Bid Team Structure: Research Reveals Top Roles and When to Hire
Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither are great proposal teams. It takes research and proof points to determine the best bid team structure, plus get buy-in for more resources.
When structured effectively, proposal teams add tremendous business value. Besides triaging requests for proposals (RFPs) for huge contracts, strong bid teams craft compelling narratives, soothe collaboration woes, and even proactively seek new business through capture planning.
Read on for new research about common proposal team structures and when to hire. Plus, candid advice from five proposal leaders on how to set your department up for success.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why You Need a Dedicated Proposal Team
- Proposal Tipping Points: When You Should Start a Bid Team
- Five Common Proposal Team Roles & Responsibilities
- How to Steadily Build Your Bid Team Structure
- Building a Business Case for Future RFP Success
Why Do You Need a Proposal Team?
Answering RFPs is a huge undertaking, taking an average of 23 hours for every single response.
That’s why many teams hire dedicated proposal team members who can truly own and master the RFP response process at their company. As Julie McCoy, Director of Global Proposal Management for DocuSign, explains, “Proposal teams are the experts. We know the industry, competitors, procurement portals, you name it. We deal with RFPs day in and day out.”
When a company has a dedicated proposal team, outcomes tend to include:
- Higher satisfaction with the proposal process overall (60% on average)
- An average win rate of 51% or higher
- Less stress for RFP contributors
Research across 650+ organizations shows that 37% of the time, proposal teams lead an organization’s RFP response process. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this actually benefits a company’s bottom line, as top-performing teams (who win 51% or more of bids) are found more likely to have a dedicated department owning their proposal process.
Olivia Hartman, Proposals and Growth Operations Leader for Lyra Health, explains there’s a key way that proposal teams support a company’s revenue function.
Proposal Tipping Points: When Your Organization Should Start a Bid Team
For employees who don’t handle them regularly, learning how to respond to an RFP can be daunting.
That’s why a dedicated proposal pro typically enters the scene when one of two things happens:
- Your organization grows to handle approximately 75 RFP-related projects per year
- Or, your organization reaches 150-200 employees
An informal research survey among 60 Loopio customers shows these are the average inflection points among participants surveyed. However, tipping points do vary from business to business depending on the complexity of the RFPs, requests for information (RFIs), or other sales proposals that the team is handling.
Anthony Rossi, Proposal Manager for MX.com, explains that any RFX presents an opportunity to consider building a proposal team at your company.
In other words, if your company does any work on proposals, you should be looking into having a dedicated person or team handle the RFP response process to propel your revenue growth.
According to the survey conducted by Loopio Labs, the most common reason for determining when a proposal team should take shape is due to an increase in RFP volume, closely followed by expanding business opportunities.
What Drives a Proposal Team to Take Shape?
Of course, data points can be subjective, so be sure to consider them in the context of your team’s business. For example, more complex government RFPs likely require more support.
Grant Waldron, Manager of Global Proposal Operations at Fastly, explains, “Sometimes the number of projects is shielded by actually how large the RFPs are. So I actually utilize the volume of questions we’re handling. Looking at the trends across my company, there were only about 10% more RFP projects, but there were 40% more questions overall. So that shielded the big number of how much more work was being taken on.”
Now that we’ve established why and when you need dedicated proposal support—who should be your first hire? Read on to learn about the common bid team roles and responsibilities.
Five Common Proposal Team Roles & Responsibilities
Now that you’re ready to begin building your team, where should you start?
There are many responsibilities to consider as you scale your proposal team. However, there are five commonly found roles across bid teams, which include:
This person leads the team and manages the production of high-quality proposal responses. They are a master of time management, coordination, and triaging among internal experts to ensure resources are appropriately allocated for the best possible proposals.
The writer is a wordsmith who produces professional proposal narratives that articulate their organization’s value to attract new business. They have a talent for concise storytelling and thorough knowledge of company positioning.
A content manager maintains and builds upon a database of sales and proposal content to improve response quality and team efficiency. In large companies, you may see multiple content managers responsible for maintaining specific business units of product offerings.
The capture manager owns the end-to-end bid process and manages the sales opportunity. Their process actually starts before the RFP lands. (Learn how capture planning helps to build a proposal pipeline.)
Finally, graphic designers dedicated to RFPs are responsible for ensuring that the final proposal looks professional and polished. They’ll create and manage media collateral, images, and supporting visuals.
Whichever department your proposal team sits under, your goal should be to provide direct support for revenue growth, as RFPs are a crucial stage in the B2B sales cycle.
In place of a dedicated proposal department, many proposal teams report into a company’s sales or marketing function, but other options can work too. Grant shares that his team reports to the Fastly Finance department, which he finds beneficial for focusing on deals with maximum revenue impact.
How to Steadily Build Your Proposal Team
Depending on the size of your organization, you may not need all of these roles at once. A survey among Loopio customers shows the first dedicated role tends to be a proposal manager (66% of the time). The next hire tends to be a proposal writer, and that team of two covers the suite of responsibilities across the entire RFP process.
Role Distribution for Small Teams (1-2 People)
Eventually, a content manager is hired next, typically at the 1,000+ employee mark. (Or when RFP volume reaches the range of 101 to 150 responses annually.)
Role Ratio for Proposal Teams
According to research from Loopio Labs, an estimated and generalized role ratio for a proposal team is:
- 2 Proposal Managers
- 4 Proposal Writers
- 1 Content Manager
- 1 Capture Manager
- 1 Graphic Designer
As the team grows, even more roles and responsibilities may begin to enter the picture. Proposal teams with 10+ members have reported hiring pricing strategists, technical writers, and RFP operations managers.
How to Predict Bid Team Size
Research shows that proposal teams tend to expand proportionally with the size of their company.
For example: small and mid-size companies (<100 to 250) have an average team size of 4 people, while enterprise organizations (5,001+) have an average team size of 12 people.
Benefits of RFP Software for Growing Teams
Research also shows that teams tend to find efficiencies through RFP software like Loopio as they grow.
Top reported benefits include:
✓ Improved content storage (typically through an RFP answer library)
✓ Automation of manual tasks (like copy-and-pasting answers or formatting documents)
✓ Better quality proposals overall
Of course, your team may find other specific talents are needed as you grow. Marissa Sproul, a construction industry proposal expert, explains that if a proposal warrants added resources, it’s beneficial to engage someone with specialty expertise.
Building a Case for Future RFP Success
When you bring the idea of a proposal team to the attention of decision-makers in your organization, you should be prepared to make a case for it. Generally-speaking, you should gather quantitative data to build a business case.
Here are a few RFP statistics to gather before you get started:
- How many RFPs does your company typically respond to each quarter?
- How many hours per week does the sales or marketing team currently spend on proposals? (This may be a ballpark estimate)
- What type of other sales activities could be achieved if that time was freed up? (This may include more discovery calls or demos conducted)
- Lastly, investigate your company’s average win rates and determine how the finding above can be translated into revenue. For example, if your sales reps had time for 50 more discovery calls in a quarter, how does this translate into potential revenue
Now, use the proof points you gathered to put together a business case for a proposal team. You’ll find when you add up the numbers, there is almost always enough work for a proposal manager salary, or perhaps a proposal writer too. But either way, make sure you bring data that can back up your ask.