFailing to manage disagreement: making rash decisions instead of presenting both sides of an argument when members disagree with the conclusionForgetting to coach: being the enforcer instead of showing the way and providing advice Not appreciating team members' perspectives: not checking if they agree with decisions, the obstacles they encounter, the dissatisfactions they experience, their needs and the interpersonal problems they may

experienceNot disseminating information: not sharing key information that only you can get

Building and maintaining credibility is key to proposal leadership


Stay Plugged into the Proposal Battle Rhythm

Talking is easiest when collocatedWater cooler talk and hallway conversations remove the need to turn conversation into an errand that can be postponedIn a virtual proposal – use the chat moduleDon’t always start with section status – ask about personal issues as well – but don’t get stuck thereIdentify those who struggle but don’t admit itCheck on issues, requests, resources needed, trouble areas, and so on

Stay plugged in with digests and email copies – it takes seconds to review instead of longer time running down the status

Stay aware of what is going on through walking or calling around, and getting the digests of who posts what, and how the items are sent via email



a TeamStep into a role of a leader: provide direction, structure activities, share information, encourage participation, promote positive relationships, and support and encourage membersAnnounce competition and prizes

for:Turning in high-quality section the earliestConceptualizing the most impactful and customer-centric graphicGoing beyond the call of dutyUse humor to set a positive atmosphereUse team building meals or games

Mandatory attendance in person, introductions, fun facts, food, and proper contact information are key; but you can go beyond that

Example: You could give thumbs up to people at stands up by using a photo of yourself


Methods of

Effective Communication with the Proposal TeamEnsure that you communicate the same message at least six times, in six different ways to ensure it sticksStatus and other meetings (verbal)Agenda and notes (written attachments)Wall or whiteboard (announcement)Proposal collaboration workspace bulletin board (announcement)

Email reminder (written)Conversation in person or by phoneIf you said something once – count on most not following your directionsDon’t count on anyone reading anything just because it’s been provided

Count on people not doing what they are supposed to do – and compensate for the general lack of diligence; you may be occasionally surprised by those who follow directions the first time


Promote Proposal Team Cohesiveness

Subdivide groups larger than 12 into smaller teams (by volume or major section)Promote the perception being part of your proposal team is an honor – to make people feel special through describing the toughness of the task and the sacrifice they are willingly making

Physically isolate the team in a war room if proposal is not virtual to promote intra-team interaction Give specific groups assignment in a form of a challenge requiring cooperation for success – to get team to pull together and rely on each otherRemind of the competition to

emphasize the team's identity and the members' interdependence Reward the team, less so the individual members, to highlight interdependence and reinforce cooperationFocus on the team's successes – success engenders cohesiveness

Small and mid-size proposal teams are naturally easier to manage; it gets trickier with large proposals; remember that most teams are not cohesive and really are committees – which are at their worst when unmanaged and unruly


Additional Team-Related Tasks for Proposal Manager

Facilitate TasksProvide process and how-to for the tasks assigned (through JIT Training)Fetch and disseminate information, get answers to team’s questionsDirect efforts back to the

taskReview work and provide feedbackMonitor performance and replace non-performersTrack progress against scheduleEnforce the process and proceduresBuild RelationshipsMediate conflictsRelieve tension with humor or other

diversions Challenge inappropriate interpersonal exchanges Empathize with proposal team membersExude enthusiasm and encourage others


Recognize and Deal with Proposal Personalities

People who are already juggling one or two full time jobs and now are assigned to support your proposalThe Murphy’s Law of proposals states that your full time people will be no good, and your good people will be in high demand already, because they are so goodTeam members, subcontractors, and vendors who possess the subject matter expertise, but are unavailable or unresponsive in one way or

another Will send you either cut-and-paste stuff or other unusable information; if they can get away with it, they often won’t respond on timeRemote SMEs with full time day jobs at a customer’s site They

often don’t have the time to keep up with proposal developments or status meetings or to participate in any daytime proposal activities, but you have to rely on their good graces on nights and weekends, when they don’t get paidEach type of the proposal team member requires an individualized approach to get the best results


More Challenging Personalities

Talented individual performers who are unproductive or uncomfortable in a collaborative settingLike to drag their section(s) away into a quiet space and disappear until they feel inspiration; Won’t share their work until they are finished with it; They give you reassurances that they are working hard and that you have to trust them to produce a high quality finished

productBusy executives who assign themselves an important section but underestimate the work it takesGet overwhelmed with their actual jobs or pop-up management emergencies they have to address; may occasionally surprise you, they usually produce a piece that comes in too late or is substandard writing they did in a hurry

Talented rebels who feel that the whole proposal process is an artificial, cumbersome, and unnecessary impositionWould rather you let them write; they abhor reviews and passive-aggressively sabotage everything they disagree withPrima-donnas who always know better and secretly believe that this whole proposal stuff, with you included, are way below their levels of



And More Personalities to Keep You On Your Toes

People who worked with other proposal managers or managed proposals themselves, who use a different method to which they are marriedSecond-guess you or your process, and wonder whether you know what you are doing if you are doing it differently; May undermine and challenge you People who are brand new to the

company; assigned to proposal because the company has not yet won a new project where they can charge directlyDon’t have the background in developing this company’s solutions, have never read old proposals, don’t know the company’s capabilities, have not done proposals ever, and do not feel empowered to make key

decisionsPeople who are smart and are experts on the subject but believe they cannot write, or actually cannot writeBoth types need to be identified correctly and need a lot of handholding, inspiring, training, and/or pairing with others


And More…

Employees whose entire goal in life is to get the most for doing the least. They can talk a good game, but they never have what they promisedThe work is always in progress, there is always a great status report, until you see that they actually recycled text from other proposals and threw their sections together at the last

minuteYour management people who think you should spend nearly nothing to win everything, since it is a slam dunk anyway, or since they simply do not have the budgetUsually underestimate how hard it is going to be, or how much you have to do; may understand that you do not have anyone assigned to half the sections, but hope that somehow you will manage like you always haveLong-suffering

, overworked, all-knowing, and highly competent production department managers who are perpetually angry at you for getting stuck on the receiving end of your missed deadlinesThey are masters of the impossible; if you keep them constantly annoyed with you, they may one day teach you a lesson, which is never pleasant


Culling Disruptive Meeting Behaviors





Rambling on



xcessive talk







Resolving Conflict

Present and clarify the issueFocus on the issue, not the person – call the behaviorRestate what you heard – allow the other party to confirm or correctDefer to the group for feedbackSummarize the conversationDetermine how to move forward


How To Work Effectively With Remote Participants

Ensure that people you know are capable remote workers – and identify those who will require extra management and accountabilityHave extra check-ins set up – track activity with digests and chat presence detectionAvoid “uneven meetings” – where some are in the war room while others are virtual – make everyone virtual to get on an even footingEnforce at least daily posting of sections on the

portal, check-in and check-out functionsOver-communicateUse chat and video to replace hallway talkMaster GoToMeeting/Webex-type toolsUse tablet for white-boarding (Wacom etc.); mark up graphics in PowerPoint

More and more proposals go virtual – you can benefit from longer work hours, greater flexibility, lower costs, and around-the-clock productivity by compensating for natural problems


About OST Global Solutions


Metro Washington DC proposal house and government contractor helping businesses grow organically through

end-to-end BD support and training.


900+ fully vetted professionals

, including capture/proposal managers, writers/editors, graphic artists, orals coaches, subject

matter experts, and




& Proposal Academy

with a certification program and

16 courses

attended by the top Federal



Proven track




18 out of the top 20 Federal Contractors


winning over

$19 Billion since



Contact Us for Business Development Training and Consulting Support

David Huff

BD and Operations Manager


513.316.0993o: 301.769.6602











Resources for proposal development:

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