Winning the Business

Getting Respect

Expand your influence and heighten your profile as a proposal professional

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The lack of respect for our roles is a common complaint among proposal professionals. But if you feel like Rodney (“I don’t get no respect”) Dangerfield in your career, you can do something to get the respect you deserve. The key to expanding your influence and heightening your personal profile is to build trust—and to build trust, you must effectively communicate your value, serve your internal clients, and strategize.

Communicate Your Value

Change the perception of what you have to offer by communicating and demonstrating your value as a proposal professional. There are three ways to do this:

  • Document and share what you do. Describe your role, responsibilities, skill sets, tasks, methodologies, and best practices. Develop standard operating procedures and process flows, and present them to the company leadership.
  • Leverage your affiliation with APMP. When you present your processes and methodologies, refer to APMP guidance: “I didn’t make this up,” you’ll say. “I do it this way because the worldwide authority for professionals dedicated to the process of winning business says that’s the way it should be done.” Also explain that your membership offers access to people, education, and tools you can’t get anywhere else. Last, get certified. Certification demonstrates a personal commitment to your profession and career. You’ve got skills, and APMP certification proves it!
  • Be a team player and share your knowledge. You are the SME (subject-matter expert) when it comes to proposals. You also know a lot about your company—more than most—because you write about it every day. Share any relevant information with colleagues so that they can do their jobs better.

Serve Your Internal Clients

A sales representative or account manager is the owner of the sale, and as such, your internal client. Build a consultative relationship with internal clients, and you will earn their respect. Here’s how:

  • Invest in the relationship. Get to know your sales reps, professionally and personally. Find common ground on which you can build. Talk about how you will work together (e.g., determining preferred methods of communication), the role you will play, and who will do what. Initiate a social relationship by extending an invitation to lunch or another social activity outside the office.
  • Deliver on your promises. Do what you say you’re going to do, while managing expectations. Be honest, consistent, and inclusive.
  • Be proactive. Be prepared when an RFP comes in. Is your knowledge base up-to-date? Do you have tools and templates in place? Do you have ample “bandwidth?” A proactive approach will build confidence in your ability to deliver and help put stakeholders at ease.

A sales representative or account manager is the owner of the sale, and as such, your internal client.

Think and Act Strategically

You want your contributions to be recognized, and you want to be seen as a leader. Getting the attention of the company leadership through thoughtful communications can do just that:

  • Relate what you do to the big picture. Know your company’s revenue and growth goals, and your department’s goals and performance metrics. Draw the connection between what you do and how it helps meet those goals. Speak the language of your leadership by reporting on what is important to them.
  • Share market intelligence with other departments. Through RFPs, you know what buyers are looking for and expect. Share these insights with your colleagues and leadership through routine reports and/or feedback loops.
  • Get more involved. Know what the competition is doing and how your company compares. Expand your perspective by getting involved in client research, relationship mapping, and preparing for orals and debriefs. Use this information to be more strategic in your approach to the proposal.

By following these three steps, you will be able to take the lead in managing your career. With communication, relationship-building, and strategic thinking, you can earn the respect you deserve.


Robin Davis, CF APMP Fellow, is a proposal and sales operations consultant with more than 20 years of experience. Davis specializes in strategic sales communications and is an elected APMP Fellow, leader of APMP’s Healthcare Industry Task Force, and frequent speaker at industry events. Melissa DeMaio, CP APMP, has served as a senior communications and pursuits strategist at EY for more than nine years, and now leads the firm’s Financial Services Office proposal center. DeMaio also serves on the APMP Board of Directors and co-chairs APMP’s New York Metro Area Chapter. The views in this article represent the views of the author, and not necessarily those of EY.

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