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Making the Most of Your Time and Effort

Every company has the same problems when it comes to winning work - producing high-quality proposals within your budget - both time and money-wise!

Is it a good idea to propose on a project that's not a good fit just so that you can "get your name in front of the client"? No. That is the most expensive way to go about it!

So how do you decide what projects to chase and what projects to pass over? By building a solid Go/No-Go Process that has the buy-in of everyone involved!

Things to consider in your process:

  • Has the opportunity been properly pre-marketed? (i.e. Does the client know you? Do you know the project and the potential issues?)
  • Do you have the available Project Manager? (Both for executing the actual work as well as working on the proposal)
  • Do you have relevant projects that match what the RFQ is asking for?
  • Do you have the right staff and/or subconsultants to fill the necessary roles?
  • Does your proposal team have the bandwidth to dedicate the appropriate level of effort?...
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Showcasing Your Firm As The Hero is Losing You Work

Proposals. Websites. Marketing collateral. Blog posts.

They all have one thing in common...they're all about you and your firm, right? Showcasing your expertise and your solutions and your longevity as a's your time to shine! And this will help you win more clients! Right? Hello...this is right, isn't it?



Why you're not the Hero of your client's story

As a marketer, I look at tons of marketing content to study what's working so I can use the information to help our clients. One simple concept embraced by author Donald Miller has successfully stood out to me for the last few years: story engages and compels people. And story is the best way to gain more clients.

But, we must know two things to gain more clients:

  1. Which story is the most important to tell, and
  2. What our role is in that story

According to Miller's book, "Building a Storybrand", the two key players in a story are the Hero and the Guide. The Hero is the one going through the problem...

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Getting to Know (Potential) Clients

In order to win work, you have to tailor your proposals to the client. But how do you know what the client wants to hear? You have to get in front of them and get to know them.

It's like dating... have you ever been on a date with someone who talks about themselves so much that they never ask you a thing? Not likely that they'll get a second date. Treat your potential clients like you're trying to get a second date with them.

Don't go in bragging about yourself and your company. Don't spend the whole meeting talking about your projects and skills. Ask them about themselves. Learn about their needs. Find out what projects are coming up, and what issues they foresee with these projects. Determine what their biggest issues are, and what solutions they have tried previously.

And then? You put the answers to their challenges in your proposal. Let them know that you were paying attention and that you are the right consultant for them. 

Your proposal will stand out as being...

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Branding: Train Your Potential Clients How To Feel About Your Firm

If you're like most technical staff, you are invested in your proposals and have thoughts on the look and feel of what you are turning in. So you've probably run up against marketing staff that insist on certain color schemes, fonts, etc. and don't want to make your suggested changes. Why won't they listen?

Just as you went to school to learn your skills, they did, too. They participate in continuing education, and continually hone their skills. "Branding" is one of those skills.

Think of a certain brand that uses very specific shades of red and yellow, as well as 'Golden Arcs'. You don't even have to see the name to know what the company is, and to have feelings associated with them. They have used those colors and logos for years, and used their advertising to train you how to feel about the company and their products. That's what branding does!

Your marketing staff and graphic designers have worked hard to create color schemes, logos, and themes that project the image your...

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What Ever Happened to that Project Description I Wrote??

Guest author: Katy Ruzicka, Marketing Guru / Project Manager


After you submit a proposal, it can be tempting to simply put the files on the server, brush your hands off, and walk away. But you still have one crucial step to your proposal process: Closeout.

Closeout is the process of archiving information and documentation developed during the pursuit. This is particularly important because proposal documents often contain source material for future proposals.

Technical folks: the great news is that your marketing professionals can do closeout for you! Managers: Be sure to leave time for marketing staff to do this. So often we see clients ask marketing professionals NOT do this due to overwork on active proposals...then it never happens. Work out a solution / hire someone to do this upkeep on a bi-weekly basis for best results.

Here's a partial list for closeout:  

  • Project descriptions
  • Teaming agreements
  • Lessons learned or case studies
  • Project...
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What's the Big Deal About NOT Having a Centralized Proposal File Management System?

What's the Big Deal About NOT Having a Centralized Proposal File Management System?

You're a VP and Engineering Project Manager at a small AEC firm. You don't have a marketing professional on staff, but you do have a great office-wide administrative assistant that helps with proposals when they come out.

(Well, he helps by printing the Word docs you send him. You keep pretty tight reigns on all your department's proposals!)

You, as VP and PM, actually keep your own drafts of past proposals in a folder on your personal Dropbox account. I mean, you can access the files so quickly and easily! You know which previous writeups to re-use, based on the type of proposal. Plus, your firm's VPN is such a pain.

You've tried to give the work over to the assistant, but he just asks you so many questions every time. It's faster and easier to just do it yourself.


You end up at home sick with COVID for 3 weeks. 3 major proposals hit, and you've got no energy to work on them. Your...

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DOT's Quick Tip: How to Increase Your RFP Submittal Score

Guest Author: Karen Lorenzini, P.E., DOTomation Senior Strategist


Never forget that the Evaluation Team members are reading anywhere from 2 to 100 proposals. What can you do to help them give you points AND, in case the scoring is close at the end, remember your team as being the most qualified to serve their needs?


DOT's Quick Tip: Organize Your Proposal Correctly to Increase Success 

The evaluators may read each team’s proposal through from start to finish. If the scoring criteria are in clear sections, however, it is equally (or more) likely they will read the proposals by section, scoring each section one at a time across all teams. For example, they may read and score all 100 Technical Approaches first before moving on to Project Manager (PM) Experience.

Organize your proposal into the bite-sized sections they’ve clearly listed in the RFP/Q, and/or based upon the scoring criteria provided. For example, if the scoring criteria are separated...

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How to Create Your Own Personal Project Log

Guest Author: Katy Ruzicka, DOTomation Project Manager / Sr. Proposal Coordinator


Imagine this all-too-real scenario: You’ve just started work at a new firm, and there is a proposal opportunity that you know you would be valuable as proposed key staff because you have experience doing the exact same kind of project. But… you don’t know if you remember all of the details that the RFQ is asking for, and you are not sure if you can even find the project description because someone else always handled that process.

Did you just kill your chance at helping your new firm land a great job?


How do you keep from being in this situation (and others like it)? Keep a Personal Project Log (PPL)!


Who needs to keep a PPL? Anyone who might ever be proposed as staff on a project or who wants to be someday. Starting as an EIT, an SIT, lab assistant, etc, begin keeping your own log of projects that you have been involved in, and you will not regret having this...

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3 Non-Negotiable Rules Every Firm Needs for Reviewing Proposals

During my 20+ year AEC career, I've worked with some amazingly-intelligent and creative professionals. Some of those folks were strong team players, which led to out-of-this-world outcomes. 

Others couldn't work well within their team, and the end results were average to sub-par.

For all of us, wherever we land on the spectrum, sometimes we just need some reminders of how to play nicely in the sandbox.


3 Non-Negotiable Rules

Recently I was reading a book for my kids' school, called An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger, a teacher in Massachusetts with over 25 years of classroom experience. As usual when I read any book, I found some amazing tidbits that apply perfectly to our AEC industry. 

From Ron, to me, and now to are Ron's 3 Non-Negotiable Rules. I recommend them for writing review comments, as well as managing/participating in review meetings. I hope you find them as useful as I have!

They're simpler than you think. Ready?



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Top 3 Proposal Leadership Skills for Technical Professionals

"I sure wish we'd turned our proposal writing draft in even later than we did...that would've really benefited the final product!", said no one ever.

We all have really great intentions when we start working on a new proposal. Frequently, though, proposal work is the first item on our to-do list that we let slip through the cracks. At first we just see our little piece of the puzzle being affected...we forget the overall team and proposal impacts that our slippage causes.

Keith J. Cunningham (author of The Road Less Stupid) recommends we consider the 2nd-order consequences of our decisions. The main concept here is that you really do have 100% control over your own actions. 

How do YOUR decisions affect the rest of your proposal team and the end product? Here are today's Top 3 Proposal Leadership Skills, specifically for technical professionals. We'll look at why these are important, and the consequences of each if we ignore them. 


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