7 Stages of a Business Proposal Life Cycle

Are you aware of the life cycle of a proposal? No proposal is truly new territory – there are established best that will help you make it happen.  The life of a proposal actually starts well before it is actually submitted. And, the cycle does not end with the acceptance of the proposal.

When you have a clear understanding of all the stages of the proposal you can visualize big picture and take necessary action right on the spot and not miss a single opportunity.

Let’s take a closer look at the big picture of the proposal life cycle.

Business proposal lifecycle

1. Pre Proposal (Pre RFP)

You might be surprised to know that your business actually needs to operate in a state of readiness at all times. That’s right – ready for your next proposal, that is. Before you can ever execute a successful proposal, you need to have established practices in place and ready to go when the opportunity comes. In fact, you’ve even got to have a plan in place to identify proposal opportunities!

When a proposal chance does arrive, you’ll need to have not only a plan, but a team in place to handle it. This all falls under the broad headline of pre-planning.

Here’s a look at some of the roles that must be in place before the proposal creation can ever begin. You might not have all the people in house, but these roles will help you to understand what skills are required at each stage of the business proposal creation:

  • Capture Manager – has top-level oversight of the proposal effort
  • Proposal Manager – oversees the day-to-day development of the proposal
  • Proposal Coordinator –administers all proposal procedures and creates reports
  • Researchers /analysts – gather and relay pertinent information about internal and external factors
  • Writers – create the actual content of the proposal
  • Review Leader – evaluates the progress and eventual success of a given proposal

Assuming you have all of those positions filled within your organization, and everyone knows the role they should be doing, you can safely say that you’re ready to receive a proposal opportunity – and to make the most of it.

2. RFP/Opportunity

The first exciting phase of the proposal life cycle is the moment when your organization is presented with the opportunity to submit a proposal. This is often in the form of an RFP, but it may also come through more informal channels. Either way, this is the time to seize the moment!

Of course, you’ll want to go ahead and capitalize upon the initial wave of excitement permeating throughout your organization when a new RFP comes into the picture. Within a few days of receiving the opportunity, you should rally the whole team listed above for a meeting. You’ll want to use this meeting to present the RFP/opportunity to your team and layout some initial objectives to get the ball rolling on creating the proposal.

3. Pre-Writing

Using the initial momentum carried over from the RFP initiation, you should begin right away to conceptualize the proposal. This means outlining, plotting, and annotating everything. This will help you guide the proposal as it is developed, as well as to evolve it along the way. You can always revisit your original plans along the way to see if, by some chance, your proposal has derailed somewhere along the way.

  • Drafting

The next phase will be creating an initial draft of the proposal. Using your pre-writing as a guide, and your researchers and writers expertise, you’ll begin crafting the final proposal. This is by far the longest part of the whole process, and the most detailed. Every word has to be right, and the message has to be clear.

  • Review

Once you have a draft of the proposal, it needs to be thoroughly vetted and evaluated by managers across your organization. This is sometimes called “Red Team Review,” which basically means that managers who are not involved in the actual proposal process, pooled from elsewhere in the organization, are asked to read and critique the proposal. This should be executed about half way through the anticipated deadline for delivery, to allow as much time as possible for changes to be made as a result of the review.

  • Recovery

This is the time for the proposal team to heed the recommendations of the Red Team review. Most of the time, this is a relatively short process, but at other times, it can be a more involved process that will require additional time. Just be careful not to miss the proposal acceptance window, or your efforts will be negated!

  • Finalizing

Once the recovery is completed, the final proposal should be solidified and approved by management. This may be a structured process of approving each section in turn, or it may be a single exercise of approving the whole document. In either case, this part of the process should go by fastest of all, assuming all other parts in the process have been effectively executed.

4. Submission

The biggest step of all is the one that puts everyone on pins-and-needles. It’s best not to wait until the last possible minute to submit your proposal, whether it is submitted via parcel, or electronically. You’ll want to allow a little time for it to arrive, and to allow you time to overcome any technical or logistical glitches in the delivery.

5. Award

The award is the next most exciting event in the proposal life cycle. You should have a plan in place for the proposal’s acceptance, and for transitioning to the appropriate team members who will see the proposal through to completion. This will vary among organizations and proposals, but it’s an import step nonetheless.

6. Progress Management

Even if the actions of executing the proposal have been handed off to another team, it is still up to the proposal team to make sure what they have promised is delivered. This is done by working with the teams executing the proposal to create regular, detailed reports on the progress of the proposed actions. Progress is reported internally and externally, and always transparently.

7. Follow Up

At the end of the process, you’ll want to check back with the external company and make sure all proposed actions were completed sufficiently. This is a great time to get engagement from them, and ideally, to solidify the relationship of your two organizations in such a way that it can facilitate future business opportunities.

How does your proposal process look like?


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