Laying the Foundation

Avoiding gobbledygook, the value of training, and other useful lessons

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I was skeptical about doing professional proposal training. I thought I knew it all. Completing training reminded me, however, that we all should be open to learning new approaches and refreshing old thinking, no matter how experienced or seasoned we are in our careers.

On-the-Job Experience vs. Training

I have always believed that learning through real experience is vital. I learned my craft on the job, through a combination of watching, listening to, and learning from others; observing trends; and trial and error.

Why would I need a professional certification to prove that I could do my job? How could it be relevant to my rather specialist industry?

Recently I decided to take the plunge and become an APMP member. I also took a day out of my schedule to complete the APMP Foundation course. Being a proposal manager is sometimes lonely and isolated, and it can be difficult to get traction and buy-in internally. The APMP community can provide support and an expert reference to help you maintain and implement best practices in your proposal activity.

The Foundation course covers all the basics of proposal management, everything from document production to writing techniques to planning and process—every facet of the profession. At the very least, it is a great refresher, and at best, you can learn a new approach to doing your job, with tools to help you execute it better.

APMP introduces a solid planning methodology to help you persuade your teams to deliver the right input at the right time—and to get the best out of your contributors.

Key Takeaways

  • A large proposal project can be bewilderingly complicated. APMP introduces a solid planning methodology to help you persuade your teams to deliver the right input at the right time—and to get the best out of your contributors.
  • Neglecting the executive summary, or leaving it until last, is an error made by many. The executive summary is the focal point of the response document and the planning process. It is central to shaping your competitive response. It should feature early in planning, not in the middle or at the end.
  • Working out the value of your proposal is something everyone struggles with. APMP helps to break this down, to understand how much time, effort, and cost will be required to run your proposal process. This intelligence can support you in making key decisions on which resources to bring in and how to balance this against potential return on investment. It can even help you decide if submitting a proposal is worthwhile.

And One of My Favorites

  • Avoid gobbledygook and jargon in your writing! Getting your teams to write good content and polishing the response for easy reading are not easy, especially if you are working with people who are more used to writing verbose technical manuals or documents. The course offers some good back-to-basic writing tips.

Finding That Balance

I walked away from this course feeling pleased that I had done it. It proved to be a great affirmation of my skills and abilities, but above all, I was impressed with the realization that no matter what your experience is, there is always room to develop.

Of course, the knowledge gained from learning on the job is incomparable. Every proposal opportunity is different; only experience, instinct, and confidence will help you navigate those spontaneous, unforeseen challenges.

Training that is relevant, up to date, and truly grounded in common sense, however, can provide great preparation and support for the long, hard, and often pitfall-ridden day of the modern proposal manager.

Fiona Bliss Quiroli, CF APMP, is a freelance international bid manager and proposal writer based in the Netherlands. She can be reached at

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