We sat down with 3x Mimeo customer, Rita Pulliam, to find out how she got started in proposals, how she and her team achieve their goals, and what advice she has for up-and-coming proposal professionals.
What is your role at Further?
I manage all aspects of the proposal process including bid qualification, compliance and responsiveness, graphics, project management, desktop publishing, and then working with Mimeo to get the project printed, if applicable. I essentially manage the entire proposal project.
How did you get started in proposals?
I’ve been working in the consumer-driven healthcare industry since 2002, and I’ve been working in proposals since 2004. I started off as an account executive and quickly began working as an implementation project manager. I did that for a number of years and, at one point, the company I worked for had a shortage in their proposal team. My manager asked if I could assist the proposal team in completing their projects, thus beginning my career in the proposal space. I started assisting the proposal team and, after a few months, they asked if I would be interested in joining the proposal team full-time.
What’s the volume of proposal projects that you respond to?
My team and I respond to approximately 75 proposal projects per year. The proposals are in the consumer-driven healthcare industry. In addition to proposal management, we manage the content library using the Upland Qvidian database tool. Each year we partner with internal SMEs to keep content current and enhance the database.
What role does the proposal team play in your organization?
We play a critical role within the business development branch of the company. We are housed within the sales organization, so 99% of any new business that comes to the company starts with the proposal process and, therefore, comes through the proposal team.
Our proposal process includes partnering with internal business SMES to complete proposals. We work with every arm of the company including operations, the Executive Leadership team, IT, legal and compliance, product and sales to assure our proposals are accurate, compliant and responsive. Our job is To make sure we’re following all parameters.
How important is the overall quality of the proposal your team produces?
Quality is critical. A finished proposal represents the work of many people and a large, overall effort across the organization. What’s submitted is representative of that effort and it’s important we put our best forward. For example, when a proposal is delivered in hard copy print, how it looks and feels is critical. As a matter of fact, when I first joined the team at Further, I told my manager at the time (the CMO) I wanted to use Mimeo.
I worked on a project, had it delivered to her and the quality of the finished product produced by Mimeo impressed her. In fact, our marketing department has used Mimeo a few times and they’re always impressed with the quality. It makes Further look good.
What challenges do you and your proposal team face?
Anyone that works with proposals will tell you that time is of the essence. You’ll probably hear most proposal managers say that there’s never enough time to complete a project; this is true in all aspects of a response from start to finish. The printing aspect of producing a proposal infringes upon the amount of time we have to complete the project. When a print copy is required, you lose a few days to complete the project. Upon receipt of an RFP we’re tasked to figure out how many days do we truly have to work on this project to have it printed and in the client’s hands and what impact is this going to have on our internal organization. That’s our biggest challenge– time.
What tools do you or your team use to hit your goals?
Salesforce CRM for coordination with sales and account executives, Qvidian software to maintain data and help create responses, and Mimeo to print hard copy proposal projects.
How do you use Mimeo to meet your goals?
I had used Mimeo at my two previous companies, so I was excited to share the digital print solution with the Further team. When you look at the amount of time it takes to manually print a project, it just makes more sense to leave the printed projects to the Mimeo professionals. The alternative to Mimeo is printing ourselves, which can take up to as many as 8 hours for a single project. With Mimeo, that 8 hours becomes 1 hour of load time – that’s 7 additional hours to create a higher quality response.
I can honestly say that in all my years of using Mimeo I’ve never had a project not make it on time. It’s amazing that you can submit a proposal until 10:00 pm and have that proposal delivered the next morning.
What do you think people would be most surprised to find out is part of your role?
I think people are always surprised by how many internal individuals and teams I work with to produce a proposal. This includes strategizing with Sales, Operations, Marketing and the Product teams. Each response has elements that are unique and need to be tailored to the individual client.
People have it in their minds that a proposal writer is simply copying and pasting, and everyone thinks that we just use standard responses. Our approach is much more coordinated and disciplined. We implement processes, work with SMEs to keep the database up-to-date and constantly work to improve each bid.
Are there any resources you recommend for proposal professionals?
Join the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). They have a great learning community to tap into and high quality content such as Webinars and member resources. It’s been a very important resource for me over the years.