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Assessing proposal specialists: how do you find the right match?

More goes into selecting someone for a proposal-related position than most people realize. The normal titles, like proposal manager, bid manager, proposal writer, editor, or capture manager only tell part of the story. What can really impact your needs may never show on a position description. You need someone who is going to be compatible with the way your organization approaches its proposals, and someone whose personal approach is compatible with your needs. How do you find someone who is the right match?

It starts with understanding how your organization wants to approach doing proposals. Keep in mind that how the organization currently approaches doing proposals and how they want to do it are often two different things. Also, how you think proposals should be done and how other stakeholders think they should be done may be different. When it impacts your job, differences of opinion over these issues often become personal.

Also, your needs will be very different if you are looking for your company's first proposal specialist than if you are looking to add the fourth person (or the fortieth) to the proposal department. If you are looking for someone to come in at the tail end after everything is written and "pretty it up" before it goes to the customer, your needs will be different from those of an organization that is looking for guidance on how to improve their win rate.

It will help you understand your needs better if you can say whose job it is to:

See also:
Organizational development
  • Figure out what to say in your proposals
  • Figure out what to offer
  • Make something written by others grammatically correct and properly formatted
  • Identify the win strategies and what is required to win
  • Articulate the win strategies as themes in the document
  • Take ownership of both the content and presentation
  • Take ownership of what to offer
  • Take ownership of winning
  • Define the process to be followed
  • Enforce process compliance
  • Review proposals to identify ways to improve them
  • Oversee the efforts of those involved


A major reason for friction between the proposal function and the rest of the company is that you've got a clash between who you have and what you need. It has more to do with style, approach, and personality than it does with qualifications.

I know that I would be a bad match for a company that wants their program staff to write the proposal and then hand it off to someone to edit and submit to the customer. I can't edit without re-writing. I can't re-write without getting involved with the win strategies. I can't formulate win strategies without being involved pre-RFP.

I can do it once as a consultant. But put me in as an employee and it would grow old real quick. Because I'd recognize it if it couldn't be resolved, we'd soon part ways. But someone else might stick around and find themselves in constant turf battles. It would all be because the company made a legitimate decision to structure its proposals in a certain way and only provide support at the back end. But they hired the wrong person to provide that kind of support. They needed someone who could be happy being an editor or production support.

The opposite is also true. Put someone who sees their role as finalizing a proposal in a position that is supposed to drive strategy and you probably won't get the results you are looking for. They may tend to refine existing strategies instead of reinventing them.

The roles of proposal manager, bid manager, proposal writer, editor, and capture manager can all be interpreted in different ways. And while the position descriptions describe the qualifications and "responsibilities," they usually don't tell you what kind of personality you really need.

When you understand the approach to proposal development in your company, you can determine whether you need someone to:

  • Lead or provide support
  • Do a job that you'll define for them
  • Define their own job
  • Get involved in all aspects of the problem
  • Focus on solving a specific aspect of the problem
  • Define the process
  • Follow the process
  • Provide guidance to others
  • Accept guidance and follow instructions


When you hire someone to support your proposal efforts, make sure you look beyond their qualifications and capabilities, and look at whether they are the right match.

Need an assessment tool for hiring proposal staff?

When we wrote this article we also created an assessment tool. It includes a proposal sample for editing, reviewing, and/or rewriting by candidates with some guidance for how to use it. It can tell you a lot about the natural inclinations of a candidate as well as their capabilities. PropLIBRARY Subscribers can download the assessment tool here.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

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.

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