How to Build Professional Skills in Proposal Management

Ask the Proposal Doctor

Dear Proposal Doctor,

I have been in proposals for five years and love the industry— I am one of those anomalies that thrive on little sleep, junk food, and a drive to win! I am hungry to improve and learn as much as I can.

Besides joining the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), what else do you suggest I do to improve my skills, knowledge, and general competency in proposal management?

The “green” Proposal Manager”


Dear Green,

Great question. I admire your commitment to continuous improvement.

Knowledge is experiential in this business. At the same time, proposal managers need skills that are inherent in other professions.

First, consider courses or online training that will improve communication skills, both written and spoken. For written communication, look at courses offered in technical writing in a local community college, through the Society for Technical Communication, or online. Many organizations offer training in public speaking, and Toastmasters is an excellent, inexpensive way to improve those skills, and gain confidence as well.

Second, make sure you are proficient in the main desktop applications. This is important not because proposal managers should always do their own desktop publishing (arguably, they shouldn’t), but because they need to understand the tools used by the production team. This helps in estimating the proposal budget and in creating realistic deadlines. Lynda.com offers excellent courses on MS Office and Adobe applications, just to name two.

Third, leadership development is critical for proposal managers. A good leadership development program will include a 360 (or equivalent) review and the chance to see yourself as others see you through video and other tools. The local community college might offer courses in organizational development, and the major online universities do as well — University of Phoenix, Walden University, and Capella University. Don’t laugh. These schools are accredited and, thanks to the Internet, the quality is kept high. Do some homework before enrolling in a formal degree program, as these can be expensive. Professional societies such as the American Management Association and Women in Technology also offer leadership development programs. Again, do the research. Quality varies.

Finally, I think that all proposal managers would benefit from having been in a sales or business development position, and if you haven’t, I recommend sales training. We are so dependent on business development and sales professionals, so it is very important to understand their mindset.

Happy learning!

Wendy Frieman, The Proposal Doctor

(Send your proposal-related questions to ProposalDoctor@Lohfeldconsulting.com for possible inclusion the Proposal Doctor series.)