5 Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach You About Proposal Management

April 23, 2020 | Words by Christine So

It’s safe to say that nearly everyone in the tech world has been touched in some way, shape, or form by Steve Jobs, the legend who left behind a legacy that continues to evolve and grow. As a proposal manager (and avid Apple consumer), Steve Jobs has always inspired me both personally and professionally in ways far beyond the gadgets I use. His visionary beliefs can be applied to any role within any industry, and align especially well with Raft’s constantly evolving pursuit of digital innovation and cutting-edge solutions. Below are some of my favorite quotes by Steve Jobs that illuminate our best practices for proposal management, a role that integrates daily with the work of our entire team.

1 - Creativity is Connecting Things

“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs

Surprisingly, even in industries stereotypically categorized as more “left-brained” such as tech, producing proposals require a high level of creativity. As opposed to writing in a more free-form capacity, proposal writing requires creativity to compose content within a very narrow and regulated space. A proposal must not only meet numerous, stringent guidelines, but also be accurate, well-written, and appealing to the client. Having an open, creative mind is key in a role that requires you to consume, extract, assess, and produce cohesive content from large amounts of often disparate resources.

2 - Get Closer to Your Customers

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs

In the proposal process, the client tells you exactly what their mission and objectives are—they’re outlined word for word in the RFP! However, this doesn’t mean that having a deep understanding of your client’s history and goals won’t give you a huge competitive edge. As a proposal manager, always remember you are writing to a specific audience—not a piece of paper—and tailor your voice and content accordingly.

3 - Greatness Comes From Teamwork

“My model for business is The Beatles…They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

The proposal process is a prime example of team-wide collaboration—one that involves a variety of Subject Matter Experts bringing their highly diverse expertise to the table. It is the proposal manager’s job to navigate a sea of voices, strategies, and opinions, and produce a finished product that is best-suited to the one opinion that matters—the client’s. In order to accomplish this, an efficient proposal manager must have exceptional communication skills, both verbal and written. This includes a respectful interpersonal dynamic that is mindful of your team’s time, a clear identification of goals and deadlines, and a deep understanding of the specific skill set each member brings.

4 - Simplify

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Have you ever finished reading a document filled with pages of marketing jargon, buzz words, and filler content, and then thought to yourself, “That was enlightening!” Neither have I. As a proposal manager, it is important to streamline not only your processes, but your proposal as well. Concise yet comprehensive content, which looks deceivingly easy to produce, is most effective for an audience that wants compelling answers, not merely a response.

5 - Work on What Excites You

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about you don’t have to be pushed, the vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs

As a proposal manager, it’s important to occasionally look beyond the rigorous RFP requirements and multiple deadlines to see the big picture—ultimately, you are representing a product or service that you believe in (and believe to be the best fit for your potential client). You are also frequently taking on new challenges, initiating new opportunities, and celebrating concrete wins. The dynamic nature of the role, especially in an agile environment, leads to a multitude of never-ending prospects to learn and achieve. Aligning your company’s vision with your own will empower you and your team to embrace an adaptable, motivated culture that is driven to win.

Contact Us

At Raft, we bring these lessons to every proposal we manage. If you’re interested in learning more about our submission process, reach out to us at [email protected].

We'll make waves together.