Being a proposal manager is unlike any other role. Indeed, if you think about it, the position is an exercise in opposites. For instance, proposal managers work with almost every department, giving them a big-picture perspective. However, when they respond to RFPs, they must pay attention to every little detail. In addition, the role is often exciting and fast-paced when creating a win strategy and composing a proposal. On the other hand, proposal managers frequently answer the same routine questions over and over again.
Consequently, the proposal manager role requires a unique set of skills. However, for those who can balance the responsibilities of the role, becoming a proposal manager is a rewarding job. It is a great career starting point for some, while others make it a satisfying life-long career. Regardless, proposal managers play a key role in their organization’s success.
In this blog, we’ll define what a proposal manager is, including their job description, responsibilities and key skills. Then, we’ll discuss proposal professional titles and their earning potential. Finally, we’ll offer advice for anyone looking to become a proposal manager as well as useful tools and resources for ongoing career development.
What is a proposal manager?
Proposal manager definition
A proposal manager is responsible for responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). They manage the proposal process including task delegation, response editing and submission.
In some businesses, the proposal manager may go by other titles including proposal coordinator, RFP analyst, bid manager and RFP manager. Depending on the size of the business, there may be only one proposal manager or many.
What does a proposal manager do?
The proposal manager is the main point of contact for incoming RFPs. They work with a proposal team composed of contributors from multiple departments. Most proposals will include team members in sales, marketing, business development, finance, legal, IT, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from various areas of the business.
Admittedly, there are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go into their work. But, put simply, the proposal manager is responsible for creating proposals that win new business.
Who does the proposal manager report to?
Generally, a proposal manager in a small- or medium-sized business reports to the director of sales, marketing or business development. However, in large or enterprise organizations, the proposal team likely reports to an executive in finance or revenue management.
Proposal manager job description
The proposal manager job description varies from one business to another. The duties change based on the size of the business, number of proposal team members and industry. However, they always contain a variety of responsibilities that contribute to the overall goal of winning new RFP opportunities.
As a proposal manager works to create compelling RFP responses, they may face some common challenges. Luckily, their unique skill set enables them to solve these challenges, improve efficiency and ensure success. Let’s explore each of these topics in more detail.
Primary proposal manager responsibilities
- Facilitate discussions to bid or not to bid
- Collaborate with the capture management team
- Identify client priorities and win themes
- Create and execute a proposal project plan
- Conduct market and competitive research
- Hold kick-off and debrief meetings
- Act as point of contact for prospects
- Gather and send follow-up and clarifying questions to the buyer
- Manage the proposal team (anyone contributing to RFPs)
- Ensure proposals and presentations are brand compliant
- Report proposal progress to executive management
- Submit final proposal for consideration
- Maintain the RFP response knowledge base
- Prioritize RFPs based on the likelihood of winning and value
- Track RFP data and win rate
- Be the administrator for the company’s RFP software
Common RFP response challenges
- Tight deadlines and a lack of urgency from others involved in the process
- Translating sales feedback and the capture management plan into actionable insights
- Confusion during the proposal process
- Disorganized or difficult-to-find proposal content
- Slow responses from subject matter experts who juggle other responsibilities
- Long hours as deadlines for important RFPs approach
Proposal manager skills
Anyone thinking about becoming a proposal manager should consider the necessary skill set. In addition to general business knowledge, proposal managers must master three key practices: knowledge management, proposal project management and data analytics. Furthermore, the ability to facilitate collaboration, encourage creative problem solving and navigate conflict are also valuable skills.
Additional proposal manager hard skills
- Data tracking and analysis
- Writing, editing and reviewing
- Managing proposal software
- Optimizing and managing processes
- Researching and presenting
Helpful soft skills for proposal managers
- Team leadership
- Strong communication
- Attention to detail
- Prioritization of projects
- Flexibility and adaptability
Proposal manager job description examples
Proposal and RFP manager job descriptions vary, depending on company size, organizational setup and industry. For example, if a job is in a small company in an industry that sells industrial bolts, RFPs might not be overly-complex and the proposal manager might be part of a sales team.
Software companies likely have a more complex response process, in which they have to prove security and regulatory compliance as well as document product differentiation, onboarding processes and so on. Many software companies, especially enterprise organizations, have dedicated response teams if not departments.
We’ve put together a couple of examples:
An IT firm in the Washington, D.C. area is looking for a proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:
- Collaborating with business development and capture managers to determine whether to respond and the best approach
- Developing compliance matrices and proposal section outlines
- Analyzing RFPs
- Finding relevant content
- Managing the proposal process
- Compiling data and report to management
- Enforcing editorial guidelines
- Reviewing proposals to ensure corporate and legal compliance
- Manage the proposal database
An educational technology firm is looking for a government proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:
- Analyzing RFPs
- Gathering information
- Developing proposals by assembling information, which may include, the project narrative, objectives, outcomes, deliverables and more
- Building proposals on company proposal software
- Analyzing losses
- Managing company repository
Proposal roles and salaries
Hiring a proposal professional is certainly an investment for any business. However, the value that a dedicated proposal manager delivers is clear. Indeed, they bring order to the RFP response process, ensure better proposals and enable the business to answer even more RFPs.
When it comes to proposal management, salaries vary widely based on the industry, company size, location and level of experience and education. It’s also worth noting that many recruiters say that a culture fit, trainability and talent is just as important as experience. In addition, for those just starting out, there’s a clear path from entry-level positions to advanced titles and potentially executive roles.
Please note that salary ranges vary, depending on where the job is located, the industry and so on.
Entry-level proposal positions
Many proposal managers didn’t start out in the field. Often, proposal managers are internal hires plucked from savvy candidates in sales, marketing, or administration roles. These professionals may jump straight into their role as proposal managers, or they may begin in an entry-level role.
As the title implies, the proposal coordinator is responsible for facilitating the proposal process. For instance, they work together with sales, product development, marketing and other departments to create a proposal that addresses the prospect’s concerns. Often, they are in charge of following up with internal contributors, finding previous answers and editing the proposal.
Proposal coordinator salary: $48,000 – $71,000
A proposal specialist is responsible for conducting research, articulating key differentiators and writing responses that address the customer’s needs. In addition, they request help from SMEs, customize answers to focus on the customer’s needs and ensure consistency and compliance throughout the proposal.
Proposal specialist salary: $50,000 – $76,000
As you might suspect, the proposal writer is primarily responsible for a proposal’s content. They are experts at turning general ideas and concepts into well-constructed, polished answers. Indeed, they verify that each answer is complete and relates back to the stated needs and goals. The proposal writer is particularly good at helping the buyer picture themselves as a customer and highlighting differentiators throughout the proposal. Finally, they ensure that the proposal tells an engaging story from beginning to end.
Proposal writer salary: $60,000 – $97,000
Advanced proposal titles
With a few years of experience and growth, entry-level positions may advance to a role with more responsibility.
In addition to managing the RFP response process, the proposal manager also executes the organization’s RFP strategy. They also collaborate with various contributing departments, explore process optimization and proactively manage the organization’s knowledge library. Often, the proposal manager captures feedback on both won and lost opportunities and provides recommendations to the business.
Proposal manager salary: $83,000 – $135,000
Senior proposal manager
In organizations with multiple proposal managers, a senior proposal manager is responsible for leading special projects, taking on high-stakes RFPs and administering RFP technology. Additionally, they focus on high-level management of proposal projects. In this role, they typically direct a team including a proposal coordinator, proposal writer and graphic designer.
Senior proposal manager salary: $108,000 – $182,000
Executive leadership positions
Proposal director and vice president of proposal operations
While they are somewhat rare, there are executive proposal positions in large organizations. For example, you’ll find titles like proposal director and vice president of proposal operations. These roles lead multiple proposal teams divided by products or regions and provide insight that may influence business strategy. Typically, executive proposal professionals report directly to a chief revenue officer or chief financial officer.
Proposal executive salary: $159,000 – $280,000
Where to find proposal manager jobs
Whether you’ve just started your proposal career, or you’ve been in the industry for years, there are always new things to learn. Fortunately, the proposal industry is full of helpful peers willing to share their advice and experience. In addition, there are countless resources for ongoing career development. So, remember to make time to hone your skills and connect with others.
Odds are, you already have a LinkedIn profile. The odds are almost as good that you don’t pay much attention to it. For most, LinkedIn isn’t a typical social media site, but it is a great place to showcase your resume, highlight your special skills (like an RFPIO certification), search job listings, and connect with people in your industry.
2. APMP local chapters
The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) is a worldwide organization for people who issue or respond to RFPs, RFQs, DDQs, security questionnaires and everything else that’s proposal-related. To be fair, though, most APMP members are on the response side.
APMP has 29 worldwide chapters with most on the eastern side of the United States. Both the international organization and its local and regional chapters host events designed for networking and learning about new technologies and best practices. APMP also has an active job board for proposal professionals.
Indeed’s website says it’s the #1 job site in the world. We can neither confirm nor deny that claim, but the site has a massive list of job postings, company reviews and salary estimates.
A search for “proposal manager,” not filtered by location, shows more than 50,000 jobs. And, a search for “RFP” produces about 16,000 listings.
Advice, tools and resources for career development
4 tips for new proposal managers
1. Build a rapport with subject matter experts
SMEs play a major role in answering RFPs. Consequently, they are one of your most valuable resources. Accordingly, it’s important to build a connection with them and maintain a good working relationship.
To work effectively with SMEs, you must determine the best approach. Because SMEs juggle their own full-time role as well as helping with RFP responses, communicating solely through email is often inefficient.
Ways to collaborate with subject matter experts:
- Conduct SME interviews and transcribe their answers into the proposal
- Have the SMEs write answers and submit them to you for editing
- Write answers yourself and send them all to the SME for review
- Collaborate in real-time using proposal management software
2. Create customized templates
An efficient proposal manager must think strategically, which often includes taking intelligent shortcuts. Tools such as customized templates help eliminate many of the low-value tasks that hobble proposal managers who find themselves reinventing the wheel for every response.
To get started developing time-saving templates of your own, download our RFP toolkit.
3. Focus on the customer
As the proposal manager, part of your job is to be the customer’s advocate throughout the RFP response. As you review answers and build the proposal, ask yourself, ‘Does this information help the client? Is it relevant, necessary and timely?’
How to write customer-focused proposals:
- Share your understanding of their needs in the executive summary and RFP cover letter
- Ensure responses center around and address customer benefits and goals
- Provide references, case studies and data that illustrate the results the prospective customer can expect
4. Invest time in your proposal content library
Finally, perhaps the most important thing a proposal manager can do to ensure success is to build and maintain a proposal content library. Far too many businesses waste time reinventing the wheel when they respond to an RFP. As a result, the process is slow and frustrating for everyone involved.
Proposal content library best practices:
- Use the library to answer as many questions as possible before sending the proposal to SMEs
- Store your knowledge library in a searchable system and organize your content using tags and hierarchies
- Conduct regular reviews to update answers, remove duplicates and ensure content accuracy
Tools and resources for career development
There’s no doubt that proposal managers have a lot of responsibilities to juggle as they manage complex projects. Luckily, there are a lot of excellent RFP response tools and resources that can make the job far easier. Here are three resource suggestions for proposal professionals at any stage in their career.
As technology advances throughout many businesses, proposal management software experience is in high demand. Indeed, it is now common to see job descriptions that express a preference for candidates with the skills to manage these RFP software platforms.
Our pick: RFPIO
It should come as no surprise that our pick for the best proposal software is RFPIO. But we aren’t the only one who feel that way. RFPIO is the industry-leading strategic response management platform. RFPIO applies a holistic approach to solving common RFX challenges through best-in-class innovation, collaboration and automation. It leads the pack in integrations and its user-based model ensures scalability on a dime.
The biggest RFPIO benefits:
Staying up to date on industry events and advancements is an important part of any successful proposal career. Consequently, membership in a professional association delivers benefits that are worth exploring.
Our pick: Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)
The Association of Proposal Management Professionals is the leading professional association in the bid and proposal industry. The organization has a global reach as well as individual, regional chapters. Accordingly, they host frequent in-person and remote webinars, events and meetings. In addition, APMP offers countless resources for expanding your knowledge and exploring best practices.
Resources for APMP members:
Peer networking and new opportunities
When you have a question, are facing a process roadblock or looking for a new opportunity, peers in the industry can offer help. Generally speaking, the bid and proposal industry is friendly and welcoming to all — there’s always someone who is willing to help out.
Our pick: APMP Official Discussion Group
You don’t have to be an active APMP member to benefit from their wealth of expertise. With more than 21,000 members, the APMP Official Discussion Group on LinkedIn is a great place to crowdsource information, connect with other passionate professionals and keep an eye on trends and opportunities.
- Problem-solve challenges by brainstorming with peers
- Explore new proposal technology, processes and data analysis
- Learn about new job opportunities
Networking for RFPIO users
Efficient RFX response is all about finding the process that works best for your organization. When organizations choose to automate their processes, more choose RFPIO than any other software. Perhaps you have questions that are RFPIO-specific, you want to network with other RFPIO users, or you’re hoping to find other opportunities where your RFPIO expertise will shine.
Our pick: RFPIO online user community
The RFPIO online community is a great place to share ideas and ask proposal- and RFPIO-related questions. The community is more intimate than the APMP LinkedIn group, so it’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop camaraderie and make friends.
- Share information about proposal management trends
- Learn about RFPIO updates and new technologies
- Network with fellow RFPIO proposal professionals
Once you’ve landed your dream proposal manager job, RFPIO is here to help you prove your efficiency and productivity, and drive revenue for your organization. Schedule a demo to see how we can add value to your role.