Average and great proposal managers are in two different professional leagues. Average proposal managers are in the world of completing proposals, while the great ones are in the world of winning them. Mastering two key skills will help an average proposal manager stand out of the crowd, and cross into true professionalism. Watch the video or read the article below to find out about these skills.
Many Proposal Managers Focus on the Obvious
It is easier to focus on the obvious pillars of proposal management: compliance and deadlines. Many proposal managers profess to be all about proposal process, while denying the substance. They manage the proposal team to the schedule, issue data calls, organize and prepare for the reviews, track version control, run daily meetings, and get the proposal ready for submission. Most of these tasks become routine after an initial learning curve. A sense of powerlessness sets in when the proposal manager is at the mercy of available boilerplate, Subject Matter Experts (SME), and the pricing team. Many professionals develop a jaded attitude when they start viewing their job as a set of short-term project management gigs, similar to herding cats. The fire in the belly slowly dies as winning becomes a gamble, versus a deliberate practice.
Two Skills that Distinguish Average Proposal Managers from Great Ones
The first skill of a great proposal manager is to become the leader of the proposal team, rising above just coordinating.
The second skill is the ability to influence proposal content, including the price volume, and produce a proposal document of winning quality.
Let’s dive into each of these.
Proposal Manager’s Key Leadership Skills
Proposal managers are given much responsibility but little authority over proposal contributors. Additionally, they typically face challenges that are inherent in most proposal teams:
- Limited training or skills in proposal development
- Limited time available time to spend on proposal sections because of other priorities or lack of management support to focus on proposal work versus their “day jobs”
- Limited motivation or incentives to work nights and weekends to develop time-consuming, thorough proposal solutions
A great proposal manager must learn how to complete a superb proposal by the deadline, despite these roadblocks. This often boils down to mastering leadership.
One of the key leadership skills is the ability to get superior performance from the team. It is typically achieved through proper delegation, just-in-time training, and motivation. Masterful proposal managers motivate the teams to perform by tapping into humor, peer pressure, and their team’s competitiveness. A masterful proposal manager also communicates clearly, often, and enthusiastically, encouraging cooperation and keeping the momentum for the proposal team. A great proposal manager takes an individualized approach to deal with all types of people. Our Advanced Proposal Management class explores different proposal personalities, and offers techniques for diffusing difficult situations, such as culling disruptive meeting behaviors and resolving conflict.
Influencing Proposal Content (and Price)
Influencing proposal content is tricky because a proposal manager is not usually a technical expert. Unless you stick with one subject matter that your company bids on, then you will likely encounter unfamiliar topics. The default is to rely on experts who know the subject matter to develop the solution and the content, while the proposal manager serves as an administrative coordinator.
But the best proposal managers rise above that. They become SMEs at becoming the SMEs. In our Advanced Proposal Management course, we teach the six-step process for influencing proposal content. Every step of the process has detailed techniques associated with it. For example, there is technique to master rapid learning and immerse yourself fully in the subject matter, to facilitate the brainstorming sessions. Solution development sessions have their own set of processes that we share in our Advanced Capture Management course.
Although some companies prevent proposal managers from seeing the cost proposal, it is hard to ensure your proposal is a winning one if a proposal manager cannot impact one of the most important components of the offer. Developing winning cost volumes requires expertise in what the customer is looking for, ability to manage the cost volume, and knowing pricing strategies, all covered in our Developing a Winning Cost Volume course.
Beyond being a project manager able to run the proposal process, to reach true professionalism, a proposal manager must focus on developing two core skills: leadership and content development. These two qualities put a proposal manager into the business of winning proposals, instead of merely completing them. This translates into professional recognition, job security, and higher pay.