The positive (?) correlation between consulting success and meeting count

If you saw my post from December 6, I mentioned that I have a scheduling conflict at the time of Jay Clouse’s Friday, December 17 Annual Planning Workshop. In my time zone, the workshop takes place between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, and I have a meeting during part of that time.

Come to think of it, I also have a meeting conflict at that time on Thursday, December 16.

And on Monday, December 20.

And a bunch of other days.

On Monday, December 6, I started a (non-identity) proposal consulting contract that will require a significant number of hours until the proposal is submitted on approximately Tuesday, January 25.

This is by far the biggest consulting contract that I have ever landed. I’d throw a party for myself, but I’m pretty busy. Between this proposal consulting contract, my other continuing consulting work, end of year health care enrollment. and other tasks, I can’t exactly party all the time.

No this, isn’t a selfie. For one, I’ve never owned leather pants. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14872497

The “significant hours” that I’m spending on this particular proposal are roughly equivalent to the hours that I spent every week as an employee before I started consulting.

Actually, it’s not exactly the same as being an employee. For example, there won’t be a holiday party this month attached to this consulting gig. (Although because of budget cuts, my former employer had stopped the annual holiday parties anyway.)

This proposal contract has one big similarity to my former employee lifestyle.

A ton of meetings.

Now I’ve had meetings for my other consulting gigs, but for most projects there’s only one or two meetings for the entire project.

I’m only a week into this consulting gig, and I’m already averaging three meetings per day.

Not representative of my meetings, which take place online rather than in an oval shaped office. By Series: Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989Collection: White House Photographic Collection, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989 – https://catalog.archives.gov/id/12013683, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92513242

None of these thrice-daily meetings lasts longer than an hour, and I bet that some of you have many more than three meetings per day. But the meeting time does add up.

Luckily I organize a number of these meetings myself, so I can ensure that my meetings never last longer than an hour.

(I don’t like meetings. The best person to arrange a meeting is a person who doesn’t like meetings. Such a person will get the meeting business done as soon as possible, before people fall asleep or run away screaming in agony.)

And the two people who (so far) have arranged the remainder of my meetings for this proposal project feel the same way.

Now I can’t guarantee that all of the meetings for this proposal will be short and sweet, and in fact expect that the meetings between Christmas and New Year’s may be longer than an hour. (Yes, meetings between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s proposal work.)

But at least the meetings keep me out of trouble.

96 Smiles: All about the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle

And when the sun comes up
I’ll be on top

? and the Mysterians, “96 Tears.” From https://genius.com/And-the-mysterians-96-tears-lyrics

I carved out some time late Wednesday morning to take a look at a book that I acquired back in late October.

The book is the 2019 edition of the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle Guide, which I won at a raffle at the APMP Western Chapter Training Day. (And yes, I won it in the presence of my SMA colleagues. But hey, good information comes from a variety of places.)

Now even though this book has a 2019 date, I’ve been familiar with the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle for a long, long time.

The first part of the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle. From http://sbdl.shipleywins.com/.

In fact, it was my late 1990s exposure to the Shipley lifecycle that prompted me to LEAVE proposals (the first time).

Let me explain.

As the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle points out, in the ideal world there are a number of proposal preparation steps that take place BEFORE a Request for Proposals (RFP) is issued. In this ideal world, the following conversation would take place after final RFP release:

Well, the RFP just dropped, and it’s almost exactly what we expected. A few tweaks in the interface requirements, but everything else is identical to our mockup. So we can just polish our previous plans, perform several more sanity checks, and win this!

It’s no surprise that sometimes situations are NOT ideal, and perhaps this conversation may take place instead:

Hey, our customer just released an RFP for a new system. I had no idea that they were going to release an RFP this year. Well, we’ve been the incumbent for years, and the people using our software seem to like us. I think. I don’t know the person who actually released the RFP, but my cousin’s brother-in-law knows him. As long as we come in with the lowest price, we’re certain to win this!

Obviously (or hopefully) most RFP releases are somewhere between these two extremes. But it got me thinking: what would it be like to move to the left on the Shipley timeline and participate in the pre-RFP release activities?

I ended up becoming a product manager, and later in my career (after a second stint in Proposals) became a strategic marketer and corporate strategist. But even in these other positions, I continued to dabble in proposals, primarily as a subject matter expert.

So I was already somewhat familiar with the contents of the Shipley guide, but now I had the entire guide in my hands. (I think I had a Shipley book twenty years ago, but I no longer have it.) This allowed me to review the contents at my leisure.

OK, maybe not THAT relaxed. My eyes have to be open, for one thing. (And certain paper products belong in the bathroom, not the living room.)

One nice thing about the printed guide: rather than numbering all the steps sequentially from 1 to 96, they are numbered within each phase. The steps in Phase 0 (Market Segmentation) are numbered from 0.1 to 0.6, the steps in Phase 1 (Long-Term Positioning) from 1.1 to 1.6, and so forth.

The lifecycle is much less imposing that way. If you tell management that you want to implement a 96-step process to win a customer, management will probably tell you to take a hike. (Even Martin Luther didn’t write 96 theses.) A 7-phase process is more palatable. (Marketing!)

After Phases 0 and 1, the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle contains 5 other phases:

Phase 2, Opportunity Assessment8 steps
Phase 3, Capture/Opportunity Planning15 steps
Phase 4, Proposal Planning31 steps
Phase 5, Proposal Development18 steps
Phase 6, Post-Submittal Activities12 steps
The final five (of seven) phases in the Shipley Business Develoopment Lifecycle.

The proposal planning phase (Phase 4) deserves a mention, since this is the phase in which Shipley practitioners outline the proposal, draft the executive summary, and update the winning price…all before the RFP is issued.

Obviously you have to know your customer really well to do all of that in advance, and if you don’t know your customer, your competitor probably already does.

Needless to say, I’m not going to duplicate the entire book here; it’s copyrighted, after all. But I do want to highlight the final step in the process, which is either step 6.12 or step 96 depending upon how you number things.

Hold a victory party (win or lose), including review teams.

Actually, you can tailor this step and hold TWO victory parties: one to celebrate that you got the proposal out the door, and a second if you win the contract.

Regardless of how many victory parties you actually hold, be sure to invite all of the contributors. It’s in your self-interest to do so.

Contributors who feel appreciated are more inclined to support subsequent proposal efforts.

Shipley Associates, Shipley Business Development Lifecycle Guide (2019 edition), page 82.

So that’s a few highlights. I only got a chance to look at a portion of the book on Wednesday morning, but it contains a wealth of valuable information for proposal managers/writers AND capture managers AND strategic marketers, corporate strategiests, and product managers.

Enough to make you happy so that you don’t cry. (I couldn’t leave this out.)

What are you creating in December to generate January sales?

How many of you are thinking about 2022?

By Anthony Quintano from Hillsborough, NJ, United States – Working New Years Eve Social Media for NBC, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37961644

How many of you are ALREADY working toward accomplishing your 2022 goals?

I recently sent an email to someone…actually more than one email to more than one someone…that listed some of the things that some companies are already doing in November 2021 to ensure that they start 2022 on the right foot. I happen to know what these companies are doing, because Bredemarket is helping them to do these things.

  • 13 service descriptions
  • A library of standard RFP responses
  • Two case studies
  • Two statements of work
  • A response to an RFI
  • A white paper
  • An article featuring a technology partner
  • Analyses of NIST test results
  • An unsolicited proposal letter template
  • A pitch deck

As Bredemarket completes these projects (some of them are already completed), these companies are positioning themselves for increased business in 2022. Perhaps one of those two case studies, or that unsolicited proposal letter template, will help a company win a new customer.

What about your firm? What content does your firm need to get out your message?

Yes, it’s the town crier again. I like the guy. By Unknown author – postcard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7691878

November is almost gone, but there’s still time in December to prepare your 2022 content. And as your regular staff takes holiday vacations, perhaps a contractor may prove useful to you.

That’s where Bredemarket can help you. Whether you need a case study, a white paper, a proposal response, or something else (look at “what I do“), Bredemarket can provide you with that important holiday season assistance to get ready for 2022. If you can use Bredemarket’s assistance:

But as for me, I have a statement of work to write.

Louie, take a look at this! Free FTR FST Friday in Ontario

Another Friday, another all-day event.

FTR FST (“future fest”), sponsored by 4th Sector Innovations, SwoopIn, and several other organizations, will be held on Friday, November 12 in downtown Ontario, California. While I’m primarily going for the “professional development” part, FTR FST also features creative expression (including food trucks, which appropriately fall into the “creative expression” category), collaboration, and a tech showcase.

The professional development schedule includes the following sessions, among others:

  • A keynote presentation from Colin Mangham entitled “Days of Future Past.” According to FTR FST, the topic will be biomimicry.

Biomimicry is the practice of learning from and emulating life’s genius to create more efficient, elegant, and sustainable designs. It’s a problem-solving method, a sustainability ethos, an innovation approach, a change movement, and a new way of viewing and valuing nature. In practice it’s dedicated to reconnecting people with nature, and aligning human systems with biological systems.

As such, our aim is to connect a spectrum of innovation where human and biological system designs interact together seamlessly. Our team offers education and consulting to apply biological insights to systematic sustainability challenges. Our collaborative partnerships and services support interdisciplinary dialogue across industry sectors and regions, while reconnecting all of us to the local ecosystem that supports us.

OK, at this point some of you are saying to yourselves, “THAT kind of conference.”

By Maureen.gi at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32864557

But frankly, there’s just as much value in approaching problems from a futuristic sustainability view as there is in approaching problems from a more traditional program management process (or Shipley process, or whatever), or even from a more old school sustainability view as espoused by Broguiere’s and the late Huell Howser.

See, it all ties together. After all, the new school 4th Sector Innovations is less than a mile from the decidedly old school Graber Olive House (featured in one of Howser’s “Louie, take a look at this!” TV shows.)

I seem to have strayed from my original topic…

Anyway, let’s refocus and return to some of the other professional development sessions at this Friday’s FTR FST.

  • The workshop “Navigating Cashflow” by Gilbert Wenseslao, Chase Bank.
  • The workshop “Accessing Grants for Growth” by Pershetta SlackThe Funded Intensive. (NOW they hold this workshop. One of the previous presenters at the Ontario IDEA Exchange just finished submitting a grant application, and probably could have used this session.)
  • The workshop “Next Gen Cyber Security” by Erik Delgadillo, SecLex.
  • The workshop “The Evolution of Mobility” by Maritza Berger at Piaggio Fast Forward
  • A panel (participants unidentified) on equalizing opportunity.
  • Vendor spotlights.

After 3:00 pm, FTR FST transitions to less intensive sessions. Bring the kids! The complete schedule can be found here.

You can register for FTR FST here. Oh, and one new wrinkle: attendance at the professional development sessions is now FREE, thanks to the event sponsors.

FTR FST will be at 4th Sector Innovations, 404 N Euclid Avenue in Ontario.

From Mapquest. (Hey, why not?)

Canada’s IRCC ITQ B7059-180321/B and the biometric proposals chess match

In a competitive bid process, one unshakable truth is that everything you do will be seen by your competitors. This affects what you as a bidder do…and don’t do.

My trip to Hartford for a 30 minute meeting

I saw this in action many years ago when I was the product manager for Motorola’s Omnitrak product (subsequently Printrak BIS, subsequently part of MorphoBIS, subsequently part of MBIS). Connecticut and Rhode Island went out to bid for an two-state automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). As part of the request for proposal process, the state of Connecticut scheduled a bidders’ conference. This was well before online videoconferencing became popular, so if you wanted to attend this bidders’ conference, you had to physically go to Hartford, Connecticut.

The Mark Twain House in Hartford. For reasons explained in this post, I spent more time here than I did at the bidders’ conference itself. By Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=751488

So I flew from California to Connecticut to attend the conference, and other people from other companies made the trip. That morning I drove from my hotel to the site of the conference (encountering a traffic jam much worse than the usual traffic jams back home), and I and the competitors assembled and waited for the bidders’ conference to begin.

The state representative opened the floor up to questions from bidders.

Silence.

No one asked a question.

We were all eyeing each other, seeing what the other people were going to ask, and none of us were willing to tip our hands by asking a question ourselves.

Eventually one or two minor questions were asked, but the bidders’ conference ended relatively quickly.

There are a number of chess-like tactics related to what bidders do and don’t do during proposals. Perhaps some day I’ll write a Bredemarket Premium post on the topic and spill my secrets.

But for now, let’s just say that all of the bidders successfully kept their thoughts to themselves during that conference. And I got to visit a historical site, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.

And today, it’s refreshing to know that things don’t change.

When the list of interested suppliers appears to be null

Back on September 24, the Government of Canada issued an Invitation to Qualify (B7059-180321/B) for a future facial recognition system for immigration purposes. This was issued some time ago, but I didn’t hear about it until Biometric Update mentioned it this morning.

Now Bredemarket isn’t going to submit a response (even though section 2.3a says that I can), but Bredemarket can obviously help those companies that ARE submitting a response. I have a good idea who the possible players are, but to check things I went to the page of the List of Interested Suppliers to see if there were any interested suppliers that I missed. The facial recognition market is changing rapidly, so I wondered if some new names were popping up.

So what did I see when I visited the List of Interested Suppliers?

An invitation for me to become the FIRST listed interested supplier.

That’s right, NO ONE has publicly expressed interest in this bid.

A screen shot of https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-XS-002-39912/list-of-interested-suppliers as of the late morning (Pacific time) on Monday, October 11.

And yes, I also checked the French list; no names there either.

There could be one of three reasons for this:

  1. Potential bidders don’t know about the Invitation to Qualify. This is theoretically possible; after all, Biometric Update didn’t learn about the invitation until two weeks after it was issued.
  2. No one is interested in bidding on a major facial recognition program. Yeah, right.
  3. Multiple companies ARE interested in this bid, but none wants to tip its hand and let competitors know of its interest.

My money is on reason three.

Hey, bidders. I can keep your secret.

As you may have gathered, as of Monday October 11 I am not part of any team responding to this Invitation to Qualify.

If you are a biometric vendor who needs help in composing your response to IRCC ITQ B7059-180321/B before the November 3 due date, or in framing questions (yes, there are chess moves on that also), let me know.

I won’t tell anybody.

Bredemarket and September 2021 on the proposal side

I was looking over the Bredemarket blog posts for September, and I found some posts that addressed the proposal side of Bredemarket’s services. (There are also blog posts that address the content side; see here for a summary of those posts.)

As a starting point, what proposal services has Bredemarket provided for its clients? I quantified these around the middle of the month and came up with this list.

And I’ve been working on additional proposal projects for clients that I haven’t added to the list yet.

Now if you’ve already read my September 2021 content post, it seems like I’ve been repeating myself. Well the repetition ends here, because my other big proposal-related accomplishment for the month was my Association of Proposal Management Professionals Foundation certification.

This will not only allow me to provide better proposal services to biometric firms (yes, yes, I am a biometric proposal writing expert), but also to other firms.

What other firms?

I’ll let you know.

If I can provide proposal services for you:

When I will style myself John E. Bredehoft, CF APMP…and when I won’t

TL;DR: Yesterday I achieved APMP® Bid and Proposal Management Foundation 2021 certification.

This post explains what APMP Foundation certification is, why I pursued the certification, the difference between APMP and APMG, and when I will (and will not) use my shiny new “CF APMP” designation.

What is APMP Foundation certification?

First, for those not familiar with the acronym, “APMP” stands for the Association of Proposal Management Professionals, an organization that I re-rejoined back in July. APMP membership provides many benefits, including improved service to Bredemarket clients because of my access to the APMP Body of Knowledge.

It also provides a mechanism for proposal professionals to certify their mastery of the proposal field. And, as APMP itself notes, certification conveys the following:

Demonstrates a personal commitment to a career and profession.

Improves business development capabilities.

Creates a focus on best team practices.

Gains the respect and credibility of peers, clients and organizational leaders and, in some cases, additional compensation.

Reinforces bid/proposal management as an important role within an organization and not as an ad hoc function that anyone can perform. 

Frankly, most of these won’t matter to YOU, but the process required to achieve certification does improve business development capabilities for Bredemarket’s clients. You can ignore the rest, unless you’re suddenly eager to shower additional compensation on me. I won’t argue.

There are multiple levels of APMP certification, and the very first level is “Foundation” certification. There is an eligibility requirement to pursue this certification, however:

Candidates should have at least one year of experience in a bid and proposals environment; this experience does not have to be continuous. Time spent working or supporting sales and marketing also counts.

So I was eligible to pursue Foundation certification years ago…but I never did.

Why did I pursue APMP Foundation certification?

I already wrote about this on LinkedIn a week ago, but if you missed that explanation here’s an abbreviated version.

Over the years I kept on joining APMP while in a proposals position, then letting my APMP membership lapse when I transferred to a non-proposals position. So by the time I ever thought about seriously pursuing APMP Foundation certification, I was already out of proposals.

This time, I said to myself when I re-rejoined in July, it will be different.

I finally made the move after attending SMA’s weekly town hall and hearing Heather Kirkpatrick present on the various APMP certification levels.

But I acknowledged that certification is not universally desirable:

Yes, I know the debates about whether certifications (or, for that matter, formal education in general) are truly worthwhile, but there are times when checking off that box on that checklist truly matters.

And therefore I began reading the two documents that I had just purchased, including a study guide and a glossary of terms.

Why is the APMG involved in APMP stuff?

However, to actually achieve the certification, I didn’t go to the APMP itself, but to an organization called the APMG.

And no, the APMG was NOT established to confuse proposal practitioners by using a similar acronym. (Seriously; when I saw others’ announcements of proposal certification, I couldn’t figure out why they kept getting the APMP acronym wrong.)

The APM Group is actually a completely separate organization that provides certifications and other services for a number of disciplines. It serves aerospace, business, information technology, cybersecurity, and other disciplines.

In my case, once I had studied and taken a practice exam, I proceeded to sit for the real exam itself…after paying another fee.

(This is why some people oppose certifications; they think they’re a racket just to charge fees all over the place. But I had already determined that in this case, the return on investment would be positive.)

Well…I passed, and therefore can direct interested parties to my shiny new badge.

By the way, I was never asked to provide a reference to verify my experience, but I could have provided dozens of references if asked.

What about the shiny new designation that comes with the shiny new badge?

Oh, and there’s one more thing.

Certified people (as opposed to people who are certifiable) have the option of appending their certification to their name. In the business world, you often see this used by people who have achieved Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. In some countries, MBAs and even BAs append the appropriate designation to their names.

In the same manner, those who have achieved one of the APMP certifications can append the appropriate certification. In the case of APMP Foundation certification, that means that I can style myself as “John E. Bredehoft, CF APMP.” (Or “John E. Bredehoft, MBA, CF APMP, RSBC” if I want to be thorough. But I probably won’t, since “RSBC” stands for “Radio Shack Battery Club.”)

However, the “CF APMP” designation only makes sense if the person reading the designation knows what it means. And it’s a fairly safe bet that if I were to walk into a coffee shop, or even into the main office of a marketing firm, the people there would have no idea what “CF APMP” meant. In fact, it might strike some of them as pretentious.

But it DOES make a difference in some (not all) proposal circles.

Including the attendees at the APMP Western Chapter Training Day next month.

Which I really should attend if possible. After all, I need to maintain my Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to keep my certification up to date.

This one won’t count for my Foundation certification renewal, but it’s nice.

Excuse me, but I have a lot of questions…

I’ve previously shared how I’ve revised my content creation process.

Like any good process, the not-so-new-anymore Bredemarket content creation process asks a lot of questions up front. These questions ensure that I perform the project in accordance with the wishes of my client.

Because, as we all know, it costs more to rework a project at the end than it does at the beginning. (Or maybe you didn’t know that; it’s something I included in some work I did for a client. But the client knows.)

Specifically, early in the engagement I reach agreement with my client on all or most of the following questions on the content:

  • The topic.
  • The goal.
  • The benefits.
  • The target audience.
  • If necessary:
    • The outline.
    • The section sub-goals.
    • Relevant examples.
    • Relevant key words/hashtags.
    • Interim and final due dates.

When you break it out, that’s a lot of stuff.

And there’s more stuff that I need to know from the client that I’m not sharing publicly. But I’ll give you a hint: some of the questions are driven by a recent experience with Google Docs, and the fact that two different people weren’t using the same fonts, sizes, and styles. Well, if Google Docs can’t take care of it automatically, I can ask about fonts/sizes/styles (when applicable) so that the issue can be resolved manually.

So I’ve created a form that I can use for either the content or proposals sides of the Bredemarket business, and the form contains all of the questions that I need to ask a client at the beginning of an engagement.

My in-house form, first iteration.

Or at least I think it contains all of the questions.

I’m going to try it out with a future client.

And perhaps I’ll iterate it afterwards.