It’s Thanksgiving in America this week, which makes me think of proposal development.
Stick with me here. The elements of proposal development are like the elements of a great Thanksgiving dinner.
Think about it. There is a group of people ready to celebrate. The table is set, and everything looks beautiful and autumnal.
Then, the food. You’ve got a few appetizers to warm up the crowd, followed by the main course. On the menu, you have some old favourites and maybe a couple of new recipes thrown in. And, of course, dessert. You usually end with smiles and satisfied looks of mild indigestion as the guests contemplate a second slice of pie.
Like proposals, Thanksgiving dinners are a lot of work and they don’t just happen. There are usually people behind the scenes ensuring it goes smoothly, from planning to execution.
There’s someone who’s calculating how many hours the turkey needs in the oven. Somebody to coordinate the side dishes, making sure there aren’t five green bean casseroles and no potatoes. And, most importantly, someone who will gently tell Great-aunt Trudy not to bring her “famous” Jell-O salad.
Do you need a proposal manager or coordinator?
Maybe you’ve had this feeling before. That if, like Thanksgiving, you had someone coordinating your proposal process, you could be completely knocking it out of the park?
With this help in place, you could be sending beautiful, customized, persuasive, client-can’t-say-no proposals non-stop. It would be as if you’re making orange-scented cranberry sauce from scratch every time, instead of plopping some red, can-shaped jelly on the table.
Adding a proposal coordinator or manager to your team could be the key ingredient in your secret sauce of proposal success.
Do any of these proposal development situations hit home?
- You have a lot of subject matter or sales expertise on your team, but less so when it comes to persuasive writing, design, or project management experience.
- Proposal creation and management is a small part of many people’s jobs. It would be more efficient if it was centralized into one specific person’s role.
- You’ve been creating and submitting proposals for a while with decent results, but you’re unsure if your process follows best practices or if your results could be improved.
- You have a sales team and a proposal creation team, but no liaison directly linking the efforts of the two.
- Your proposals often go through extra rounds of revisions, or eleventh-hour edits, because requirements were not clearly outlined or understood.
- You create a lot of long, complex proposals that take too much time and effort to stay on top of and complete.
- You would like to send out even more proposals, but the team is already at capacity.
If you nodded in recognition at any of the above pain points, your next smart hire should be a proposal manager or coordinator.
How can a proposal manager or coordinator make your life easier?
Increase your efficiency
Get your proposals out with quicker turnaround and/or create more proposals in the same timeframe by putting someone in charge of all the moving proposal pieces.
Centralize your expertise
Hiring a proposal coordinator or manager means having one person who is fantastic at wrangling projects and deadlines. Or, depending on how you define the role, one person who is great at persuasive writing and can lay out a page like nobody’s business. Having a specialist focusing on these responsibilities saves other people from taking them on as a smaller part of their job.
Improve your process
A proposal specialist has been there, understands best practices, and can see your proposal development process with fresh, professional eyes. This can save you from making mistakes and missteps.
Streamline your process
The coordinator or manager has a timeline for each proposal and can make sure every contributor is sticking to it, saving the proposal from last-minute chaos. They can also rein in large, unwieldy proposals to keep them focused and on schedule.
Remove your silos
The proposal coordinator or manager is the missing link between you and your salespeople and the proposal development team. This means your sales reps can download their customer knowledge to the proposal coordinator or manager, and go back to doing what they do best—selling. It also means that your proposal team can focus on pumping out winning proposals since they have a liaison dealing with the details.
What are the main responsibilities of a proposal coordinator or manager?
Job titles with ‘coordinate’ and ‘manage’ in them can be a bit ambiguous. The job descriptions can vary greatly from company to company.
So, I poured through job postings across various industries to see what real positions involve.
Here are some of the most common tasks and responsibilities outlined in proposal coordinator and manager job postings:
Proposal Process Coordination
- Coordinating proposal development and creation process from start to finish
- Organizing and facilitating meetings with stakeholders as required
- Providing status updates to team members and executives
Scheduling and Deliverables
- Developing and managing all aspects of the proposal, including the initial outline
- Building a schedule for creating and/or receiving internal proposal deliverables within the proposal milestones and deadlines
Content and Requirements
- Ensuring content alignment with strategy, costs/estimates, and client requirements
- Requesting content from subject matter experts and other stakeholders/departments
- Creating content as required
Images and Design
- Collaborating on creating and/or collecting graphics, charts, tables, images, logos, etc.
- Designing the look and flow of the proposal document
- Proofreading and editing as required
- Coordinating review process with key stakeholders (executive team, legal, etc.)
- Tracking and making changes based on feedback
Monitoring and Archiving Completed/Submitted Proposals
- Ensuring proposals are delivered complete and on deadline
- Tracking completed proposals (won/lost/awaiting decision)
- Organizing and archiving proposal documentation and other assets
Not every proposal coordinator or manager position includes all these functions. Some job descriptions may involve duties beyond this or ones specific to the company.
And, there is one other important factor you’ll need to consider when adding this role to your team:
What kind of proposal manager or coordinator do you need?
A proposal coordinator or manager may or may not be hands-on in proposal creation.
You might need the role to be purely supervisory, like the Thanksgiving organizer telling everyone what to bring and when to be there. This depends on your company structure and your needs. The proposal manager or coordinator is overseeing the proposal process, but not actually getting in there and, uh, stuffing the proposal turkey.
In other cases, the proposal coordinator or manager will be expected to directly contribute to the proposal creation process. They may be in charge of creating some or all of the proposal section text and visual components.
A hands-on proposal coordinator or manager may also be in charge of creating or sourcing images, charts, and other graphics. They may also use digital publishing to create the visual package with Adobe InDesign or online proposal creation software.
What are some skills and qualifications you should look for?
Once you decide what the position will entail, what it will take to excel in it?
Here’s an overview of the skills employers seek in successful candidates.
- Time management
- Attention to detail
- Project management
- Research and evaluation
- MS Office
- Adobe CS
- Proposal development software
- Written and verbal, with internal/external stakeholders at all levels
- Working with a team and independently
- Effective at balancing multiple priorities and deadlines
A bachelor’s degree is a common qualification for a proposal coordinator or manager role. The degree discipline can vary, though.
For example, a journalism, marketing, technical writing, or communications degree would be required for roles that include proposal writing and editing. For more supervisory roles, common degrees include business, marketing, or project management.
Often, a background within the same field or industry as the company is a requirement or asset. This sometimes depends on how specialized or technical the company (and its proposals) is.
A familiarity with the proposal development process and proposal creation software is usually a must. Other proposal desired experience includes working within bidding and contracting or government RFP structures.
Budget is a big consideration in proposals. In a similar vein, you’ll also need to cost out the starting salary for the proposal manager or coordinator position.
A look at advertised annual salaries for this type of role can range from $45,000 on the lower end to more than $125,000 on the higher end.
Proposal manager—average of $95,000 per year (Glassdoor.com US) range from $66k to $127k
Proposal coordinator—average of $60,500 per year (Glassdoor.com US) range from $45k to $80k
Like the job descriptions, the salaries for these positions vary widely. Salary levels will depend on the industry, company structure, geographic region, the level of experience and education required, and so on.
It may seem like a significant expense to expand your proposal development team with a new full-time, salaried employee. However, when you consider the ROI—including the potential to create better proposals, get more of them out, and win more deals—it’s an investment that could have big returns.
Adding this key role to your proposal development team is like gravy on mashed potatoes, with each one making the other even better.
So, now that you have a plan to give your proposal process some extra attention, it’s time for that second slice of pie.
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