Spring is in the air, pollen is in our nostrils, and dads everywhere have begun mowing their lawns regularly once again. For those diehard sports fans, this all correlates with one simple truth: football season is quickly approaching. Each year, the National Football League (NFL) conducts a draft of players from their collegiate days and into a professional career in the league claiming to own the title of America’s favorite sport. On Thursday, April 28, the NFL draft commenced for the 2022 – 2023 season as millions of eager fans tuned into their devices to watch the event unfold live. Behind the scenes of the excitement and fanfare, it may often be overlooked that the NFL draft has much in common with RFP responses.
As these incredibly athletic individuals train and prepare for draft day, one could make the argument that these players are putting their best foot forward and checking all the boxes as if competing in a formally-documented proposal process. Who would have thought that we as content and proposal writers would ever be compared to athletes of such renowned stature and prowess? Where do the similarities continue?
Collaborative RFPs are drafted in the First Round
Many firms have seen an uptick in RFP activity towards the latter half of 2021 and into the first quarter of 2022 as business teams have increasingly returned to (somewhat) normalcy regarding participation in RFP engagements. Although procurement departments and proposal teams may not be face-to-face with one another and back in the office, collaboration across functional and cross-functional teams is paramount when trying to garnish new business for your organization. More times than not, it is the collaborative nature and experience of the RFP response process that fosters the best possible bid itself when your team goes to market – not artificial intelligence or some novel buzzword that’s trending on the Wall Street Journal!
In direct comparison, newly-drafted NFL players follow a similar path when preparing for the combine so that they can display their incredible athletic ability for key officials in the league. 40-yard dash times improve each year; more weight is lifted each year; more balls are caught each year; but what happens behind the scenes that enable these athletes to push the barriers of human strength? Collaboration and training.
For months in advance, there is an obscene amount of resources and training that takes place by each individual athlete. Just as the up-and-coming NFL player works alongside the world’s best fitness trainers and nutritionists to reach peak performance, so do procurement departments collaborate and work with one another for a commonality or shared end goal. Just as Aristotle stated centuries ago that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, this truth holds steady to this day – even with those humans that may seem superhuman to the rest of society! As with any proposal response, just as the collegiate athlete preps for the NFL, it is imperative that the RFP team collaborates with their respective colleagues in order to formulate and compile the ultimate draft worthy response/bid.
Custom Shoes and Customized Proposals
Let’s be honest: the outfits that some NFL players have worn over the years are undoubtedly iconic, but these suave styles have become increasingly prolific throughout the league’s hundreds of players, and the Catapult team is here for it! For example, Cam Newton is one immediate player in the NFL who, for example, wears the most incredible outfits, and he has kept the style going for over a decade now. While there are many fans of the sport who claim that the flashy outfits detract from the very nature and history of the sport, there is no denying that these outfits are attention-grabbing and reminiscent of the respective player’s personality.
Similarly, as newly-drafted players of the NFL walk across the stage on live television for the very first time in their fancy outfit, there is an incredible amount of pride that goes into that individual’s presence as their name is called. When RFP teams or sales team are participating through standard information gathering or a formal RFP questionnaire, they too must do everything in their power to ensure the proposal stands out from the bunch. Unsurprisingly, one of the simplest and most effective ways for any one bid to stand out is in the actual look, feel, and styling of the response itself. No – this does not mean it is necessary to utilize crazy font colors and styles throughout the entire bid; however, there should be an extreme emphasis on being unique and one of one in the RFP response.
NFL players have the opportunity to showcase their personality and thus elicit emotional responses from the fans because of their outfits. It is imperative that proposal responses create this same unique style and feel; the best thing a procurement team can be is unique and NOT like the other competing responding parties.
Turning a lost bid into a Winning Opportunity
If we could please take a poll, show of hands: who here remembers the iconic anecdote of Michael Jordan trying out for his high school basketball team and not making the team during his first attempt? This aforementioned example is applicable in all facets of life – including those athletes at the NFL draft and our fellow procurement professionals. Often times, fans of the sport fail to recognize the reality of many young athletes’ fates: they do not immediately land on a team. For most of these individuals, the thought of not having any prospects very quickly results in a feedback response… It is time to go back to the drawing board; let’s work on X agility in this particular drill; there is refinement needed in my interview speaking skills in X setting, so teams see me as an asset.
The athlete conducts a personal root cause analysis and garnishes feedback from his peers in hopes of ultimately landing a position with a team. As with RFP response teams, it occurs more times than not where the actual engagement or opportunity itself is not won and awarded to a competing organization. The battle may not have gone according to plan, but all is not lost in the war because RFP comments and feedback prove vital in securing future opportunities. While it may seem immediately disheartening or debilitating to hear that the team was not awarded the opportunity, there are priceless comments/suggestions and feedback that can be taken for the next proposal opportunity.
Whenever a player is not chosen on draft day for any of the NFL teams, that individual listens and prepares for the next opportunity, rather than dwelling on what could have been. Procurement departments have consistently been the unsung heroes of their organization, and it is about time they start getting the comparison to world-class athletes too!