How to Build the Best RFP Team

RFPs are a crucial business practice with many moving parts. Here are the main team roles and some RFP best practice tips.

Published on 16 May, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022
The Ideal RFP Team A Breakdown2 1

A request for proposal stands as one of the most important documents to any company. Whether you are receiving the proposal or creating it, the stakes are high and money is on the line.

Such a high-pressure project requires a large team with many roles. From capture manager to review team lead, there can be as many as 30 people working on an RFP at a time, noted Capture Planning. But what are these roles and how can you and your team best fulfill them?

  • Capture Manager: The capture manager functions as the person with general control over the development effort. The CM is in charge of acquiring support from corporate, as well as managing the efforts of all the relevant teams. This role plays a key part in the entire RFP process as they are essentially in charge of the core team that will spearhead the proposal. According to Bob Lohfeld, a contributor to Washington Technology, a good capture manager’s first step is to define the proposal process going forward. The key to this step, however, involves ensuring the processes set forward sync with the overall corporate company culture. Lohfeld suggested making your process refined, repeatable, and risk-free.
  • “Managing a proposal is more of an art than a science.”

    • Proposal Manager: If the capture manager is the car, then the proposal manager is the engine. This role requires the responsible party to head the nitty-gritty parts of the proposal. From the process of the proposal to the planning and everything in between, the proposal manager is what makes an RFP tick. Without them, the whole car falls apart. If there is a proposal activity, big or small, it goes through the PM. According to Capture Planning, managing a proposal is more art than science. To perfect the technique you have to twist and mold your strategy around the relevant business. There is no exact formula for success.
  • Subject Matter Expert: This team member functions as exactly what the name indicates. For proposals, it is a good idea to have an expert on the relevant subject matter on board to help with any key questions. Knowledge Web, LLC suggested having authors for the proposal sit down and interview the SMEs on areas that seem murky. The source went on to suggest that the closing question always be “what else do I need to know?” This question allows authors to gain even more relevant knowledge they may not have even been looking for. Why don’t SMEs just write the proposal, you ask? Well, for starters, SME knowledge doesn’t necessarily transfer into fine-tuned writing skills. Perhaps even more important, SMEs know too much. Their advanced knowledge of these subjects can prove to be a roadblock in the crafting of a proposal. Words are finite resources on paper, don’t let your SME fill them with confusing jargon, advised Knowledge Web, LLC.
  • Author: A real brain-buster, huh? Authors are responsible for (you guessed it) authoring the proposal. Their job is more multi-faceted than pen-to-paper work, however. Writers for RFPs need to participate and collaborate on the proposal from beginning to end. This means attending story-boarding meetings, consulting with managers one on one to clarify themes and features and ultimately implementing massive edits before final approval. There are typically multiple writers on any proposal, some contributing as little as a resume, others crafting elaborate project summaries. The key with writers is to ensure a constant and clear line of communication with all relevant team members. By ensuring that the message is clear from the start, you can save yourself headaches down the line during the editing process.

Review Team Leader

  • “The review team should ideally function as a pair of fresh eyes.”

    Review Team Leader: After the writing process is the review, this step in the RFP process is crucial to creating an optimal proposal. The team leader is often a senior or executive company member and they are tasked with setting out the relevant criteria for review prior to the beginning of the proposal process. From there, the RTL manages review team members, provides commentary, and leads a debriefing about the findings, explained Capture Planning. Review team leaders should try to stay away from the process of proposal creation. The review team should ideally function as a pair of fresh eyes to catch key details that the creators during the RFP process may have missed.

  • Cost Strategist: The cost strategist, generally someone from Finance, plays a very important role in this entire process. They are in charge of determining whether or not the prices presented in the proposal are realistic and/or functional. The CS is required to write, review and edit any areas in the proposal pertaining to cost or business volume. This role is key to the success of the proposal as unreasonable costs can lead to an automatic failure, noted the source.
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