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Proposal Team Structure SCALE Conference Session: 3 Main Takeaways

November 16, 2021

During the session “Proposal Team Structure: Dos, Don'ts, and What to Consider,” at Ombud SCALE 2021, experts Andrea Dixon, Kevin Cohn, and Danny Wahl gave attendees tangible and real-world advice on how to structure their department, when to know it's time to expand, and how to advocate for the importance of a proposal function within an organization. 

  • Andrea Dixon is the Senior Manager of Proposal Management at MedImpact. She has a background in public health and has worked in the industry for 10 years. Dixon’s proposal team has 13 members and sits within sales and marketing. MedImpact works through 200 full RFPs a year which averages 500 or more questions each.
  • Danny Wahl is the Manager of Sales Enablement and Proposals at Instructure. Instructure is the information technology company behind the LMS Canvas, a popular learning platform used by school districts and universities across the country.
  • Kevin Cohn is the Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. Brightflag provides legal operations management software. Brightflag’s Go-To-Market team consists of 50 individuals. Cohn’s team places emphasis on the Account Executives and Solutions Consultants owning a lot of the proposal process. 

Takeaway #1: Proposal Team Structures and What May Work for Best for You

Dixon joined MedImpact four years ago as a bid manager and grew into the leadership role she holds today. She and her team work on everything from self-insured employer markets to federal bids.

“My team is involved from start to finish, prebid all the way to a close/win or close/lost. We see everything that comes in to ensure consistency in the responses,” Dixon said. 

For Cohn, Brightflag has grown rapidly in the past 12-18 months. In order to keep up, Cohn and his team have evolved their proposal response process along the way.

“I want the Account Executives to be as close as possible to what the buyer is asking for, and how we’re positioning our product to them. Ombud makes this possible: we’re able to go from zero to more than 50% complete in minutes.”

Cohn’s team has responded to (and won) RFPs with hundreds of questions in less than a day. As the company continues to grow, Cohn plans on adding more dedicated resources but will keep the Account Executives in the driver’s seat.

Wahl has been at Instructure for more than six years now and began on the more technical side of the company. Instructure does not have a dedicated proposal team because technology has allowed it to not necessarily be a requirement. Wahl and his team have been successful day-to-day by optimizing around what is best for the market, what’s best for the product and what is best for the sales organization. 

Takeaway #2: Employee Development and Growth in Team Members

In terms of investing in the development of your team members, Wahl says it is the number one job as a manager. 

“My job is to ensure success in my team member’s current role and for what’s next.  Instructure is great at this.” Bid manager is a growth step in the company and Wahl wants his team to have as many professional development opportunities as possible.

Cohn invests in the development of his team by focusing on simplification and pattern matching during training.

“One of the great things about sitting on top of RFPs is that you have access to more marketing information than anyone else in the company. The ability to take a large data set and extract key insights is really valuable and we spend a lot of time training the team on how to do that,” he added.

Takeaway #3: Making a Business Case for Expanding Team

It can be a thorny subject trying to justify more headcount or resources for your team. It’s important to be prepared with a successful business case for growth in your organization. The panel experts shared this sentiment along with best practices for justifying additional team members.

Instructure is a data-driven company with an extremely data-driven business intelligence operations team. In order to make a business case for growth, Wahl must quantify the amount of revenue at risk and explain the issues of not having the particular resource and the potential upside if he did have the resource.

“The number one focus for us in terms of making a case for additional headcount comes down to not letting your resources be your constraint in a pipeline,” Wahl said. 

Dixon emphasized the importance of being able to justify the case for more headcount through measurement and data. She does this proving she has done everything she can to make her team more efficient by changing policies, procedures, and training.

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