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Who do you need on your proposal team?

How do you figure out the staff you need to win a major proposal

Who do you need on your proposal team? The place to start is what activities need to be covered and what skills are needed. The easiest way to account for all the activities and corresponding skill requirements is to categorize them by the roles that people play in proposal development.

Proposal development roles

See also:
Proposal Management

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 manager: Because someone has to find the lead and develop customer relationships.
  • Capture manager: Because business developers spend their time looking for as many leads as possible and you want someone focused on winning this particular lead.
  • Proposal manager: Because you need someone to define and lead the process of developing the document needed to close the sale.
  • Proposal writers and contributors: Because writing and management are two different things. But sometimes the people involved in proposal writing don't actually do any writing. Subject matter experts and others can contribute to the proposal without necessarily writing sections. Depending on the nature of your offering, you may need highly technical people involved. Or estimators. Or experts who can address one specific requirement.
  • Production coordinator and staff: 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.
  • Pricing and contracts. Because someone has to prepare the pricing and business volumes. Because someone has to read and understand the terms and conditions specified in the RFP. For a small business this might be one person. For a large business, this might be two or more departments and specialists like estimators, contracts, legal, supply chain and subcontract managers, human resources, facilities, etc.
  • Reviewers. Because not only do you need someone to double check everything, you need enough people to read both the proposal and RFP, understand the issues, and go beyond simply rendering their opinions about the proposal to validate the decisions, trade-offs, and presentation of your proposal. That takes time, experience, and knowledge. You may need technical experts to validate the approaches being proposed. People do not learn how to define proposal quality criteria or validate them in college. So you must find the people who are capable of doing this, and if you want objective opinions, you need to find people with this expertise who are not already working on the proposal.

Organizing proposal staff 

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.

Proposal writers are typically organized around their sections, and in large proposals a number of sections might be grouped into a volume. If you’ve got enough writers, you might want one person in charge of each section or volume. This person is typically called a Book Boss, which still sounds catchy even though it’s quickly becoming an anachronistic title. These days they are usually referred to as a volume lead.

Once the proposal gets started, the Proposal Manager defines and leads the proposal process. The Capture Manager defines the offering and makes decisions regarding what to propose. The Capture Manager usually isn’t a writer and doesn’t usually 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.”

Your production staff will format and finalize the proposal for submission, whether electronic files or hard copies are required. This may require one person. Maybe a few. It depends on how complicated the proposal is. Luckily submitting hard copies is becoming more and more rare, because they take more effort to produce. The level of effort for proposal production also depends on how complicated your layouts and graphics are. If need multiple people to support production, you’ll probably want a single point-of-contact in charge of them and setting standards.

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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