Confessions of a proposal production expert – delivery (Part 5 of 5)

All great proposal teams know the few golden rules of proposal development:

  • Writers are more productive when they are fed.
  • Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.


  • You can’t win if you don’t deliver on time!

This week Briana Coleman, PPM.APMP shares her top 3 proposal delivery tips.

Tip 1: Plan on delivering EARLY

Founder and CEO of our company, Bob Lohfeld, once told me this story of his early days in the proposal business. The goal was to deliver a proposal from San Diego to Pasadena. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong—including not budgeting enough time to print. There was not enough time to drive the proposal to the destination, so the company chartered a private helicopter on the day it was due to take the 2-hour flight.

As the helicopter approached the Pasadena area, the pilot turned around and asked, “So, where do you want me to land?” When Bob told him, “The airport,” the pilot laughed and informed him that you can’t just get clearance to land at an airport, and they had no chance of landing anywhere near our destination.

With no choice left, they pushed the box of proposals off the helicopter at 300 feet above the ground. A few seconds later, they heard a large boom as the box—and the proposals within it—disintegrated upon impact. Their beautiful proposal was in millions of pieces, floating along the Pasadena tarmac. Needless to say, that proposal did not get delivered.

Tip 2: Always have a contingency plan

During a legendary Washington, DC summer storm, all air traffic shut down for a couple of days. Lohfeld Consulting Group’s Beth Wingate had a proposal on a FedEx plane grounded at Dulles with no chance of making it to Kansas City in time. She called a local Kinkos (the closest one to the delivery site) and spent all day on the phone with the guy in Kansas City to walk him through the entire production over the phone—binding, delivery in his personal car, faxing her the receipt from the customer, etc. She was the only person who delivered on time.

Tip 3: Stay flexible

Fellow Lohfeld Consultant Brooke Crouter had a proposal due on September 12, 2001 on the Marine Corps base at Quantico. The base shut down at about 0930 on September 11. She had to have the duty officer contact the Contracting Officer (CO) to see if the proposal delivery deadline was extended or not. Since the CO didn’t want to extend, there was an issue of how to deliver to a base that was shut down. The CO was not too helpful, so Brooke suggested an e-mail delivery of the technical volume with the cost summary of the cost volume (no cost build-up in case the email went astray). Hard copies of the full submission would be delivered at a later date. Weeks went by while Brooke waited to hear about delivery. Finally, she got a call to show up NLT 1300 at the Burger King outside the back gate. There was a government vehicle parked with the trunk open. You handed off your box and got a receipt. It looked like a very strange drug deal going on.

The moral of this story is to stay flexible and be ready to provide a suggestion—not all COs are very experienced or creative.

Bottom Line: delivery is the most important step in the proposal process; don’t do anything to risk its success!

What delivery best practices do you follow—and what war stories can you share to reinforce the need for delivery best practices? Send your thoughts to me at, and I’ll share your advice in upcoming posts!


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Lohfeld Consulting