In my experience, there’s no “right” team structure for a proposal team, and the proposal team roles and responsibilities can vary quite a bit. In fact, a proposal team can take many shapes and sizes depending on the nature of the opportunity and the proposal process being used.
However, the one thing that I can say with certainty is that there is a “wrong” team structure: it’s any configuration where there isn’t enough coverage to do what is needed to get the proposal over the finish line. So let’s look at what kind of coverage you might need.
What Proposal Team Roles Might I Need?
I know I said there’s no “right” team structure, but sometimes you just need a place to start. Below is an example of a typical proposal team that I would work with at an agency or consultancy for contracts ranging from $500,000 – $2.5M (USD). These will vary from organization to organization and from opportunity to opportunity, but it might give you a good baseline if this is new territory for your team.
Why Is It Important To Have A Proposal Manager?
There’s a role that I listed up there that I sort of glossed over — the Proposal Manager.
If your organization takes new business seriously (and it should!), having a proposal manager becomes really important. Here’s the thing: proposals are actually projects that need to be managed. Having a Proposal Manager can greatly reduce the chance of failure by submitting late or submitting a bid that gets disqualified for being non-compliant with the RFP process or submitting a low-quality proposal or any of the other risks that could make your proposal a flop.
Some of the specific value that a Proposal Manager may provide are things like a compliance matrix for tracking proposal submission requirements, allocating and scheduling contributors, and creating and overseeing the submission timeline.
Without someone wearing the Proposal Manager hat, you will have feedback coming in at the 11th hour, a lack of clarity on who is doing what, disconnect between interpretations of the proposal requirements, gaps in your proposal that you only find out the day before you’re submitting, and increased overall stress.
And, yes, I’m speaking from my own painful experiences!
How to Ensure Coverage
Regardless of your proposal team structure, you need to make sure your team has the right coverage. To do this, you can reach into your PM toolkit and work with your team to develop a RACI chart or coverage checklist.
In a nutshell, the team would brainstorm all the things that need to be done to get the proposal submitted and assign an owner to each (the accountable person). If you’ve got any blanks when you’re done, that’s where you need to bolster your team or have someone step up to take on those responsibilities.
Recruiting And Building The Proposal Team
Another element that is equally important is how you recruit and brief the team. Here are a few tips if you’re the one responsible for recruiting your team.
- Be sure to include all relevant perspectives. Don’t leave the UX team or the QA team out of the mix and think that you’ll be able to make a competitive and realistic proposal without them.
- Make sure that your key leads are comfortable estimating in the face of a bit of ambiguity. An estimation team that expects to have all the answers will be sorely disappointed.
- Equally, bring on some folks who have never done a proposal before so that you can get a fresh perspective while creating a learning opportunity for them.
- If you’ve got folks in your organization who are familiar with the buyer or have experience delivering a similar scope, find a way to get them involved.
In terms of briefing team members in, here are a few best practices:
- Start an Opportunity Brief during the planning stage that contains details about the buyer, the problem statement, the scope of the ask, key risks, and the key dates relevant to the submission.
- Always use the Opportunity Brief to provide context and elevate the conversation when briefing new team members. Share a copy with them in advance so that they have an opportunity to formulate questions, and also encourage them to refer to it as they work on their pieces of the proposal.
- Continue to add details to your Opportunity Brief as they become available throughout the sales process: your win themes, the high-level scope or approach, the proposed team, the target budget range, etc.
- When your proposal is accepted and the project is approved, evolve the Opportunity Brief into the Project Brief so that you have continuity of information and don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Looking for tips on how to brief team members properly so that everyone is aligned on the project or proposal vision and scope? Join our community today and take our Master Project Briefing workshop!
What Do You Think?
Do you have a solid team structure that produces repeatable results? What stories do you have to share about proposal teams and when things have gone sideways versus when things have gone smoothly? Beyond just roles and responsibilities, what are the soft skills and team dynamics that have led you to success? Let me know in the comments!