Winning: Proposals, Pitches & Personal Life

Who doesn’t want to win? People often say winning isn’t everything, but when it comes to sales and proposals winning is everything!

Practical folks define, build and measure it. Cowboys and Cowgirls lasso and rodeo it. Gamblers stack bets and throw the dice. Startup Zen Masters inhale private equity backing and exhale the possibilities. What’s the best approach? CHIEF’s team was out in full force at the recent APMP Bid & Proposal Conference where professionals meet to discuss an important topic dear to every sales professional and proposal writer’s heart—winning!


CHIEF’s proposals and pitches consistently focus on creating a new reality for our prospective clients. Our capture team flew to sunny San Diego, CA, where three of us shared our brave thinking and subject matter expertise as APMP panelists. As the team surfed the sessions, it was apparent that the most successful movers and shakers of our profession emanate an aura of positive culture, innovation and work-life balance. Coincidently, that is exactly what our team’s panel topics covered.

Company Culture

Starting with the practical approach of define, build and measure, the conversation rapidly progressed to the subjective nuances of what makes a great culture. CHIEF shines in this area and we eagerly contributed best practice insights—championing the value of being authentic and aligning employee values with employer objectives. Questions we posited to the crowd included: Are you paddling through what you feel is a hopeless bureaucracy, or do you feel you have the power to influence that which is within your control? Do you expect to walk in to the ideal culture you imagined, or do you take action on multiple solutions to culture roadblocks, offering validation for which one you think would work best? Answering these questions can uncover culture challenges, and provide insight into where there’s opportunity for change.

Innovation in Acquisition

Industry and government have struggled with collaboratively redefining what makes for the best request for proposal (RFP) requirements. Similar trends are occurring in the commercial and non-profit space. CHIEF has been an active participant in the community—engaging discussions and informing requirements during market research so that both buyer and seller achieve the results they are ultimately seeking. Innovation in acquisition is the major buzz of late, with one recent requirement in select RFPs that vendors submit video as part of the response process. Conversations happening between all parties focus on the many variables that drive context for this new requirement: Is a 20-minute video overkill? Is a 5-minute video just as effective? What is the rating and measurement criteria? Should the production embrace iPhone simplicity or Steven Spielberg cinematics? As today’s technologies start seeping into the RFP process, CHIEF expects to see more mobile, video and even IoT requirements.

Work-Life Balance

A common myth if you are in sales/proposals is that 60+ hour weeks are mandatory, and if you are lucky you may get a holiday off here and there. We asked attendees to take a step back and ask themselves whether they work at an organization where they’re treated as an integral part of the team, or one where they’re considered only as good as what they  produced yesterday? Does management walk the talk of balance or are they consistently on the verge of breakup with their significant other due to yet another evening/weekend deadline? Are they operating in vacuums throwing darts or enjoying a transparent and clear communication of what’s going well and needs to improve? Lively discussions ensued, with CHIEF contributing insights reflecting what has worked for our agency. Spoiler alert: productivity peeks when team members feel supported personally and professionally.


Bringing everything home, there are many types of winning equations and models. The reality is that the Practicals, Cowboys and Cowgirls, Gamblers and Zen Masters all bring something to the table and sometimes they each drive results in places you least expect. Keeping it real in your own reality no matter what lens you are looking through seems to be a theme for success. We all want a team/family we can bond with to produce results and maintain that Zen balance.

Do the right things. Walk the talk. Be passionate. Be Brave. You can do this!

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