Mastering proposal deadlines

Oct 01, 2023

If you stay disciplined, empathize with your team, and commit to excellence you can meet your deadlines and ultimately win more projects.

It’s the age-old problem of finger-pointing. The marketing coordinator says they can’t move forward with the proposal draft until they get information from the PM. The PM says they have billable work to do, a deliverable deadline tomorrow, and they gave that same information three years ago. Neither is wrong, but it can cause friction when everyone is on a different page.

As marketing professionals, we are the architects of proposals, the strategists behind successful document layouts, and the storytellers that set our firms apart from the crowd. But let’s face it – the process can be challenging, especially when juggling tight deadlines and tasks that sometimes feel mundane.

The key to navigating these challenges lies in effective time management. It’s not just about ticking off tasks on a to-do list; it’s about understanding what needs to be done and planning our time accordingly. We’ve all been there, waiting for information from project managers, watching the clock tick closer to our deadline. It’s stressful, right? But it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s a piece of advice: Improve communication with your project managers. Set clear expectations from the start and hold regular check-ins to keep everyone on track. Accountability is key here. Remember, we’re all in this together, and winning benefits everyone.

But let’s not forget that project managers have their own deadlines and pressures. Empathy goes a long way in fostering a collaborative environment. We’re all on the same team and want the same thing – to deliver the best possible proposals and win those competitive projects. So let’s work together, let’s support each other, and let’s find ways to make the process smoother for everyone involved. If the same friction comes up time and time again, it’s time to change your process.

Now, about those tasks that feel mundane, like writing project descriptions or resume bios. How do we get excited about those? It’s all about perspective. Every task, no matter how small, plays a part in the success of our proposals. It’s like a puzzle – every piece is important, and when they all come together, we create something amazing.

Here’s a common challenge: Many project managers dislike typing out narratives for proposals. They’re more comfortable talking than writing. So, why not play to their strengths? Consider recording video calls or conducting interview-style sessions with your project managers. This way, they can express their ideas freely, and the marketing team can then translate these discussions into compelling narratives for the proposals. It’s a win-win situation.

Here’s another tip: Make the process more fun. Break down larger tasks into smaller ones, making them feel less overwhelming. Or how about a friendly competition? A little bit of healthy rivalry can go a long way in motivating teams to meet their deadlines. And let’s not forget to celebrate our successes, no matter how small. A job well done deserves recognition, regardless of whether the firm wins the project or not. If the proposal process was smooth and everyone met their internal deadlines, then praise the team.

Open communication is key. Leave egos at the door and make sure everyone feels heard and supported. Encourage your team to share their ideas and suggestions and ask for help when needed. Remember, you’re a team and strongest when you work together.

Lastly, remember that what you do as a marketing team is an investment in your firm’s future. Every proposal you put together, and every project you win contributes to your growth and success. It’s not just about the here and now; it’s about where you’re headed.

So embrace the challenge, stay disciplined, empathize with someone struggling, and commit to excellence. Together, you can meet your deadlines, win more projects, and make the proposal process something to look forward to rather than avoid. 

Kraig Kern, CPSM is vice president and director of marketing at WK Dickson. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

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.