Your pitch and proposal teams are invaluable for driving deal cycles and ensuring an efficient sales workflow—and cash flow—for your business. Yet, retaining pitch and proposal professionals is not easy in the best of times. Factor in the current climate—a global pandemic, The Great Resignation, the remote vs. in-office conflict, the ongoing quest for work/life balance—and teams become harder to motivate, compensate, and retain. In fact, some recent studies estimate that 40% of new hires quit in the first year!
Compounding the issue of employee churn, did you know professionals need at least eight months to become productive and fully comfortable in a new service or industry and to perform at peak? Since replacing pitch or proposal team members is such a time-consuming and expensive process, the smart strategy is to prioritize retention efforts to keep your teams happy and motivated. But how do you accomplish this objective when there is stiff competition for resources?
5 keys to retaining talent: proposal and pitch professionals
Invest in your employees: technology, training, time
Beyond their salary and benefits, investing in your pitch and proposal teams lets them know you want them to be successful—and you’re giving them the tools to do so. Training and technology are success drivers in every industry, helping your team work faster and smarter to remain competitive.
Pitch and proposal professionals have options for automated proposal management software that streamlines and accelerates the process of creating proposals and pitches and responding to RFPs. Industry associations, such as APMP, have excellent training content, certifications, and other resources. These tools not only help your team, but their resulting higher production benefits your whole company.
While technology and resources are valuable investments in your team, investing time with your employees—one-on-one, listening and engaging—is equally important to building loyalty and minimizing churn. By taking the time to engage, you’ll find out more about what motivates your team members, what frustrates them, and what you can be doing to help them succeed. Set your phone down, close your email, and communicate with them authentically.
Be your employees’ biggest cheerleader
Yes, you should literally cheer your team members on! By sharing their successes or offering words of support on a tough assignment, you’re letting them know that you have confidence in them. Most people thrive with positive reinforcement, so celebrate individual and team wins. And when they’re struggling? Remain positive, give them space for making mistakes and an outlet for frustration, and assure them that you’ve got their back.
Give them space to succeed
Now that the pandemic has taught us that our teams can be successful and productive working from home (WFH), allow your team to work where and when it is most productive for them. Perhaps a balance of WFH and in-office is best to accommodate in-person meetings (the opportunity for face-to-face relationship development is important) while balancing taking care of family and home.
Trust your team to know what is best for them. And remember that offering people the flexibility to choose how they work will go a long way towards keeping your team happy and engaged.
Show them you’re on their side
Pitch and proposal teams often work long days and nights, weekends, and holidays to get sales documents out the door, maneuvering around everyone else’s schedule. When you have the opportunity, ask for a deadline to be moved out from a holiday or encourage supporting teams to finish up before a weekend. We can’t always control the schedule, but we can be sure to give a short break between tough projects.
Reward them: salary and more
Of course, making sure everyone is compensated fairly is critical, but there are other gestures you can make that will be meaningful to your team. In pitching, people often say ‘show, don’t tell’ in their work—and the same goes for your team. Consider these examples:
- Hold one-on-one meetings offsite occasionally, such as over a coffee or during a manicure
- Drop off donuts, lunch, or fruit in your team’s workspace for no particular reason
- Send a note on a random Friday afternoon encouraging everyone finish up an hour early, or maybe spirit the team off to a pub
- When a team member earns a promotion, celebrate with the team but also give them a small, personal gift and/or note
- When visiting team members not co-located in your city, take a gift from your city to share—a welcoming and heartfelt gesture
- Suggest or approve professional memberships and conferences for them to attend; encourage socialization with colleagues in the industry
Even if you have to provide these rewards out of your own pocket on occasion (ideally you can set up a company slush fund for such purposes), the effort is definitely worth it. A happy, loyal team produces better work, fosters a positive atmosphere, and works together toward success.
Good pitch writers and proposal professionals are invaluable. Make sure they know it, and not only will you get a more productive team, but the cost of turnover won’t impact your success.
To learn more about how proposal management software can elevate the performance of your pitch and proposal teams to win more clients, especially for professional services organizations, check out this recent blog post or watch the replay of our APMP-sponsored webinar that reveals the secrets of building killer sales proposals and intelligent RFP responses.