Behind the scenes of every RFP response is a proposal team. This group of professionals works together and shares a common goal: winning new business. Together they leverage their individual strengths, talent and expertise. As a result of their efforts, they deliver consistent, complete and compelling proposals. But it doesn’t happen by accident.
Winning RFP teams are highly organized, collaborative and efficient. Consequently, in this blog post, we’ll explore the key proposal team roles and responsibilities. In addition, we’ll offer tips and advice for how to build a strong proposal team. Ultimately, equipped with a clear proposal team structure, your RFP responses will become more consistent, repeatable and effective.
Key proposal team roles and responsibilities
- Proposal coordinator/proposal manager
- Subject matter expert (SME)
- Proposal development consultant
- Executive-level reviewer
- Additional players: Large proposal team roles and responsibilities
How to build your proposal team
Key proposal team roles and responsibilitiesThe first step of building a winning proposal team is to identify the players and define the proposal team structure. Then, outline the team roles and responsibilities. The proposal team structure varies widely from one organization to another. For example, depending on the size and organizational structure of your business, you may have a consistent three-member team. Alternatively, you may have thirty people on the proposal team who all work on separate projects. Regardless of team size, these key roles will likely be present in most businesses. In addition to defining these roles, we’ll explore key skills and common challenges for g the process from start to finish. As the project manager for the RFP response, they create the project plan and keep the proposal on schedule. Before the proposal coordinator assigns tasks, they review the knowledge library and answer as many questions in the RFP as possible. Then they assign any new questions to contributors, follow up on tasks, answer questions and provide guidance as needed.
Proposal coordinator or proposal manager
The proposal coordinator or proposal manager is the coach and the leader of the proposal team. Typically, they work in the business development, marketing or sales operations department. In most cases, the proposal manager will be the point of contact for the prospective client who issued the RFP.
The proposal coordinator is responsible for overseeing the process from start to finish. As the project manager for the RFP response, they create the project plan and keep the proposal on schedule. Before the proposal coordinator assigns tasks, they review the knowledge library and answer as many questions in the RFP as possible. Then they assign any new questions to contributors, follow up on tasks, answer questions and provide guidance as needed.
- Project management
- Collaboration and communication
- Knowledge management
- Content editing and proofreading
- Collaborating and following up with subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Organizing, updating and managing the knowledge library
- Bringing executive-level visibility to the value of the proposal team
Subject matter expert (SME)
A subject matter expert is a go-to authority about a particular subject, field or skill. An SME may be an individual contributor, manager or executive. In addition to providing expertise for the proposal, the SME themselves may be a differentiator for your business.
SMEs are responsible for contributing new content to the RFP response. Equally important, they must review and approve answers from the proposal content library as selected by the proposal manager. During the proposal process, SMEs use their specialized knowledge to help convey key benefits to the potential customer.
- Collaboration and communication
- Knowledge management
- Time management
- Managing workload in addition to proposal reviews and content creation
- Communicating highly-technical and complex information in a way that is easily understood
- Keeping the proposal content repository up to date as changes occur
Proposal development consultant
A proposal development consultant is an outside expert hired to improve proposals. Likely, you won’t require the expertise of a consultant for every proposal, but they can be a key part of your proposal team when needed. For example, proposal consultants can assist in understanding the challenges and unique needs of a particular market.
Proposal development consultants can take on a wide range of responsibilities, depending on the needs of your organization. From reviewing and polishing proposal content to optimizing your entire RFP management process, you can find a consultant for nearly any proposal need.
- Highly organized and motivated
- Deep industry expertise
- Knowledge of proposal trends and best practices
- Change management
- Cultivating an understanding of business objectives
- Building meaningful relationships with proposal teams and SMEs
- Navigating complex corporate structures
Executive-level reviewer and approver
Before a proposal is submitted, it should undergo an executive-level review. The final reviewer should have the authority to approve the proposal. In addition, they should not have been involved in the creation of the proposal, in order to bring a fresh, unbiased perspective to the process.
The executive-level reviewer is the final stop before the proposal is sent back to the customer. Moreover, they are responsible for ensuring that the proposal is an accurate reflection of their organization. Finally, they affirm that the opportunity, if won, would contribute to the greater goals of the business.
- Big-picture perspective
- Detail-oriented and thorough
- Knowledgeable of overall business vision and goals
- Managing rapid review turnarounds
- Understanding opportunity context and background
Additional players: Large proposal team roles and responsibilities
While smaller teams may have roles that take on several responsibilities, in large businesses it is not uncommon to have proposal teams made of 20-30 people. Certainly, with teams this size, roles become even more focused on specific aspects of the proposal process. These additional players would work alongside the proposal coordinator and other key roles.
- Business development manager: This person is responsible for finding RFPs or leads. After they find the leads, they work to qualify them for your business.
- Capture manager: The capture manager receives the qualified lead from the business development manager and begins to research the potential customer. As they research the opportunity, they create a strategy for winning the business. Then they define the business’s competitive advantages. Subsequently, when the customer issues an RFP, the capture manager receives it. They pass the information as well as their strategy and research on to the proposal coordinator/manager.
- Cost strategist: Through capture planning, the cost strategist ensures that the proposal’s pricing is compliant, competitive and compatible with the needs set out in the RFP.
- Proposal writers: Proposal writers bring it all together. They incorporate the proposal strategy determined by the capture manager. Additionally, they collaborate with subject matter experts to convey knowledge while maintaining the brand voice.
- Graphic designer: From illustrations to layout and design, the graphic designer is responsible for creating a perfectly-formatted proposal.
- Editor: Responsible for the technical accuracy and style of the proposal, the editor ensures that the brand’s terminology and voice are consistent throughout.
- Review team leader/member: For lengthy or complex proposals, the review team leader assigns teams to review sections of the proposal. Chiefly, they coordinate and relay any feedback from review bid team members to the proposal coordinator.
How to build your proposal team
To be effective, a proposal team should be purposefully assembled. Just like any other business unit, the more organized and united your RFP team, the better off you’ll be. However, this can be a challenge. With so many people, in such a broad range of roles, not everyone will work together regularly. So how do you keep the group engaged?
Five tips to keep your team on the same page
1. Rally around your proposal process
Unify the proposal team with a clearly defined RFP management process. Creating a formal proposal process is the first step in keeping your team organized and engaged. Take time to document the process and outline the steps unique to your organization. Equally important, invite feedback from the team to ensure you don’t miss any key dependencies.
2. Set RFP team goals
The goals for your RFP team should align with your business objectives. If new customer growth is key, set a goal to increase the number of RFPs you respond to this year by 15 percent. Or, if efficiency is a high priority, document the time it takes to complete a proposal. Then, explore RFP response tools that can improve your productivity. Setting goals allows you to make incremental improvements and bring visibility to the team’s success.
3. Engage in go/no-go discussions
Unfortunately, the reality is that some RFPs just won’t be a fit for your business. However, far too many businesses have a policy to answer every RFP, leading to wasted time and a frustrated RFP team. A more strategic approach starts with a go/no-go discussion.
Go/no-go discussions examine each RFP to decide if the opportunity is a good fit. For example, are the resources needed to respond available? Is the timeline realistic? Can your business meet all of the needs of the customer? Do you have a history with this customer? Ultimately, go/no-go decisions weigh the RFP’s potential value, the likelihood of winning and the cost of responding to ensure the best use of the organization’s resources.
4. Start with a kickoff and end with a debrief
Every RFP will be unique, and each offers an opportunity to learn and improve. However, before embarking on a new proposal project, gather the team and hold a short, 15-30 minute kickoff meeting. During the kickoff meeting, the proposal manager will walk through the project plan, timeline and deliverables. Certainly this is the best time to identify and manage any potential roadblocks or adjustments that need to be made to ensure success.
Likewise, after the RFP closes and a winner has been chosen, bring the team back together for a debrief. Regardless of the outcome, feedback from the customer is valuable. If you won, discuss things you did that can be applied to future RFPs. Conversely, if you weren’t selected you may consider additional factors to weigh in your go/no-go discussions, or ways you can improve your proposal content.
5. Hold regular team reviews
Gather your team together twice a year (or more) to share feedback, optimize the RFP process and discuss outcomes. In other words, share lessons learned, insights gained and advice for the future. As you bring the team together for these regular reviews be sure to celebrate both the team as well as individual contributions to success.
The power of a proposal team
RFPs require a lot of people with differing expertise and perspectives to work together to create the perfect proposal. With so many people involved in the proposal, it’s crucial to understand how each role contributes to the success of the team. Ultimately, when you establish clear expectations and a solid process, you’ll be well on your way to winning together.
Now, perhaps more than ever, people have multiple roles and juggle multiple projects. Responsive can help your team manage more RFPs and RFXs in less time and keep busy SMEs from having to repeat answers. A free demo will show you how you can empower your team and organization to win more bids and drive more revenue.