The Year of the Proposal Professional

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In May, another incredible APMP BPC brought us together. I was lucky to attend and fortunate to present. The people I met and the sessions I attended spoke loud and clear; proposal work is a profession. Just ask the organizations who attended for the sole purpose of recruiting APMP members. 

This is very different from where I first began my proposal journey in 1998, sitting in my office, minding my own Knowledge Management project business when my VP said, “Hey, I want Cheryl to manage this solicitation.” 

Back then there was no proposal team and no proposal process, even at the large IT organization I worked for. Reviews were done with paper and red pens, WordPerfect was still a thing, and we had to carefully time production so we didn’t overheat the printers and miss our deadline. Along the way, I’ve seen technology change our industry for the better, and a whole host of opportunities still lie ahead.  

But 20+ years on, I’m excited to say, I’ve witnessed my first newly minted graduate choose this profession. From the first-timers to the pros, we were excited to do our fair share of sharing this year too, from our client panel who shared how new technology is increasing their productivity and reducing their stress, to how database-driven solutions are helping teams deliver higher quality documents 70% faster.  

A couple of other interesting observations from our team’s experience this year include: 

  • Either we’re getting older or proposal folks are getting younger. APMP’s Young Professional’s Affinity Group is giving back and making a difference.  
  • 21st-century innovation requires 21st-century collaboration. Just ask the proposal manager seeing better results from weekly Friday reviews in parallel with writing.  
  • Working remote has made us more civilized. Collaboration at a distance may be challenging, but dependence on physical proximity can undermine collaboration. 
  • Mental health is part of the conversation. Now we need to develop and share tactics for keeping our teams, and ourselves, healthy. Just ask the attendees who were working on proposals while attending the conference.  
  • Networking was on point. I rarely saw a quiet lunch table, the Tara was a high rolling chat-fest, and local chapters were in the mix everywhere, building local relationships attendees could take home with them.  
  • Proposal teams remain the center of collaboration, working across team boundaries every day. The key is collaboration. And knowing how best to collaborate across team boundaries. 

If you managed to catch my session, you heard about my top five most cringe-worthy proposal experiences and how they helped me confront some norms and change some behaviors. When asked, “Raise your hand if you’ve missed a special occasion,” one attendee raised her hand and said, “Graduation.” Another asked, “Did you really charter a plane?” Yes, yes I did, and before credit card points were a thing, darn it.  

Until next year, keep calm and proposal on! 

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