In our webinar, Building from 2022 – What’s next for BD & Proposals? We had a roundtable discussion that included insights from an all-star line-up of Business Development and Proposal Management experts. These included:
- Ivoire Lloyd, Director, Business Development at EXP,
- Kathryn Bennett – Co-Founder of Proposal Industry Experts (PIE),
- Uniqueka Walcott – Proposal Manager/Writer at AECOM,
- Morgan Anderson – Proposal Manager, Defense & Civilian Sector at SAIC ,
- Evan R. Fitts – Assistant Director, Pursuit Strategist at EY,
- Logan Drew – Account Executive at VisibleThread,
We’ve put together a review with some of the most burning questions such as:
- What’s expected in 2023? What should organizations be focusing on?
- Why are we seeing an increase in employee churn? What’s causing people to move organizations?
- How to have a competitive edge in 2023?
- How to reduce burnout and create a stronger workforce?
And lots more.
2022 – What have we learned?
Ivoire Lloyd has 18 years of proposal and coordinating experience. She recommends bringing humanity into the contracting side. It is worth building a relationship with the contracting officers. You will be dealing with the same people day in, and day out. So finding out more about them as a person will help in your bid process in the long run. We cannot underestimate the power of a good relationship.
Uniqueka Walcott is a proposal manager with significant experience in the GovCon space. She says in the past year we have seen many smaller companies coming together and collaborating on bigger projects. It has given opportunities for these smaller companies to bid for bigger projects than they normally would. This is something they expect to increase in the coming year.
Uniqueka also mentions they have seen an increase in consultants in the proposal sector. This could be an effect of burnout but also the curiosity of working in different sectors. And the need for creating clear career paths for professionals.
Expectations for 2023 and what should organizations be focusing on?
‘Have some grace for the GovCon side’. Evan R Fitz has been working in the intelligence side of GovCon for the past few years. He told us he has observed many contracting officers moving to other agencies that do not require them to work in classified areas. This leaves the intelligence agencies with a shortage of individuals with the requisite clearances to develop new and existing RFPs.
With this increased workload on the contracting side. Proposal writers can benefit by helping their contracting officer peers by providing the clearest and most concise RFP. This helps to show why their solution is the best one overall.
Evan recommends listening to the Contract Officer podcast. This podcast covers how the government works and what pressures GovCon contracting officers are going through. This has helped Evan lead his proposal team to write clear RFPs. And helped show how their solution is the best one making the GovCon contracting officers’ job easier.
Morgan Anderson is working in the federal sector. For 2023, she believes there will be continued investment in the federal sector. She says that recently they have seen a trend in the government moving to purchase in the modernisation and the artificial intelligence/machine learning side. The government recognises that these advanced technologies will enable them to achieve their missions more effectively. For non-tech organisations, for example, staffing, it could be worth focusing on state, local or quasi-governmental agencies. So, it is worth seeing what trends the government is leaning towards. What the government is interested in buying and how your solution can fit in there. It is important to let the government know the benefit of your service.
Logan Drew can speak to VisibleThread’s client experiences and how they are setting themselves up going into 2023. He has found that many clients are looking into past performance and doing loss analysis. By analysing where you are winning, and where you are losing. Clients can see what sectors have had more uptake and success. Using this information, you can go into 2023 concentrating on these types of proposals. And be ready for them when those contracts are released.
According to the sales and enablement collective, case studies are the most important way we can convert customers from prospects into our customer base. Proving we have done this work successfully in the past is critical for teams going into 2023.
Employee churn – Why are we seeing an increase?
Above we focused on what we can do as a company moving into 2023. But what can we do as individual proposal teams? Employee churn is a huge topic for most businesses in this sector. With concerns like burnout, salary, bereavement leave, revolving deadlines and more. Our professionals tackle why we are seeing such an increase.
Communication is key
From a social aspect, we could be feeling more isolated behind a screen when working remotely. According to Morgan Anderson, this and a lack of communication can cause delays and frustration. Previously, in an office environment employees would be able to talk in person to get answers or advice quickly. This can result in employees feeling they do not have the support in place to do their job.
Freedom of remote working
On the flip side of that. The freedom of working remotely was the reason Evan R. Fitz changed jobs to EY after a family member fell ill. Evan is able to work from anywhere and out of any EY office. This freedom is not always afforded to employees across companies. This can cause them to look for positions at companies that embrace remote working.
Dealing with pressure and setting boundaries
The pressure to win is also felt as the marketplace contracts. And this is passed down to members of proposal teams says Uniqueka Walcott. She feels it is important to have accountability for yourself. Having recently also changed jobs she now is setting more boundaries for work and making herself a priority.
Burnout – Why is this a continuous trend year after year?
So we can see that employee churn is a real issue. There are many reasons why employees move roles after just a year or two years of working at an organization. But one of the biggest reasons for this turnover is burnout.
A Gallup poll found that burnt-out employees actually cost $3,400 for every $10,000 they are paid in salary. About a third of your operational costs are being spent on our employees if they are in active burnout. It is an issue in the proposal industry that is getting more and more pronounced. And is a reason why companies are finding it hard to fill their proposal writer and manager roles.
When it comes to burnout our professionals highlighted 4 main issues:
- Personal boundaries
- Communication processes
- Career path
As a director for business development at EXP, Ivoire Lloyd says that setting boundaries is key to avoiding burnout. Turn on your out-of-office email when you are not working. In the past Ivoire would not have turned on her out of office when on annual leave. This way she could respond to urgent emails quickly if needed. But it also meant she never fully ‘switched off’ from her work.
As an advocate of the Shipley methods, Ivoire believes keeping your calendar up to date is necessary. One thing very frustrating for proposal managers is scheduling a meeting between red and gold teams. Then having someone come back saying they are not available for that time. But it was not blocked out in their calendar, so the organizer was unaware.
According to Uniqueka, more organisations will move towards automation software with the amount of work teams need to do for a proposal. There is a shortage of proposal managers currently, and training new proposal managers and writers takes time. If you provide employees with the resources it will help them not get overburdened by the workload.
Many companies are currently seeing hiring freezes putting even more stress on the existing proposal teams. Logan Drew states working cross-departmentally is key and that proposal writing automation software, like VT Docs, can help.
When you can work together cross-departmentally and create a master document. Then you are reducing the amount of time you work on the more manual copy-and-paste type tasks. This then frees up time to focus on analysis and readability reports for how the reviewer will read it.
Our professionals all agree that the lack of defined career paths is another major issue. Kathryn Bennett hopes to see more companies developing meaningful career paths that go beyond the manager title. If people with high career aspirations cannot make that next step in their career. It is really difficult to entice them to stay in the industry.
There should be an emphasis on training new and retaining existing talent. An idea that Uniqueka would like to see in more companies is building internship programs to build talent internally. Not just on the technical side but also on the proposal management and business development side.
Accelerating your career in BD & proposals in 2023
Progressing your career is a very important aspect for all BD and proposal workers. We asked our experts what development goals they will set for themselves in 2023.
Project management training, public speaking courses and building a personal brand are a focus for 2023. Being a mentor that goes further than just showing how to file a 330. But going into the deeper questions in the proposal process. Showing that you care about the people you work with, and not just about hitting the deadline.
I will be looking to attain certain certifications like the associate DBIA (Design-Build Institute of America), but mostly networking. Join those committees. I’m big on volunteering for organizations such as COMPDO, WTS, and APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals). Each organization has their own unique niche. Find that organization you can serve to serve you. And mentor that individual that wants to grow in the proposal space and explain the ins and outs.
And join PIE (Proposal Industry Experts). It’s new and exciting and helps all of us in the industry, especially in the proposal space.
I would like to act as a mentor or agent of change for people interested in developing themselves. I am excited to widen my own professional network. And also create opportunities or guidance for newer incoming proposal folks.
Evan R Fitz
I am excited to be in a position where I am developing the team. And implementing processes to build a repeatable process for submitting government proposals.
And finding ways where I am in the best position to do the most good in my role. So that I am being more proactive in identifying how we can improve things.
I can’t stress enough the importance of relationships. Going to events like APMP is a great way to meet new people. And to learn what people are doing to help further the industry and how they are coping with it. A big part of that is joining organizations like APMP. Or joining NCMA if you are a contract manager and going to some of these events.
From my experience, and in speaking with my clients. The relationships built at events are the most important things you will take away from your position in the industry.
Especially in a remote world. Being able to see your colleagues in person and being able to understand; what they are doing to win and, how are they as a person. It really helps.
What PIE is focusing on in the new year is the launch of brand-new certifications. These are mobile certs and can be done in 5 minutes on your phone. These are micro certifications on targeted topics. PIE understands that most people in the industry do not have the opportunity to take any professional development courses. A lot of us do not have the time or energy.
Also, what is very important for proposal managers, is that we need to get interdisciplinary knowledge. I recommend joining Pavilion, a sales enablement community, I’m taking the Rising Executives course they offer. This is highly recommended if you are on track to the C-suite level. I am also taking content through the Sales Enablement Collective and KSI offers content management certifications.
Also, think about additional Lean Six Sigma process improvement and analysis.
Ask the professionals
We had some very interesting questions from the attendees of the webinar. These covered topics like business development, career paths and proposal process efficiency. You can view the webinar for the full Q&A section.
According to the speakers. What should be the 3 most important areas that business development teams should focus on in 2023?
- Be strategic: Knowing your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. Doing a SWOT analysis with your firm on how to mitigate your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Having a well thought out plan: A better Go-No-Go process. We do not want to change our minds last minute before a proposal is due. Setting the calendar, knowing when to cut off. So that you can tell a potential teaming partner, no. It is too late to go after a certain proposal.
- Having a top-notch one-pursuit plan for any and all pursuits going forward: Being more strategic on the proposals you would like to pursue. And having a dedicated go-no-go process for a particular pursuit.
My understanding is that the pathway post proposal manager is running a proposal shop as a VP. Or moving out of proposals to other fields such as capture or business development. Can you speak to some of the paths you’ve seen?
I do think that most of the paths are leading towards a director proposal management position. I have seen people break from proposals and be more client-facing, so working more as consultants. The answer really depends, there is so much we can do with our varied skillset. Your career is what you make it which I feel we should lean into and be more empowered by.
Find the person who is doing what you want to do and ask them how they did it. And finding a mentor can really help. Asking people with VP of proposals and asking how they got to where they are. I found my mentor by reading an article. She is based in Atlanta and I wanted to know what her career path was. We are still in touch to this day. So just shoot your shot and ask the questions.
2023 is nearing and our Business Development and Proposal Management experts shared some of their thoughts and advice to get you ready for the new year. With the continued investment in the federal sector, there will be a continued reliance on proposal writers. And this will bring opportunities for advancement in careers. You can find out more at ProposalIndustryExperts.com. The free proposal managers community that provides content on all the topics discussed above and more.
VT Docs can help with many of the challenges and best practices mentioned by the professionals above.
Contact us today to see how VT Docs can help you improve your proposal writing process. And don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinars.