GUEST POST: The 7 Attributes of the Proposal Athlete

5 minute read

Team Qvidian

By Darrell Woodward, CP APMP

I believe in the power of stories to persuade and influence but writing these stories is just one part of being a Bid Manager. It’s the most challenging, differentiating and fun part in my opinion but Bid Managers need to have a blend of qualities like well-rounded athletes and we share many of the same sorts of attributes. Whether marathon runners or sprinters, shot putters or high jumpers, athletes must have the right blend of seven key attributes for their sport: strength, speed, power, agility, flexibility, stability and endurance. In the bid and proposal world, we have our own versions of these attributes for the proposal athlete and our own focused training programmes to develop them.


In most sports, strength is the fundamental attribute that forms the platform for all other athletic qualities, especially power and speed, but it also reduces fatigue and helps prevent injury. The Proposal Athlete needs to build a strong foundation of knowledge, skills and repeatable processes on which the other attributes will depend. The APMP and its industry-recognised accreditation programme provides the resources, best practices and professional recognition to build, maintain and continuously develop our proposal strength so that we can bid more effectively, more efficiently and with less stress


The ability to move quickly in all directions is a key element of a lot of sports. Speed is particularly crucial to the Proposal Athlete both because of our obligation to meet a client’s deadline as well as internally-driven milestones and approval gates. The key to improving speed in bids and proposals is honing our ability to plan well, plan early and plan quickly. The shorter your deadlines the more important it is to invest in your bid management process, tools and templates.


Power is a direct function of strength but whereas strength relates to the maximum force, power determines how quickly that force can be generated. 100m sprinters have incredible strength but it is their focus on power that provides that explosive acceleration out of the blocks. The Power to rapidly ramp up bid activity is vital for the Proposal Athlete who is too often engaged after the RFP is issued. To help you hit peak performance, a well-maintained knowledge management system is crucial to maximise your available power, help you get a fast start and apply your skills to maximum effect so you can keep driving through to the finish.


Closely related to Power, Agility is commonly viewed as the ability to quickly stop, start and change direction. When things change, we must react to quickly and efficiently switch direction and set off down a new path with the minimum loss of energy. I’m a big fan of contingency planning to build bid agility (even my contingency plans have contingency plans!) because it means we can anticipate, pre-empt, and safely negotiate any unexpected twists and turns. Contingency plans mean that, when the unexpected happens, we already know exactly what to do, what we need to do it with and what impact (if any) it will have on our final results.


For an athlete, Flexibility provides a greater range of movement, opens up more options for your game and protects against some types of injuries. The Proposal Athlete applies industry best practices, schedules rigorous plans and always has ideas for contingency but also knows that change is inevitable. Processes, procedures and templates must always allow the flexibility to dynamically stretch, bend, and recover.


If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you’ll be a Bid Manager! When the pressure is on, the deadline is looming and people start to panic, it is the Proposal Athlete who remains calm, focused and in control. We know that all our careful planning, contingency management and risk mitigation provides the stable base that will see us across the finish line


I have left Endurance last because many people equate sports endurance to “fitness”. Fitness for sport really means working on all seven attributes as these combine to help you play harder, run further and perform longer. The same is true for the Proposal Athlete but, for Endurance in bidding, I will add three tips to help prevent fatigue:

  1. Invest time and effort in improving tools, processes and your own skills because if you don’t Sharpen the Saw you will waste energy on a blunt blade.
  2. Actively seek variety in your work because a bored Proposal Manager produces boring proposals. Find an exciting new project or implement innovative ideas – a change is as good as a rest.
  3. Work hard, rest harder! Give yourself time to recover your energy, relax your mind and body, replenish yourself with some healthy nutrition and treat yourself to some quality sleep.

About the author: 

Darrell Woodward believes in telling powerful stories that explain how to solve business problems. He is inspired to engage audiences by combining persuasive structure, elegant writing and professional methodology. As an APMP certified Bid Manager, he leads multi-functional teams to develop compelling proposals and bids that are client focused and persuasively written.

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