People think proposal management is a thing, but it’s not. Proposals are not even a thing. Proposals at different companies have more differences than similarities, even though we tell ourselves otherwise. Proposal managers come in many different types. Some are a better match for a given company than others. When you see a type that’s the opposite of yours, you might think it’s wrong for proposal management. But there is an environment out there where that style is a better fit than yours. So don’t judge.
- The owner of the win. You think it’s your job to win above all else. You drive the development of the win strategies and themes. Your top goal is to submit the highest possible scoring proposal. Depending on your management style you might lead, beg, borrow, steal, or bully your way to a proposal that meets your standards. You may be filling a void or stepping into capture manager territory.
- The producer of what people give you. Your goal is to turn what people do into a ready to submit document. You apply your document expertise to making sure that all the parts come together well. You are constantly confounded by people not submitting what you need or not having enough of the right people. You may have played a support role in a past life.
- The leader who works through others to get what is needed. You’re the conductor of the orchestra. You provide the guidance and coordination that people need to work as a team to create the proposal. Process and tools are good and fine, but it’s people that get things done, so you work to get the most out of the people.
- The hands-on manager. You’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and write what needs to be written or do what it takes to create the proposal. You may have come up through the ranks, have some skills, and have difficulty letting go.
- The technician. You see yourself as best supporting the people working on the proposal by refining the process and improving the tools. You manage people by process instead of relationships. You find this works best in the highly stressful environment of proposals, where people can be difficult but process is reliable. You may have been an introverted techie who worked in isolation in a past life. You might still be.
- The perfectionist. The idea of submitting a proposal with any kind of defect runs counter to the way the world should work. You demand time for proper editing. You focus on the reviews and double checking more than you do on coaching the writers or defining the message. You just want to make sure that what gets submitted is perfect. You may have been an editor in a past life. You also may be at risk of overemphasizing CYA.
- The pleaser. You are a people person who defines successful support as pleasing The Powers That Be. You derive your concept of proposal quality from what will please the reviewers. After all, they have the experience. If they are happy, the proposal must be in good shape. You may have been an administrative support specialist in a past life.
- The know-it-all. You handle the stress of getting everyone on the same page regarding the proposal, by force of will based on your expertise. You define the standards and expectations and make everyone else conform to them. Without this, you fear chaos will reign. You may have been an only child in a past life.
- The artist. Proposals are a form of creative expression. Process fails. Your creativity enhances the work of the subject matter experts and results in a proposal that is far better than they could achieve on their own. Proposal quality can’t be defined. Art rules. You may have actually been an artist in a past life. But now you are an artist with a job.
- The improvisationist. There is no time “in between” proposals, so you make it up as you go along. You’ve got an idea of how it should go. So you improvise. You don’t build. You create. You flit around like a butterfly. Or a busy bee. You are always so busy. It’s lucky you are so good at improvising or things would never get done or done as well. You may have played jazz in a past life.
- The enforcer. The chaos of proposals requires a firm hand. Rules must be made. And enforced. Most proposal 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. Or just complain a lot. You may have been a policy supervisor in a past life.
Or are you a blend? Speaking for myself, I’m a “1” with some “5” in me and maybe some “8” that I’m in denial about. Luckily I can usually channel the others when needed. Over time, I’ve become much better at recognizing which environments I’m a match for, and which I’m not. Over time, I’ve met all of these. And often been critical of them as being The Wrong Way to go about things, when it was just the circumstance.
If you are a blend, you are easier to work with. If you are an archetype of one of them, if you are in your element you’ll flourish. Outside of that, your lack of perspective will create friction that will impact your proposals.
Which ones are you? Which ones are you in denial about? What does your company need? How readily do you switch points of view based on the circumstances?
Have fun with this, but give it some real thought…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.