You've assembled an all-star team of SMEs, writers, editors and proposal managers to start work on your latest proposal effort. Your confidence is running high as you head into your kickoff meeting where you'll craft the strategy, win themes and discriminators that will define your proposal. The time for the kickoff arrives, and your team members are settled into their seats, except you've forgotten to invite one of the key participants who will play a vital role in developing the final product – the graphic artist.
Here you are at perhaps the most critical moment of the proposal development process – the one that establishes the grand design of your approach – and you've left out one of your team members. Perhaps it was an oversight, or maybe you just see your graphics person as a button pusher whose job it is to click their mouse, play with colors and generally make your graphics "look pretty."
If it's the former, send that graphic artist an invite to the kickoff meeting ASAP. If it's the latter, shame on you. It's time to change your opinion of the graphic artist's role in the proposal development process. Solid, sophisticated graphics that truly explain and provide deeper insight add credibility and professionalism to your proposal, so it's critical that your graphic artist is included in the process right from the beginning.
By not including your graphics person (or team for larger proposal efforts) in the kickoff, you're saying that all the effort you're putting into developing your proposal strategy at that meeting isn't important for every member of your proposal team to be aware of, understand or implement into every phase of the proposal. If that's the case, why bother investing that kind of effort into developing the strategy in the first place?
A team is supposed to be a collection of individuals all working toward a common goal. In order for that team to function and perform at the highest level possible, every member of the team must know, understand and implement the same strategy as every other team member. If one member of the team isn't on the same page as all the other team members because they aren't fully aware of the strategy, how successful will that team really be? The old adage, about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link has some application here.
Let's also look at this from a practical standpoint, when the graphics person is excluded from the kickoff meeting, not only will they not be fully informed about the proposal strategy, they're also not being given the opportunity to provide feedback as to how all the elements of the strategy might be implemented visually. Perhaps the win themes would work well and be reinforced with the use of icons that could be used repeatedly throughout the proposal. Or maybe there's a design element that could be developed and included in each graphic that would consistently highlight and sell the discriminators to the customer during the review process. The point is, these kinds of visual solutions are potentially taken off the table if the person responsible for suggesting them doesn't even have the opportunity to offer them in the moment with the other members of the team during the main planning phase.
Teams in the NFL are famous for their rigorous regimens whether they're lifting weights, focusing on nutrition or practicing offensive and defensive strategies for how best to defeat their next opponent. It's a high stakes game that's all about winning, and coaches are fanatical about making sure every team member is contributing and every team member understands the game plan. Anything less jeopardizes the team's chances for victory.
Are the stakes any less when it comes to winning the bid on your next proposal?
Next time you schedule a kickoff meeting, be sure that everyone has a seat at the table – including your graphics people, and keep the following quote at the forefront of your proposal process. Your team will be stronger as a result.
“Many of us are more capable than some of us, but none of us is as capable
as all of us.” — Tom Wilson, cartoonist and creator of the comic strip, Ziggy