Calling the shots

Nov 27, 2017

When taking control of proposals, squat down, get dirty, and just like a baseball catcher out on the diamond, manage your team.

Johnny Bench, one of the greatest baseball catchers of all time, said: “The catcher is in the middle of everything. He sees it best.” Having spent 12 years as catcher, with the busted knees to prove it, I can attest to those words and how applicable they are to a marketing professional coordinating a proposal effort. Even though the manager oversees the team, the catcher is the one “in the trenches” leading the players on the field.

The proposal process is long, tedious, and repetitive, but at the same time exciting. You must be driven to guide it successfully time and time again, just like a catcher. Here are some of the similarities that could get you thinking like one during your next proposal:

  • Deep knowledge of the competition. Studying other teams, their roster, lineups, bench, viewing tapes, and understanding each batter’s idiosyncrasies and how they have fared against different pitchers are just some of the research a catcher dives into to prepare for a game. Similarly, we should study our competition, our history against them, their relationship with the client, their differentiators, and their possible approaches for the project at hand.
  • Positioning the players. Just like a catcher, marketers have the perfect vantage point to position and adjust the players during the proposal cycle. It is always challenging to keep practitioners engaged. Technical staff are working on multiple chargeable projects and a specific proposal is just one thing on their plate. As owners of the process, marketers need to bring people in at the right time and expand or compress the team as needed.
  • Calling the shots. To maintain control of the process, marketing coordinators must be one step ahead of everyone else. As each write-up is handed in by the team, we must assess not only its merits, but how it interconnects with the other pieces of the puzzle. Even with the best plans forged at the beginning stages of the process, submittals are moving targets and we must react, improvise, and lead it to the successful finish line. Catchers call the shots with the pitcher to overpower the batter, but it is not that simple since they also must take into consideration on-base runners, outs in the inning, who is the next batter up, the score, and how the pitcher is feeling.
  • Blocking pitches. “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” These wise words from Yogi Berra can apply to catchers blocking wild pitches as sometimes all you need to be is physical to get the job done. There will undoubtedly be moments in the proposal cycle where we need to stop being cerebral and simply be reactive. For example, the submittal has been reviewed and approved with one caveat – two resumes are at 80 percent of where they should be. Your multiple follow-ups have fallen onto deaf ears and the proposal needs to be printed, assembled, and shipped. Assess the situation, make a “physical” decision, and move on. Block that wild pitch!

Get ready to squat, get dirty, and take control of proposals, just like catchers manage their team on the field. Remember that “even though it does not sparkle, catchers guard the diamond with their lives.”

Javier Suarez is the central marketing and sales support manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.