Who do you need on your proposal team?

In this article, we address who you want on your proposal team. Next week we’ll focus on how to estimate how many people you need.

The place to start is what activities need to be covered and what skills are needed.

Roles. We prefer to define roles functionally. It doesn’t matter how many people you have doing the work, as long as you have every function covered. On a small proposal you might have one or two people doing everything. On a large proposal you might have someone dedicated to each function. Some functions might need multiple people. The roles we start with are:

  • Business development: Because someone has to find the lead and know the customer.
  • Capture management: Because business development usually looks for many leads and you want someone focused on winning this particular lead.
  • Proposal management: Because you need someone to define and lead the process of developing the document needed to close the sale.
  • Proposal writing: Because writing and management are two different things. This function can be covered by specialists in proposal writing or by subject matter experts. Which to use when is another article.
  • Production: Because someone has to format it, print it, and stuff it in binders. Even if it’s just an electronic submission there is still some production involved.

But wait, we’re just getting warmed up. There’s another layer of people who are ancillary but still vital. They include people like pricing specialists, contracts specialists, illustrators, human resources, facilities, subcontracting managers, etc.

Then there’s the review team(s). If you use staff who did not participate in the proposal, you may need more people just to perform the reviews.

And there are subcontractors to consider. Will they be contributing to the proposal? Will they be participating in reviews? What roles will they play?

Organization. If you have 2-3 people on the proposal team, organization is not that big a deal. If you count all the SMEs/writers, ancillary help, and review participants and realize that you have dozens of people touching the document, you need to bring some structure to the organization.

The writers are typically organized around their sections. If you’ve got enough writers, you might want one person in charge of each section. This person is typically called a Book Boss, which still sounds catchy even though it’s quickly becoming an anachronistic title.

Once the proposal gets started, the Proposal Manager usually sits at the head of this organization, since that’s the person who defines and leads the process. The Capture Manager remains in charge of defining the offering and making decisions regarding what to propose. Depending on how you draw the lines, this puts the Capture Manager to the side just under the Proposal Manager, or below the Proposal Manager and on top of the writing teams. Neither one does a good job of reflecting reality. The Capture Manager usually isn’t a writer and doesn’t really manage the writing. The Capture Manager’s role is to figure out what to offer (leading and representing the technical staff) and the Proposal Manager is in charge of getting it in writing.

If you have one or more teams of reviewers, you should appoint a review leader to manage the participants and oversee the fulfillment of the review process. Even if the review team is small, it works best if the Proposal Manager defines the process and someone else takes over the job of making the reviews happen. If you don’t have a review process, then the Review Team Leader will have to make one up. This creates all kinds of problems and conflicts. A review process is a lot more than a box that says “have review here.”

After a writing process that can’t deliver a copy to review, failure of the review process is the most common way that proposals go bad.

If the proposal is being submitted in hard copy in multiple binders you’ll need production staff. Maybe one person. Maybe a few. It depends on how complicated the binders are. It also depends on how complicated your layouts and graphics are. If you’ve got multiple people supporting production, you’ll probably want a single point-of-contact in charge of them.

In PropLIBRARY we take you through the process of making these considerations, provide you with detailed roles and responsibilities so that all participants know what is expected of them, and even give you the worksheets so you can figure out how many people should be on your proposal team and who they are. Since most of the participants in a proposal are not specialists and are drawn from all over the company, it is really helpful for them to be able to get guidance regarding what is expected of them. PropLIBRARY not only helps management figure out what resources they need, but helps those resources get up to speed more quickly and come together as a team.



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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