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  • Writer's pictureIdeas at Dawn

Proposal Tools and Organizational Tips

Updated: Feb 3

Master the art of proposals with this insightful guide, loaded with impactful tools and techniques for success. Discover how to stay organized, align your efforts, and effectively manage your projects - a game-changer for every proposal professional!


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Where are my AEC (architectural/engineering/construction) marketing people? There you are! I knew you were in here.


Now, you can keep reading if you’re in another industry that uses proposals as a means of pursuing/awarding work, but when I tell you that AEC marketing industry proposals are unique, I am not being dramatic. If you know, you know. For me, the tools I’ve picked up along the way are mostly organization-related.


Before Reading the RFP

Before you read an owner document, l recommend looking at your schedule. Understand what’s happening in your (professional) world in the next four to eight weeks. This timeframe is flexible, depending on the size of your project.


Next, you’ll want to gather all the planning documents (hard copy or electronic) and tools to help you get started. This list of tools is not unique to me; there are many versions, and many of these tools can be found free or close to it all over the web. They are:


  • Responsibility matrix: typically an Excel spreadsheet that outlines everything required for the proposal

  • Proposal schedule: outlines timeframes for the entire proposal lifecycle (from pursuit to debriefs). Includes team factors that will impact the proposal, like PTO, etc.

  • Question list: questions compiled by the team to be submitted to the owner

  • Proposal outline (pink team document): the document template used to build the proposal

  • Compliance matrix: a checklist to ensure each proposal requirement was answered

  • Highlighters

  • Different colored pens (i.e., blue, black, red)


Team Work for Teamwork

These tools help keep you and the rest of your team informed and up to date on pursuit information. Priceless. Are all these tools necessary? No. You may be one of those super-organized people who need a simple checklist. If so, I’m jealous. I will lump myself in with the mass that works at being organized. If there are tools that will help me, I say bring them on!


Project workflows are constantly evolving, as are platforms, apps, etc., that assist with moving project progress. Within these, you can often still share and work off single file-sharing options such as Word, Excel, etc. If not, don’t fret: there are options to get your matrices and checklists working.


Ready, Set, Read

It’s time to read that owner’s document. Personal preference will dictate how you read. I know marketers who like a hard copy and keep that file with them to the bitter end (when the proposal is awarded). I know others for whom the less paper, the better, and the electronic file goes where they go. There is no right answer; it’s all about what works for you.


As I read through the owner document, I concurrently have matrices, checklists, and list files open to fill them in as I go. I do this twice (at minimum).


Then I read the document for the third time — this time, I only focused on reading. The first two times are meant to capture information for the sake of capture planning; the third time is to fully understand the project information itself.


I’m sure you’re telling yourself that this is time-consuming. It is. However, for me, this process helps the project information sink in. It is common in our industry to have multiple submittals going simultaneously, and wires can easily get crossed. We’re human, not computers. So, for me, it’s better to take the time to read and re-read. You may not need to do this step. For me, it’s been a game-changer.


Feeling Organized

Having tool options is key. Some pursuits will require every tool in your arsenal to tackle and accomplish. I have assembled a complete A-Z proposal management plan tool that you can check out here. Some will be so straightforward that a responsibility matrix might seem too much (p.s. I’ve never been this lucky).


If you are not yet a consumer of start-up proposal management tools or don’t know where to start, I have developed a training module just for you. Click here to find out more.


I am 1000% confident that using tools to fit your proposal process will be a game changer.

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