A Wise Investment

Developing your proposal team to demonstrate its indispensable value

Many organizations implement annual objectives and performance appraisals, placing all their employees in boxes that define their roles and pathways. This can work well for mature disciplines such as lawyers; however, it can suppress development of less seasoned roles, with vague evaluation schemes making it difficult for employees to know how to progress. Just like evaluating proposals, appraising employee performance is subjective and open to human variability. Proposal professionals particularly suffer from this situation.

Obviously, proposal team leads should develop robust, transparent performance ecosystems and manage them fairly. But how do we improve perceptions and investment in our proposal people?

The Value Equation

People are remunerated and promoted based on the perception of the value they create.

Value Delivered x Perception / Supply

This equation shows that if an employee creates value, the perception of that value is high, and the supply of talent is low, the employee will be remunerated well and promoted often. Relative to similar disciplines, proposal professionals deliver good value, but the perception of their value and the quality of the talent pool are mixed.

Develop a vision for your team as a whole and career visions for each team member. Set out and publicize what your team stands for and its value proposition to the business.


Proposal teams need to demonstrate their investable value to leadership and engage leaders as peers and trusted advisors. Gain sponsors by “acting as if,” positioning your team members as the proposal experts and the engine room of innovation and entrepreneurship of the business. Come up with ideas, challenge the status quo, and make stuff happen.

Vision Development

Develop a vision for your team as a whole and career visions for each team member. Set out and publicize what your team stands for and its value proposition to the business.

Organizations drive staff to focus on the next role. Time can ebb away, with you ending up too far down a line to achieve your true aspirations. To avoid this situation, set a vision for your whole life. Think about the following:

  • Where do you want to be in the long term?
  • Do you want to lead, in how senior a position, and is line management your thing?
  • What areas of work do you want to focus on?
  • How will your personal situation evolve over time, and how do you want it to interplay with your career and your partner’s?

From these responses, create a vision of what your career and personal situation will look like. With the value equation in mind, this vision can be used to inform your decision making, shaping what you want to do, where, for whom, and for how much.

Personal Responsibility

Proposal team leads should build cases for team professional development, enhancing their teams’ and team members’ capabilities and value. APMP is the obvious route for this. It provides a reasonable program with measures of personal investment in development and offers both physical and online trainings.

Proposal people aren’t generally good at continuously developing themselves. Like any muscle, the brain needs constant training through challenge and learning from mistakes. Companies and leaders can only do so much with tools and support. Leaders should posit that all employees have personal responsibility for their own development, building on their strengths and tackling their weaknesses. Set objectives and track your progress in monthly one-on-ones.


Proposal professionals can improve behaviors toward the discipline and attitudes about investing in employee development by changing how the proposal role is perceived. We have to shift the focus from our role being a position of receiving and driving inputs to one delivering outcomes of tremendous value. We need to consistently reinforce that we are a wise investment.

Jeremy Brim, CP APMP, is managing director of the bid toolkit, an APMP-approved online proposal process and guide, with integrated training content and tools to download. He can be reached at jeremy@thebidtoolkit.com.

Join the Conversation

  1. Tom Giroir, CF APMP, IEEE

    Excellent article. As an independent, free-lance consultant company, I really liked the The Value Equation paragraph. Well said, and I’d like to include that in future articles (with appropriate attribution). Well done!