Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

Which of these 11 types of proposal manager should you become?

There are more kinds of proposal manager than most people realize

When I wrote Are you one of these 11 kinds of proposal manager? it was as a fun self-exploration with some interesting implications about the nature of proposal work. If you haven’t read that article, you should start there, because it defines the types discussed below. 

Most people find that they are more than one type. But what types are appropriate for a given environment and for your future? I’ve seen great proposal managers fail because they clashed with the environment they found themselves in. I’ve also seen people with potential limit their career growth by sticking to their comfort zone.

You can use the list below to determine whether you are a good fit for a corporate culture before you join it. You can also use it to get out of your box and improve. 

What type of proposal manager should you become?

See also:
Proposal Management
  1. The owner of the win. If you define success as winning and not just completing proposals, measure success by how much the proposal function maximizes ROI, want to work on pursuits before the RFP is released, and are willing to work in areas like capture management and pursuit strategy (and can do so without conflict within your company), then this type of proposal manager is an option. If your company has capture managers, then you might focus on articulating pursuit strategy. If your company does not have capture managers, then you might end up filling the void. This approach is most successful in an organization that understands the importance of ROI and the impact on win rate on its success.
  2. The producer of what people give you. If you are without support, overwhelmed by the volume of bids you work on, not capable of playing a role in the pre-proposal phase, and not able to influence key factors that determine win or loss (Do you have the right offering? Do have the price to win? Can you accomplish a proposal written to maximize its score?), then you might just want to let other people take on those roles and focus on production. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unless no one takes on the role of winning.
  3. The leader who works through others to get what is needed. If you know what other people need to do to accomplish a winning proposal, can coach them through it, and are sufficiently assertive and charismatic to get what you need out of them, then you can be the one who leads the proposal team to victory. If you hate herding cats and no one ever listens to you, you might not want to take this on.
  4. The hands-on manager. It’s good to be able to roll up your sleeves, fill gaps, and write what needs to be written or do what it takes to create the proposal. But it’s only good to act on that capability if you have the capacity and aren’t really just in denial about needing to control everything by doing things yourself. If you don’t have the capacity, you might be better off applying yourself to being the leader who works through others by training, coaching, and guiding their efforts. And occasionally demonstrating.
  5. The technician. If you are in an environment where you can’t take it all on yourself and people are difficult, you might be able to shift from being the manager in charge of the proposal to the manager in charge of the process and tools instead. You have to be able to position as supporting the people who are doing the proposal, instead of being responsible for getting the proposal done. 
  6. The perfectionist. Good luck. Everything in a proposal does not impact your probability of winning equally. If you are a perfectionist, you might be prioritizing things that have little or no impact on winning. If you understand what impacts your win rate the most, can effectively prioritize effort accordingly, and simply are an overachiever pushing to maximize win probability, you might just succeed. But a lot of perfectionist Proposal Managers ended up that way not because they are good at winning, but because they are afraid of losing. Sometimes fear can be healthy.
  7. The pleaser. If your proposal reviews are dominated by assertive staff who must get their way, you either need to tame them or go along with them. You might not be able to retrain them, assert other ways of doing things, or successfully introduce other considerations. If you are a people person, instead of seeing this as a problem, you might just define success as supporting them since they probably have more experience and authority. 
  8. The know-it-all. If you know what needs to be done better than anyone else and if you do not assert your will, chaos will reign. You may just need to take over to prevent this from happening. If you see things as a choice between chaos or being assertive and telling everyone else what to do, then you have no choice. You must become this kind of Proposal Manager. In reality that’s not true, but that’s how you see it. And you know best. However, some know-it-alls are also proposal heroes. It is much better to be a proposal professional than a proposal hero.
  9. The artist. If you see a kind of beauty in the messiness and complexity of proposals and believe no amount of process is up to the task, too much structure is a bad thing, and proposal quality can’t be defined, you might just have to become a Master of the Art of Proposals instead of a Proposal Manager. Can your creativity win, or will it fail? Or like many people, should you keep your artistic side hidden while at work?
  10. The improvisationist. If you think proposals are different every time, are too complex to script out, and you don’t have time for that anyway, then you might need to be the kind of Proposal Manager who makes it up as you go along. Hopefully you have enough of the “know-it-all” in you that have good judgment when doing that. Improvisors are rarely perfectionists. And improvising often requires more skill than planning. If you are not a planner and have the skills, you might be able to pull off being this kind of Proposal Manager. In orderly environments, this type of Proposal Manager might not be a match. But in chaotic environments where every proposal is different, it could be a good capability to have.
  11. The enforcer. If you don’t have time to develop relationships or work in an authoritarian culture, you may need management by rules. Rules must be made. And enforced. Failures are a result of people not following the rules. If you don’t have actual authority, you may get by on your force of will. 

Which type of Proposal Manager do you need?

Enforcers and improvisors are polar opposites. Enforcers do better in highly structured cultures and improvisors do better in unstructured cultures. They may not get along if they have to work together. 

Artists and improvisors may get along well, enjoying complicated environments and unstructured cultures. Improvisors may do well as consultants, parachuting into a new company with every proposal and surviving off the land.

Enforcers work best in highly structured cultures and are more likely to get along with know-it-alls and perfectionists. Know-it-alls aren’t going to be a good fit for collaborative, consensus driven environments.

While know-it-alls and hands-on managers overlap, hands-on managers are best on proposals that are small enough for them to do it all. The leader who works through others, on the other hand, requires larger proposals and may not do so well on the smaller ones. Similarly the producer of what people give you requires there be enough people to complete what needs to be produced.

Pleasers get along with everyone, as usually do technicians. Both are more of supporting roles, and do best on proposals where someone else takes overall responsibility.

The owner of the win is necessary for company success. However, the owner of the win really shouldn’t be the proposal manager. It’s just that proposal managers tend to fill voids. This really should be a capture manager role. However, the proposal manager may be able take ownership over turning the vision for winning into a document. Ultimately, the success of the proposal function is determined by its ROI and not the role the proposal manager takes on. 

Will it blend?

We all naturally fit into more than one of the areas above. Which ones we emphasize should depend on the type of proposal, the people we have to work with, the corporate culture, and the expectations the company has for the role of proposal manager. If you work in mixed environments, being able to switch from one type to another has advantages. What you don't want is to be a stuck like a fish out of water, being the wrong type of proposal manager for the environment you find yourself in. 

But the key question isn't what kind of proposal manager are you, it's what kind of proposal manager do you want to become?


Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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.

Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free 46-page eBook titled "Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage" with selected articles from PropLIBRARY.

You'll be joining nearly a hundred thousand professionals.

Sign up
Not now
  • Create New...