Many of the most successful experiences in life have great beginnings:
- The beginning is the most important part of a journey.
- The beginning is often the best part of a song or movie.
- Your first sip of morning coffee is the *real* beginning of your day.
- Kicking the ball downfield begins an exciting football game.
A Kickoff Meeting, therefore, like the above examples, is a beginning and, in many ways, the most important part of successful proposal development and submission. This article briefly summarizes the importance of these “kickoffs” and how to use the KSI Advantage™ Approach to maximize the impact of these meetings. (Don’t blow the kickoff and end up on your back like Charlie Brown!)
A properly designed and articulated Kickoff Meeting establishes the roadmap to bid success: you’ll introduce the proposal team to each other, clearly define roles and expectations, and create the schedule everyone will follow. This article will help you understand how best to kick it all off.
The KSI Advantage™ Approach cites the Kickoff Meeting as one of the critical milestones on the Proposal Schedule. This meeting provides information, direction, and motivation to the Proposal Team. It has the following objectives:
- Commence the proposal effort for all participants
- Describe and answer various questions about the opportunity
- Validate writing assignments
- Coordinate the proposal process
- Create a cohesive team
A solid Kickoff Meeting starts the proposal development phase of the proposal effort and provides the Proposal Manager with the appropriate forum to get everything started, and everyone energized. Ideally, this meeting will last no more than two to three hours. Its length will greatly depend on the preparatory work done before the meeting.
*Graphics are inspired by Peanuts. KSI is not affiliated with Peanuts or World Wide LLC.
Preparing the Kick-Off
It is important to invite the right people to the Kickoff Meeting. Usually, the Proposal Manager and Capture Manager will develop the Kickoff Meeting agenda and presentation, but Subject Matter Experts (SMEs ) are critical components of your team. The preparation and inspiration a proposal manager puts into the Kickoff Meeting pays off in clarity, focus, and inspiration for the proposal team. The proposal manager or capture manager usually takes the lead in preparing for these meetings.
Once a win strategy has been determined, and a decision to move forward with the bid is accepted, the proposal manager begins working with the sales account team to identify the key players who will be contributing to the bid. (Not all companies do this, but KSI believes this is a best practice.) Those people need to be identified at the kickoff meeting and their roles and responsibilities described and shared with the entire team so everyone knows who is doing what and when they are doing it.
Many kickoff meetings are virtual now, and engaging and motivating your colleagues over online platforms can be a challenge, but it can be done. As a team leader, you must clearly define roles and explain the proposal process. However, some of your SMEs will be quiet and prefer online engagement over in-person interaction. You can use these kinds of preferences to your advantage during a kickoff meeting with separate subsequent discussions online.
Your tone and demeanor during a kickoff meeting are important, as well. You want to convey excitement but not be too amped up. You want to encourage team members to get to know each other to share casual interest, but also not to get too distracted. Creating cohesion in the team is vital during this time, so being clear, concise, and convivial is critical.
The following staff all have critical roles on the proposal team, are stakeholders in the bid process, and should all be present during the kickoff meeting:
- Senior Managers - Oversee the personnel responsible for executing the program
- Client Management Executive - Sponsor or owner of the program. Their articulation of and enthusiasm for the proposal’s importance is the foundation of the team effort. This person should clarify any possible issues in advance so the team understands everything as well as possible. The executive’s expectations are critical to every team member.
- Capture, Sales, and Marketing Leads - Responsible for leading the opportunity identification and capture planning effort—these individuals should have a strong understanding of the Win Strategy
- Proposal Manager - Responsible for managing a winning proposal
- Volume Managers and Section Leads - Responsible for managing portions of the proposal
- Writers and Contributors - Responsible for developing proposal content
- Proposal Coordinator - Helps the Proposal Manager coordinate the proposal process
- Production Manager - Responsible for developing the proposal templates; formats, publishes and copies the proposal for submittal
- Graphic Artists - Responsible for developing graphics for the proposal
- Integration and Compliance Managers - Responsible for ensuring compliance with the RFP requirements throughout the proposal development process
- Teaming partners and subcontractors - Responsible for providing various roles depending on the proposal effort; only invite team members if they are exclusive to the bid and have signed NDAs
All of these internal stakeholders (sometimes with representatives from teaming partners) should be involved in the kickoff meeting.
The goal is to make the Kickoff Meeting informative and professional, not to conduct a problem-solving session. To achieve this, the Proposal Manager should prepare an agenda and stick to it. The Proposal Manager should distribute the agenda with the meeting invitations. Below is an example Proposal Kickoff Agenda that describes each agenda item.
The Kickoff Meeting is a crucial part of the proposal process. A proposal manager can qualify how successful the meeting was by how well all your attendees understand their role in the bid management to follow. Successful bid management is highly unlikely if you do not create a clear, comprehensive, and compelling team tone in this critical window. Start your day and your wins right!
*Graphics in this article are inspired by the comic strip, Peanuts. KSI is not affiliated with Peanuts or World Wide LLC.