Expert advice for starting out in capture and proposal-related positions – Part 2 of 3

Last week we heard from a number of capture and proposal industry experts who shared their best advice for someone starting out in a capture or proposal-related position, e.g., proposal manager, capture manager, proposal coordinator, graphics, writer, pricer, etc.

Whether you’re relatively new to the capture- or proposal-related profession or are a seasoned veteran, there are things you’ve learned that you can share with all of us that can help us improve our professional and personal management and interpersonal skills, abilities, and focus.

Here is part 2 of my 3-part series imparting these experts’ advice.

  • Make compliance your friend. Study it. Learn it. Love it. The most practical experiences that taught me the most were creating proposal outlines where I had to examine the requirements line-by-line and creating compliance matrices that did the same. Truly understanding the requirements will always give you the right response information, language, and tone you need to “answer the mail.” Love compliance to win. –Ben Rowland, Orals Coach
  • Capture and proposals are exciting endeavors, but are fraught with frustrations, so patience and a level head are definite prerequisites for any of these positions. In general, process and organization are key elements in dealing with frustration and keeping your wits about you. That said, my advice to people starting out is to work your way up the ranks and not try to run before you can walk. In other words, the progression from coordinator/writer to volume lead to proposal manager is important for gaining the experience required for success. Knowing the process is important, but in this line of work experience is what gives you the tools for overcoming hurdles and road blocks and the insight that is needed to determine how and when to alter the process to fit the situation. Another tip would be to find a mentor who is willing to share their process and experience with you. For instance, if you are a proposal coordinator and want to move to volume lead or proposal manager, ask the current volume lead/proposal manager to walk you through the process as it unfolds and to explain their techniques for dealing with issues as they arise. –Margie Regis, Proposal Manager, Management Resources Group
  • Select a mentor, someone you can turn to for advice and guidance. –Kristin Pennypacker, Principal Consultant, Lohfeld Consulting Group
  • Listen. Follow directions. Take constructive criticism well, and use it to your advantage. After 20 years in this business, I still follow that advice – and am a better proposal writer for doing so. –Luanne Smulsky, Principal, ib4e Writing Solutions LLC
  • Shadow someone who knows what they are doing before diving in cold; align yourself with a mentor. –Betsy Blakney, Senior Proposal Development Manager, CACI, Inc.
  • The advice I would give to someone starting out in a proposal-related position is to be flexible. A lot has to happen for a proposal to come together, and as a result, deadlines are tight. Any number of things can impact a deadline; changes based on internal reviews or an amendment from the government can change the scope of a proposal. If/when that occurs, the entire team’s schedule is impacted, which can create tension. Remaining flexible (and calm) when changes occur eliminates undue stress on the individual and the process as a whole. –Mary Beth Frazza, Owner, Frazza Formatting
  • Get involved and “Just do it.” You have to figure out who is good at this and work with them. There is no substitution for practice and experience – and then applying what you learn. I can tell you how to do it – and warn you about pitfalls, but practice will help people dig in. And, do everything you can – every section – so you get experience in multiple areas and in the types of thinking/strategies required for each element of the work. –Brooke Crouter, Principal Consultant, Lohfeld Consulting Group

What advice would you share with someone new (or experienced) in the capture and proposal field? Send an email to me at with your thought, and I’ll share your advice in upcoming posts!