The proposal manager is the role at the heart of the bid team. Proposal managers own the entire proposal process. They’re the ones tasked with responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and it’s their responsibility to make sure bids are written and submitted to potential clients on time.
In some cases, proposal managers are the only role in an organization dedicated to the bid process. In others, the proposal manager is the leader of a team of proposal professionals, coordinating writers, designers, editors, and reviewers.
No matter how large their team, however, it’s a big role, especially for companies that depend on RFP responses and proposals for the bulk of their revenue. So what makes a truly great proposal manager, and what skills should they have?
A look at the proposal manager role
According to Payscale, the typical proposal manager makes an average $79.256 a year, although their salaries can be as high as $112,000, depending on their location, experience, and industry.
They earn that salary by working long hours. Research from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), the majority of proposal professionals work more than 40 hours per week and 14% report regularly working more than 50 hours per week. Despite the stress and long hours, Payscale finds that proposal managers tend to like their jobs, with respondents to the site giving their job a 3.98 out of 5 stars.
Proposal managers often come from other proposal-related roles, such as proposal writers, but they need skills beyond writing. It’s important for proposal managers to be able to manage a team, communicate with people from different areas of a company, and to be able to organize a proposal process.
What soft skills do proposal managers need?
The best proposal managers are experts when it comes to RFPs, but they’re also excellent managers. That means they need to be able to go beyond the RFP itself and organize a successful team, plan the process of building the RFP response, and get a strong response out the door by deadline. That means that whatever their proposal skills, they need excellent soft skills.
- Communication: Proposal managers are communicating across an organization, and may also be communicating with clients. They need to be able to talk to every stakeholder in order to keep everyone in the loop, and keep the proposal moving through the writing process.
- Attention to detail: Proposal managers spend a lot of time reading through RFPs. They need to be able to absorb every detail of the RFP so that the proposal covers every necessary bit of information. They also are the final set of eyes on the proposal before it is sent to the client, and so they need to catch any mistakes before the bid is sent.
- Organization: RFP responses can be hundreds of pages long and have a lot of moving parts. Sometimes several people are collaborating at once. A good proposal manager must be able to keep all of that organized.
- Time management: As with many project managers, a proposal manager needs to be on top of deadlines in order to have the bid done on time. This often means juggling more than one deadline for different drafts and different stakeholders. A good project manager knows what is due when, and from whom.
- Delegation: When you are an expert, it’s tempting to do the entire job yourself, but proposal managers who lead a team have to know when to delegate. This can be difficult. According to some research, proposal managers spend an average of 27 hours writing a proposal, in fact. This, however, may not be a good use of a proposal manager’s time. Great proposal managers know when to delegate tasks to other people, and to software that can help them by automating parts of the job that are better handled by software.
Using automation as a proposal manager
RFP automation is the use of technology to automate parts of the proposal creation process. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, RFP automation software is able to assemble a basic proposal that a team can then tailor to the specific bid. This can be particularly helpful for small bid teams, which have fewer professionals dedicated to writing bids, but larger teams can also benefit from automation. When proposal automation, like Ombud’s RFP automation solution, handles the first pass at an RFP response, the bid can take their time with the creative parts, and that takes some of the weight off the proposal managers’ shoulders.