Why Finding Rock Star Government Proposal Managers is Tough

I was discussing with a colleague the other day how tough it is to find really great government proposal managers. By great I mean proposal managers who can pull off a real feat: lead proposal teams to spectacular wins, while doing it in style. They don’t only manage the proposal process, but also make sure that the actual content of the proposal, including the solution, is of a winning quality. They also lead in a way that makes it less stressful on the team and more fun.

I started thinking – what specific skills make those proposal managers great? And I started making a list that went on and on. As I continued, it became increasingly clearer why it’s tough. I thought I’d share this list with you. You may find it useful for staffing purposes or even professional growth purposes – and please, let me know if I missed something really important.

So, here are the attributes of a great government proposal manager (in no particular order – this is a stream of consciousness):

  • Sense of humor – to deal with stress, and to simply make the work more enjoyable.
  • Wattage. Pure brain power to comprehend different subjects matters from management and staffing to highly technical fields such as science, technology, and engineering. Ability to quickly grasp what’s important in the solution that encompasses these subject matter areas and lead the team of subject matter experts in developing a compelling solution.
  • A gift to distill something incredibly complex into clear and simple feature and benefit language.
  • Discernment and judgment. This is essentially the sixth sense (or brain’s advanced ability to recognize patterns) to tell what’s going to win and what’s not going to win.
  • Creativity. It encompasses the ability to write compelling prose and conceptualize graphics, and see angles to present the solution in more original and persuasive ways.
  • Discipline of setting realistic deadlines and holding the team to them. At the same time, flexibility and wisdom to move the deadlines when they become meaningless in light of resource constraints and other proposal variables.
  • Ability to see the big picture and grasp what’s important. But also, attention to the smallest details to make sure that the proposal is 1000% compliant and factually accurate.
  • Common sense. This goes without further explanation.
  • Ability to communicate and work well with people. This includes a skill to deal with difficult personalities (prima donnas and walking egos the size of Texas), and to prevent or resolve conflicts.
  • Dental extraction skills. Ability to pull teeth if needed and not leave too many bleeding bodies behind. On a serious note – ability to get information that’s usable in a proposal in a situation where subject experts are either too busy, unresponsive, or inarticulate.
  • Charisma and ability to lead, inspire, and empower, in order to create a cohesive team that’s obsessed with winning and is dead set on outdoing itself.
  • Planning and project management skills. It’s the knowledge of the process through and through – in order to modify it to fit each particular set of requirements, schedule, available people, and other variables.
  • Patience. It’s borderline angelic to embrace patience in this profession, but great proposal managers have to have it too.
  • Willingness to do what it takes to win and the stamina to work the long hours if needed. But also, ability to plan and manage so well that long hours are mostly unnecessary.
  • Desire and humility to continuously learn and perfect one’s personal and professional skills.
  • Ingenuity to do more with less.
  • Positive outlook and ego that’s in check.
  • Skills in the government proposal profession. Training and experience that are necessary to make the right decisions and avoid costly mistakes because no opportunity is alike.

Can you think of something else that I may have missed? If so, please, share. And do check out my upcoming webinar, “Blueprint for Winning Government Contracts for Small Businesses.”

Written by Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, AF. APMP, President ad CEO of OST Global Solutions, Inc., a business development, capture, and proposal management company that helps businesses grow in the federal market. Olessia has won more than $18 billion for her clients, and helped many small businesses acquire game-changing opportunities. She started working on IDIQs 11 years ago, including working on Task Orders exclusively for 5 years managing a $450 million/year IDIQ. She has won a few dozen IDIQs and Task Orders over the course of her career. She is the President of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) National Capital Area (NCA) chapter, and a well-known speaker and author. She has developed and taught a graduate course in proposal development at NASA for the Stevens Institute of Technology. Prior to founding OST, she won business for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and wrote for the Financial Times of London. Olessia can be reached at otaylor@ostglobalsolutions.com or at 301-384-3350.
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