Very often in the proposal industry, confusion is seen between the job titles ‘Proposal Manager’ and ‘Bid Manager’ which, as a result, fuel the already heated debate on the exact role as well as the capabilities needed for these functions. This confusion can sometimes be visible in job postings, where companies often search for a Bid Manager but list Proposal Manager attributes and vice versa. As a result, they don`t just receive inappropriate applications, but applicants themselves also have an unrealistic idea of what is expected.
An extensive list of currently used titles is provided in many official documents published by APMP i.e., the 2019 APMP Compensation report for the UK, on page 29.
It should be noted that nowadays, this multitude of job titles in the proposal industry makes it difficult for companies and even professionals to clearly differentiate between and therefore have a clear perception of the expertise needed to hold these titles. But this is a debate for another day which will not be further explored in this article.
The purpose of this article is instead to focus on Proposal Management and Bid Management as an area of expertise within the proposal industry and to clearly demonstrate that there is indeed a small but significant difference between the two. This difference must be properly assessed in order to end ongoing misinterpretations and clarify expectations, thereby enriching the debate with objective and fact-based arguments.
Writing skills vs coordinating skills?
It appears logical that a proper definition of both terms should be the first step in trying to understand (potential) differences. In this regard, I would like to refer to my article published on LinkedIn on Feb 2020, (Good Governance and Proposal Management – An indissociable connection) in which I provided a detailed definition of the term. I am confident in my assumption that, although the term mentioned in the article is “Proposal Management”, the definition and insights provided also apply to Bid Management. But that`s as far as the definition goes.
To be able to demonstrate that there is a (clear) difference between these two sectors of expertise, it is critical to understand the tasks that are to be completed by those holding such a title. Bid Managers are – for the most part – expected to be able to handle an entire bid process, from the pre-RFP phase through to execution and post submission including presentation. Arguably, this includes excellent coordination capabilities. In addition to the tasks mentioned above for Bid Managers, Proposal Managers are also expected –– to be actively involved in the proposal writing process, thus playing a critical role in shaping the ultimate solution for the Client.
It becomes clear therefore, that strong writing skills are the most important capability needed to perform the job of Proposal Manager and are an effective instrument in identifying the difference between a Proposal Manager and a Bid Manager. The writing skills are not always considered as key for the Bid Manager, who as a result may not complete tasks as utterly as in the case of the proposal manager.
In other words, all Proposal Managers must be good Bid Managers but not all Bid Managers can be Proposal Managers.
The APMP Compensation report mentioned above can also be viewed in the context of how demanding the role of Proposal Manager can be. The only job title aside from that of Proposal Manager which gets the highest compensation package – based on the job requirements – is that of Proposal Writer. This helps to substantiate the claim that additional skills are needed to effectively design a client solution. Whereas coordination & graphic skills are important, they are not enough – writing skills however are key.
In the light of the above, the “million-dollar question” becomes: How do you perfectly achieve both?
Proposal Manager + Bid Manager = Proposal Professional!
In my experience, there are key attributes and capabilities that must be developed in developing winning proposal including writing skills. This claim is based on observations and personal experience which – as proven – provide for more tangible results than any study or learning program.
Firstly, one should be articulate in the language that you use and therefore be able to produce error-free documents. Very good writing skills would include an outstanding knowledge of grammatical rules as well as spelling and language structure.
Secondly, it is vital to know your business – and know it well. Only when you have a clear idea of the aspects of the services you want to sell, will you be able to correctly articulate this in a proposal – and more importantly – you will be able to express it in simple terminology which can easily be understood, especially by non-technical stakeholders.
The third and last requirement is to always be open to innovation and actively looking for training opportunities, as this is the easiest way to improve, especially with regards to writing skills and the implementation of best practices.
A Matter of Value.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, my intention is not to demonstrate any superiority of one sector over another but rather to acknowledge that there is indeed a difference worth acknowledging and mentioning. Only then will we, as a community, know our true value and be best able to sell ourselves and challenge other people`s expectations of us.
My conviction is indeed that a true professional must know its value including strengths and weaknesses. However, it is also important to communicate that we, as professionals do not need to be Everything but be Experts at what we choose to be! Agreed?
About the Author
Vatis Tsague is a Senior Proposal Professional with over 10 years of experience in sales including 8 in Proposal Management. He holds a Master’s degree in political sciences, a degree in International Relations from the Technical University of Darmstadt, and a Diploma in International Business Law from the London School of International Business. Vatis Tsague, CP APMP, is a Senior Proposal Consultant at ManpowerGroup in Germany, and is a member of APMP DACH Chapter. In 2020, Vatis received the ManpowerGroup Bid & Proposal Management Europe 2020 Roll of Honour Award for his contributions in Proposal Management in the company.