Member Spotlight on: Danelle Morrow – Being a Disruptor for Good in Your Industry

Danelle Morrow, CF APMP, is an award-winning proposal executive with a passion for empowering professionals in this industry to reach their full potential. Last month, Danelle delivered an inspiring session at BPC Barcelona about her strategies for ‘managing up’ and self-advocacy in the bid and proposal profession.

I sat down for a chat with Danelle following her talk to get more information about her story and her desire to be a ‘disruptor for good’ in the industry.

Can you tell me a little bit about your professional background?

I’ve built the trajectory of my career in the proposal industry. I started off as an individual contributor and I have rapidly risen through the ranks, ascending to executive level roles.  I’ve managed five different proposal teams in my career. One of them I built from scratch and with the other four I elevated the proposal team from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

Currently, I work for a major global organization (the 17th largest employer on the planet) where I oversee the proposal function for our North America region.  I manage three different teams within proposal department comprised of 80 full-time employees.

I’ve seen this business from many different angles over the past two decades, and it’s a profession that I absolutely love.  My direct experience in leading and interacting with the top-performing proposal departments in the world has taught me how to solve the most pressing problems burdening sales and revenue leaders. I love achieving record-breaking results while lifting people up.

I’m also passionate about giving back.  I want to elevate not only my team, but the entire industry.  I believe the proposal industry is a sector with talented professionals, and yet there is untapped potential.  It’s time for the proposal industry to get an upgrade, increasing impact and influence, driving corporate decision making, culture and change.

Can you give me a bit of background on your experience with APMP?

APMP is woven into the thread of my professional background. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and I still vividly remember attending my first Bid & Proposal Conference (BPC).  It was energizing!  I walked away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement!  Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to refine my leadership skills with APMP.  I served on the Board of Directors for my local chapter for five years.  This experience taught me a lot about collaboration and influence.  I’ve both served as a mentee and have provided mentoring to many professionals in the APMP network.  I’ve cultivated public speaking skills by presenting at Bid and Proposal Conferences both domestically and internationally.

I’ve also taken advantage of the tools that APMP has to offer from the Body of Knowledge to the Career Center as well as articles on Winning the Business and programs on APMPTV.  There’s so much value available!  I encourage everyone to harness it to level-up and stay cutting edge in this industry.

I was lucky enough to catch some of your session at BPC Barcelona about strategies to influence senior management. Why did you choose to talk about that?

I’m very passionate that influence and advocacy are the top skills that are needed in this industry. I’ve learned myself through hard knocks how much we must advocate for ourselves both as individuals and for proposal teams. I want to pay it forward and teach others how to increase their influence and impact.  It’s a critical skill set that’s vital for success.  Individual contributors need to influence without authority to obtain timely, accurate information from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and proposal management need to influence to get the teams the funding and resources necessary to achieve goals.

More importantly, I believe it’s time for groundbreaking change.  The rate and scale at which this industry is advancing is unprecedented.  When you consider drivers such as the emergence of AI, coupled with economic climates and corporations where change is the new normal, these factors indicate that its’ time to create a major shift where the function of proposal management is no longer misunderstood or undervalued and instead is elevated to new heights with representation at the decision-making table.  The industry data shows that 35% of all company revenue across the globe is directly influenced by the RFx function, underscoring the necessity of the ability to lead with influence, as well as the disruption of an industry upgrade.

Our CEO, Rick Harris, called you a ‘disruptor for good’ in our industry – do you have any goals going forward for continuing this disruption?

Yes!  I believe now is the time for the proposal industry to modernize for a system more reflective of the contemporary era.  I want to empower others in this industry to reach their full potential and for the proposal function to mature to new heights.  The emergence of AI will warrant a shift in roles from scope to title.  When collectively as industry we can embody the characteristics of senior executives (cultivating executive presence, P&L fluency, a command of data to better tell our story, the ability to advocate and influence) then the industry will not only warrant increased compensation but also yield enhanced outputs (winning more business, lowering the cost per deliverable of a proposal or presentation, and increasing margin) for greater impact.  I plan to share my lessons learned to empower others to ascend to new heights.

I’m also passional about leadership.  I’m an advocate for both servant leadership and transformative leadership.  This is a time in history where leadership is more important than ever.  I believe it’s time for a new era of leadership reflective of the current world that we live in, one where diversity is at the forefront.  We need to encompass beyond DE&I to expand diversity of thought and diversity of perspective.  We need modern leaders who embody empathy and vulnerability more comprehensibly than we’ve seen before.

I love this industry so much and I have the utmost of respect for the APMP community.  This is a dynamic and competitive field that requires creativity, persuasion, collaboration, and excellence. It’s filled with talented, amazing people!  Collectively, the industry has grown and achieved many successes.  However, I also recognize that our industry is not perfect, and there are some areas where we can do better.  High stress levels, poor work/life balance, misperception and lower than necessary or inconsistent recognition of the impact and value of the function persist.  There are three options or approaches to this dynamic.  We can either play the game, exit the game, or change the game.  I say let’s change it!  I want to inspire a constructive dialogue for the betterment of our industry and create positive change.  While we’ve come a long way, there is still more to be achieved and the best is yet to come!

What do you like do in your spare time?

I love to travel and explore new places!  One of my favorite places I’ve visited to is Peru. I hiked Machu Picchu, which was an amazing experience! It took me several days to get from the base to the summit at about 8,000 feet.  I climbed up above the clouds.  It was such an amazing experience!

This adventure ties into the notion of disrupting for good.  Disruption yields reaching new heights.  The view from the summit of Machu Picchi is stunning!  It perched between two peaks overlooking the Urubamba River.  That’s what I want to say to others: “Join me on the edge!  The view is amazing!  You’ll love it!”

If you could speak to all of APMP’s members at once, what would you say?

I would say: you have a voice. You have the cachet and the power to influence. I think that a lot of people don’t recognize that. 15 years ago in my career, I didn’t recognize that. If we can, as an industry, learn how to harness the power that we already collectively have and use that for positive change, this industry could be unrecognizable a few years down the road!

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