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All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

For Pete’s sake, a late proposal is like a woman “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” Voilà – two clichés in one sentence.

It’s 2:58! Whew, you made it! Another one signed, sealed, delivered! Two minutes to spare until the 3:00 pm deadline passes – high fives all around. Although you made the deadline, just-in-time (JIT), delivery should not be condoned.

Waiting until the last minute to turn in a proposal has proven to be detrimental. What can go wrong on the way to deliver a proposal that you have spent weeks preparing? I’m sure you have your own stories, but here are a few scenarios I have encountered: heavy traffic, snarly auto accidents, everyone’s favorite car problems, torrential monsoons, blinding haboobs, fierce flooding and of course there’s also running out of time. Super Bowls, concerts, large gatherings, police actions, sporting events, Spring Training – and the list goes on.

Since the beginning of my career, proposal delivery has been forethought and planned out in the beginning of the pursuit. I’ve been in the practice of being over prepared.

Here are a few examples from throughout my career, where my team and I have taken extreme measures to ensure a smooth and timely delivery.

Our Phoenix team members co-located with a designer in Albuquerque for a large design-build pursuit. The proposal team worked long hours and had many components of the price and proposal to prepare. Management did not want to burden the team with the stress of driving the large submittal package two hours away to Santa Fe to turn in. Instead, we had two team members drive the proposal to Santa Fe, in separate cars, just in case one broke down. They called to check in a few times along the way and it was delivered four hours early. 

Take away: Be over prepared, failure to deliver is not acceptable.

I made a deal with a new, young colleague that if they turned in a proposal to the City of Kingman using the company car, they could stay over in Laughlin and use the company car over the weekend. I asked her to call me when she left and to check in along the way for peace of mind. We discussed what time she was to leave so she could turn the proposal in hours early but she never called to tell me she was on her way. I called her company cell phone and personal phone numerous times over several hours and was not able to get ahold of her. As the proposal team assessed the situation, we decided to reprint the proposal and travel the opposite way in case there was an issue on the highway. Both drivers got to the City of Kingman at roughly the same time. The new employee was so shocked to learn that we reprinted the proposal and traveled using an alternate route. She had no idea how important communication and timely delivery of a proposal was.

Take away: Communication is KEY!

My favorite and most embarrassing story – While living in Hawaii, my plan was to fly to Honolulu, spend the night and turn in the proposal in the morning. I decided not to go over the night before and canceled my flight, hotel and rental car. Getting last minute accommodations is usually not a problem, except for that week. It was approaching ProBowl weekend and every flight, hotel and rental car was booked. A coworker, who scheduled travel, noticed that I had canceled and she figured I wasn’t aware of the busy weekend and limited resources. She was able to get me a flight due to her family connection at the airlines. I took the proposal in a medium-sized box and placed it under the seat in front of me as the overhead bins were already full. The flight attendant told me I would have to put the box below board as it was oversized and not within regulations to be under the seat. I explained to her how important this box was and that I couldn’t take the chance that it might get lost or damaged. She wasn’t having any of my argument. My eyes welled up with tears, I placed a label on the box with contact information. When she saw my label she said, “oh, my Aunty works there, we can put that box in the juice closet right here.” Thank goodness for Ohana (family). When I got to Honolulu every car was rented. Back in the day, not all cabs took credit, so I had to wait for one that took a credit card. The proposal was turned in two hours before the deadline. I dodged a bullet on that one.

Take away: Stick to the plan and learn from your mistakes.

Every day is a school day! Although we are out of school, we never stop learning. Learning from your mistakes is some of the best medicine we can take. Here’s a list to help you get your proposal delivered smoothly:

  • Start with the end in mind. What do you want your delivery to look like? Build your schedule to reflect it
  • Have a plan B & C
  • Be over-prepared and assign someone to deliver the proposal
  • Set a ‘pencils down’ date for authors/content. Give marketing time to take over and prepare the proposal for delivery
  • Get all the last minute stuff done first - labels, tabs, forms and find the delivery route
  • Be finished a day ahead of time. You have 70% of the proposal material in your knowledge database
  • Always be prepared. Bring supplies (tape, envelopes, scissors, cash, extra labels) so you can be nimble in the field

Your team is only as strong as the weakest link – don’t be the weak link. Get that winning proposal in. All dressed up and nowhere to go – a late proposal doesn’t win the work, period.

Oh, by the way, never use clichés in your proposals! Never! That will be my next blog post. Keep it Simple Silly (KISS)… oh gosh, I can’t help myself with these clichés.

What are some instances where you can relate to our writer's personal stories? We would love to hear other lessons learned when it comes to delivering a proposal you worked so hard to complete! 


Guest Blogger 

A special thank you to our guest blogger who wrote this great blog post while participating in the 2016 SMPS Mentor-Protégé Program. We appreciate Maisha Hagan's support of the chapter blog and encourage more mentors and protégés to guest write for our blog. Please reach out to Ashley Black if you have the desire to write freely and creatively! 



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