Are You Developing Proposals In A Bubble?

the bubble on 30 rock

Sure, you’ve submitted countless proposals. You’ve certainly won and lost your share of competitions. But do you really know whether your proposals are any good?

There is a great episode of 30 Rock where Jon Hamm plays Tina Fey’s new boyfriend who she learns is “living in a bubble.” Everybody compliments what he does and goes out of their way to make things easy for him.

As a result, he lives in a reality that doesn’t exist. This isn’t a good thing. He’s a doctor that can’t save a choking man and a tennis coach that can’t play tennis! Because he lives in “the bubble,” he can’t see his failings. He thinks he’s much better than he really is.

Last week, I introduced the Indiana Chapter of SMPS to a new experiment. We separated them into several teams. I gave each team one hour to review six real proposals and pick one winner.

This was a group of intelligent, experienced, and highly capable marketers. Yet, I could tell it was an eye opening experience for them.

Everyone struggled to select a winner from a pool of some of the most successful firms in the business. In fact, only one of the teams could come up with a concrete reason for their selection.


Because we make it incredibly hard for proposal evaluators by submitting proposals that are almost identical. We submit proposals we think set us apart, but don’t. We think we have better people and better experience, but we don’t.

We are living in the bubble, unaware just how our proposals stack up.

Getting Out of the Bubble

How do you get you and your firm out of the bubble?

You could hire a proposal consultant, someone who has worked with many firms. They would likely be able to improve your proposals and give you a sense of how you stack up. The downside is it could cost several thousand dollars. But the upsides outweigh the cost.

You could get proposals from a state with a “sunshine law” and run the experiment yourself. Just be aware, the state will charge you reproduction costs that will run in the hundreds of dollars. You can find a list of states with sunshine laws here:

Now, there’s a third option.

Introducing The Brutally Honest Proposal Critique

I offered those SMPS Indiana members something a little extra. If they brought an electronic copy of one of their proposals, I would critique it.

Some of them took me up on that offer. And I was brutally honest. These people might have been surprised to learn how awful their proposals really were.

But I could tell they got a lot of value out of it. Here’s what one had to say:

“I appreciate your candidness…I want to see our firm improve, grow and succeed… but I’m stuck on where to even begin. I wanted to share this particular proposal with you because we received a fair amount of feedback from the owner. They too thought our proposal lacked clarity. I’ve shared your feedback with a couple of the partners and we are in works to develop a process on implementing changes/improvements needed. Your response has helped trigger that.”

Now I’m offering the same to you. Send me a proposal and the corresponding RFP and I will critique it.

Unfortunately, I can only accept 15 proposals. There are hundreds of people on my list, so you want to make sure you are one of the first to order.

I promise to turn them around as quickly as possible. And I can only accept payment through paypal (which will take payment from credit cards).

And if you are not extremely satisfied with the value of my critique, I’ll refund 105% of your money (yes, 105%). Either way, you’ll gain!

Sorry, Offer Now Closed To The Public



  1. Proposals says:

    […] you know, I’ve been doing brutally honest proposal critiques over the last few months. During my critiques, I rarely commented on errors. But with one, I just […]

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