Reprinted from

While the phrase, “everybody gets a trophy” has become aligned with a sense of entitlement, or the idea that one person works hard and the rest of the team reaps the benefits, I would argue that this phrase still has some merit. The phrase can apply to our proposal and business development teams. But that doesn’t mean everyone gets the same trophy. It means that every member of the team is seen for their strengths during the proposal effort.

Each role on the proposal team is important, no matter the size or scale of the effort. Your team has worked hard and put in long hours, maybe even sacrificed personal or family time and responsibilities to complete their tasks. Recognize their efforts, accomplishments, and value to your organization. Team members who feel appreciated are more inclined to support subsequent proposal efforts and do so well.

How do we recognize the team?

Hold a victory party (virtual or in-person). It may suit your team best to hold the first—yes, first—victory party immediately after submitting the proposal.

Then, schedule a second victory party if you win the contract. Holding a victory party, win or lose, allows the team to celebrate their personal and team accomplishments, recognizing the hard work each of them put in. During this party, you can reward each team member and thank them for their personal contributions to the team, the effort, and your organization. When team members feel valued, they will produce quality work again.

How do we reward the team?

That’s for each organization to decide and might even be more of a question of company culture. But creating a culture of winning, where everyone feels seen for their efforts, has the power to create more wins, better performing proposal teams, and ultimately more business. An organization where everyone wins.

So it’s not just a participation trophy, it’s personalized according to hard work and achievements. Recognition for a job well done. Everyone on the team serves a role and there are no small parts. Give everyone a trophy.

The problem: Team morale is low after losing and the quality of our proposals is declining. 

Losing a bid is hard. It’s easy to get swept up in disappointment, to see the flaws in your proposal, and to blame others for mistakes. This breaks down the morale of the team and quality can absolutely suffer. Mistakes need to be addressed in a lessons learned review, but don’t dwell on them. There’s usually more to losing than what’s in the proposal 

The solution: Celebrate the proposal effort with the team, win or lose. 

Your team has put in hours of work and plenty of stress to meet the proposal deadline. Some may have worked weekends or holidays, taken time away from family, and adjusted other responsibilities. Recognize their efforts, accomplishments, and the value they provide to your organization. Have that celebration whether your team wins the opportunity or not. The effort is the same. In fact, have a celebration at submittal! Don’t wait to find out whether you win or lose. If you win, you can always celebrate again. 

When it comes to boosting the morale of the proposal team, it’s important to recognize the hard work of each individual. If a team member knows their work is valued, they will work just as hard on the next opportunity, if not harder. Recognition of any kind helps build confidence, trust, and a sense of loyalty to the organization. 

Schedule the victory party well in advance. Put it right in the proposal schedule. Make this celebration just as important as every other team meeting. 

A victory celebration doesn’t have to be expensive, glamorous, or divvy out pricy rewards. This party only needs to celebrate the team’s accomplishments. 

Everyone loves a celebration. So, stop dwelling on those disappointments and mistakes and hold that victory party! Focus on what went right and what was learned from the effort.