New State of the Proposal Manager Salary (2022 Trends)

Senior Content Marketing Manager at Loopio
Katie Flood

What does the average proposal manager make in 2022? We bet it’s more than you think—or at least that’s the reaction we’ve heard from the proposal community so far.

But amidst the big quit, people are seeking more than just pay in their next career move. They also want meaning, flexibility, benefits, reasonable bosses, and enjoyable conditions, and they aren’t merely asking—they’re negotiating.

So we looked into how bid managers and proposal teams are faring through Loopio’s 2022 Trends Report—asking about pay, demographics, responsibilities, and satisfaction in the workplace (surveying 800+ teams across North America). We unearthed a few concerning trends—like a persistent gender pay gap—but also, plenty of reasons to be hopeful. People are earning decent salaries, staying in this field because they enjoy it, and largely keeping up with technology trends (which leads to increased job satisfaction).


The Average Proposal Manager Salary is $87,000

Proposal professionals make more than double the median U.S. annual income of $36,000 for individuals ($69,000 for households). The average bid and proposal manager salary is $87,000 USD annually—with 23% of those surveyed earning more than $101,000.

Read more about salary distribution for proposal professionals

Other sources also report proposal manager salaries at a similar average: workplace compensation publisher PayScale estimates $82,000 per year.

This means that pay-wise, proposal managers are doing better than nurses—falling just below biologists and architects. If proposal manager pay seems high, perhaps it’s because this role is being recognized for driving 33% of the average company’s revenue.

Proposal Pay is 22% Higher at Enterprise Orgs

This pay of course varies by company size, and the bigger the company, the higher the pay, according to our data. Proposal managers working at organizations of 5,000 employees or more (Enterprise companies) make 22% more than those at small companies, and 18% more than those at medium-sized companies.
Salary by company size | Loopio's RFP Trends Report

RFP Manager Salary Increases with Age (Up to 54)

Pay increases also appear to correlate with age, up to a point. Those just starting their careers can expect to earn an average of $54,000. This pay peaks when they’re 45-54 years old, at around $100,000, then drops as they grow older.
Proposal manager distribution by age

Pay also varies widely by region. According to Comparably’s data, the highest-paid proposal managers work in San Francisco, where they earn $152,000. Before you flip your possessions and book a flight to SFO, however, consider that data in context. San Francisco’s cost of living is also 2.7 times the national average.

All to say, the average proposal manager seems to be reasonably well-compensated. But as we’ll explore next, a lack of transparency makes the full picture of salaries a little blurry.

💡 Key Insight: What Does a Proposal Manager Do?

While proposal manager responsibilities include project management—specialized content skills set this role apart. In a proposal manager job description, you should expect to see the core duties include content management, response writing, project management, and response submissions.

Core Duties of a Proposal Professional

Note: the duties of a proposal manager vs project manager are not interchangeable. Bid management requires the specialized skills outlined above.

Nearly 1 in 5 Five Proposal Managers Won’t Share Their Salary

Eighteen percent of our respondents chose not to respond to the salary question. That indicates a real hesitancy to talk about money in this industry, even when those responses are anonymous.

Wherever there’s friction or “a taboo” around discussing salaries, companies experience more workplace discrimination, according to a 2020 study published in the Harvard Business Review. That informational opacity increases employers’ power in a way that’s inequitable to employees.

Many states have passed or are considering wage transparency laws to combat this. Some, like California, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, already require employers to disclose the salary ranges for a given position, according to the National Law Review. And some companies are going further, publicly posting salaries in an effort to combat wage discrimination.

Despite these small strides, on average, salary transparency remains a challenge for the proposal industry to address. More on this in the following section.

“In our industry, salary conversations are still taboo. While I do think there’s a growing awareness, many proposal teams come from legacy organizations in legal or construction where those taboos are the strongest.”
Kathryn Bennett, CPSM, Senior Manager of Proposal Operations
Maven Clinic

On Average, Women Make Less Than Men

Out of the teams surveyed for Loopio’s 2022 RFP Trends Report, proposal roles are predominantly comprised of women (71%), followed by a male minority (23%) and a small representation of those who don’t identify as male or female (2%).

Gender Demographics | Loopio's 2022 Trends Report

Despite being the minority, men are still the top-earning group. In fact, men make $5,000 USD more than females on average.

Gender Identity

Average Salary (USD)

Female $87,000
Male $92,000
Gender Non-Conforming Sample size too small to draw conclusions.

 

Looking deeper into the distribution, women are the group that’s most likely to earn in the lowest pay bands: less than $50,000 a year. Men are most likely to fall into the middle-earner category. And interesting, an equal distribution of men and women fall into the high-earner category—which may indicate that pay disparities are more common at lower levels.

 

Salary Range

<$50k

(Low)

$51k to $100k

(Mid)

>$101k

(High)

Prefer not to say

Female Distribution (%) 11% 50% 25% 14%
Male Distribution (%) 2% 54% 25% 19%

As a leader or manager, here’s what you can do to assess pay equity across bid and proposal manager salaries. Today, take a good look at your team’s roles and pay bands. Once you factor in performance and tenure, consider, how does your team match up with these averages? Is there a pay gap between the genders on average? Even if the law doesn’t yet require transparency regarding pay bands, working to address gaps within your own team’s compensation will make for a better workplace overall and help combat discrimination.

For individuals that want to see the proposal industry grow in diverse and equitable ways, a great place to start is to join the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), which advocates for industry standards and legislation. (Learn about APMP memberships.)


Managers Earn More Than Individual Contributors—But There Are Other High-Paid Career Paths

According to research from Loopio’s study, people are paid more as they move up in rank. But as they move up, they typically wind up managing other people. So what about those who want to advance in their career, but prefer to continue as individual contributors?

Annual Salary by Role Level: associate - $72,625; Manager - $97,908; Director/C-level - $116,333

“For a long time, there wasn’t a known career path for this, aside from going into sales and becoming a senior proposal manager or capture manager,” says Kathryn Bennett, Senior Manager of Proposal Operations at Maven Clinic. “Many get caught in a vicious cycle of ‘churn and burn’ at the base of the org chart because they’re never given a path outside of proposal manager jobs. A skilled proposal professional is a huge asset to the organization, but we also deserve more options for that career path.”

“Leaders should offer flexible career paths to inspire budding proposal managers. But it’s also incumbent upon proposal professionals to educate themselves and build business acumen if they want to climb, because many will have to find their own way.”
Kathryn Bennett, CPSM, Senior Manager of Proposal Operations
Maven Clinic

Looking to other industries for inspiration, a senior proposal manager salary could be based on performance. In software engineering, companies seek out and disproportionately compensate unusually productive developers (so-called “10X developers,” who allegedly do the work of ten people). Proposal teams could theoretically do the same, paying higher salaries based on performance.

This may not be as impractical as it sounds, given that proposal teams can drive millions of dollars for their business. But in order to make this shift successfully, teams will have to very diligently track request for proposal (RFP) revenue metrics.

“The best career paths that I can see for individuals right now would be through sales enablement, RevOps, or sales, but there might also be potential in partnerships and strategic alliances,” says Kathryn.

Want to learn more about tracking your team’s business impact? Check out Loopio’s full guide on RFP metrics.

How Proposal Software Correlates with Job Satisfaction

Dedicated RFP software or RFI software has become the new normal: used by 69% of proposal teams. (No, email does not count…) And professionals using proposal software report higher levels of satisfaction with their process overall—including an 11% higher satisfaction with win rates.

Satisfaction Levels of Software Users vs. Non-Users

Of course, software doesn’t magically boost your numbers. It takes consistency and buy-in from your team to implement successfully—but the two are intrinsically linked. The top reported benefits include the automation of manual tasks. For example, recycling successful answers, identifying underperforming answers, and gathering reviews in a single platform.

Those interested in furthering their career would do well to master software as part of their proposal manager skillset. It’s a particularly useful refresh for those who have been in the industry for some time.

Good Salaries, But Still Plenty of Room to Improve

Proposal managers are being paid more than twice the national average salary. But those interested in advancing as an individual contributor, helping the industry diversify, and fighting for greater pay equity still have work ahead of them. Much of which begins with open discussion around salaries and career growth—advice for continuing the conversation is below.

Three Ways to Encourage Open Discussion Around Proposal Salaries 🔊

  1. Download the 2022 RFP Trends Report for a deep dive into salary data. Ask a friend, how does their salary compare?
  2. If you manage people, run a quick survey. Does your team want more transparency on pay bands and growth?
  3. Share this blog post on LinkedIn with your own perspective on the average salary of $87,000.