Guidance for AEC Industry Technical Professionals


When it comes to winning work, we know it takes a team. From firm leadership and project managers to business development professionals and marketing coordinators, everyone plays a role in a successful proposal response. 


During a kick-off meeting, it’s not uncommon for a technical professional to believe every writing assignment can be handled by the marketing department. You may think, “Who has the time?” You’re focused on delivering projects to meet client expectations. You’re ensuring the accuracy of drawings and calculations, reviewing designs to make sure they meet relevant codes and standards, mentoring young staff, and attending project meetings. 


Clients Require Intimate Knowledge 

But when it comes down to it, technical professionals are key to the success of every proposal. You provide the “meat” that clients are looking for in order to shortlist your firm. Marketers can pull together and tailor cover letters, resumes, project experience, and specific required forms; however, what the client is really looking for can only be provided by you, the technical professional. It is your intimate knowledge of the project background that drives a detailed and strong specific approach that will set your firm apart. That same knowledge prepares you for drafting an appropriate schedule and budget and/or fee. 


Clients are looking for those firms and technical professionals who really know and understand them and their specific needs. Knowing the project history, what’s previously been done on the project (and how that has impacted it), and what you see as the future of the project can only come from technical staff. If you don’t know that information, a competitor does; that should be considered when making your go/no-go decision.


Due Diligence is Cost Effective

It costs thousands of dollars to produce a proposal response. That’s why every submittal should be an opportunity to win, not just an effort to introduce your firm to a client for the first time. If you don’t know the client, you shouldn’t be submitting. Proposals as business development is a very expensive endeavor; instead, focus a more cost-effective effort earlier to learn about the client or project and then use that information to determine if it is something you can win.


What Does the Competition Offer?

In addition to the specific client and project knowledge you bring to the proposal process, technical professionals also know about the competition. Many of your staff have intimate knowledge of competing firms—some have even worked for them. Information they can provide regarding how a competitor may approach a project or even the proposal process can be helpful in differentiating your firm.


Treat the Proposal Process as a Project

Marketers are trained to work with technical professionals on proposals in a team setting. They have ideas about how to take the knowledge you have and put it into a story through words and graphics. However, much of that story needs to come from you. Invest the time and effort into the proposals as though it were a project. Carve out the necessary time to work together to develop a top-notch proposal that will take you to the interview. 


Here are a few more tips to collaborating with your marketing team to prepare winning submittals:


Make your go/no-go decision early. Marketers want a decision to be made as soon as possible so they can strategize and prioritize efforts. Proposals take a lot of time and marketers take great pride in the work product they produce. If a proposal is due when a key content writer is on vacation, make sure someone knowledgeable about the client and project is there to work with marketing staff or consider making it a no-go. 


Be a team player. Provide input to marketers on project specifics so they can tailor resumes and experience. By adding call outs like “Similarities to Your Project” you help a selection committee identify how your experience – personal and firm – aligns with the project being pursued. 


Learn how to tell stories. Clients get engaged when they read about themselves. Share what you know about the client, the project, the needs, and the issues and then weave a story of how you will take this information to develop a successful project. If you can’t write about it, then share it with your marketer who will write it up for you to edit. Stories capture a reader’s attention, and they sell! 


While technical professionals and marketers have different jobs in a proposal, everyone must do their part. You set the tone and example for other technical staff when you set aside the time to craft quality content, invite comments and critiques, and meet proposal schedule deadlines. 


Understanding how your knowledge, expertise, and assistance can benefit the proposal process and response will help you prioritize your time and attention. When technical and marketing staff successfully engage and collaborate, your firm will reap the rewards.


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