Where Do You Fit On The Proposal Experience Spectrum?

Proposal Experience SpectrumAfter talking to many people who work with proposals, it’s become clear that not all our experiences are the same. Each of us falls in a different category on the proposal experience spectrum.

Oftentimes, we don’t realize this. You bring someone onto your team knowing that they spent a lot of time on proposals in their previous position. But it quickly becomes clear their responsibilities during the proposal process were different than you assumed. They didn’t mislead you and your expectations aren’t too high. There was just no way for you to distinguish where they fell on the proposal experience spectrum. But that’s a problem we’re gonna solve.

The Different Levels On The Proposal Experience Spectrum

I’ve heard statements from experienced proposal developers that I find quite shocking, like the professional with 30 years of experience who never priced a job or the coordinator working for a large construction firm that has no say in what project experience goes in the proposal. These people not only operate on a different level from me, they operate on a different level from each other.

Much like a rainbow has a spectrum of colors, each of us operates within a spectrum of proposal development experience. A lot of times, the spectrum in which we operate has less to do with our abilities and more to do with the needs of our firm. Being a level one proposal developer or level four proposal developer does not mean you are a lesser or greater marketer. It just means you operate on a different level when it comes to one specific function, that’s all. But identifying the spectrum will help us honestly communicate our proposal developing experience with others.

Let’s look at the different levels of the proposal experience spectrum. After you read them, try to identify which level you are operating in.

Level One

A level one proposal developer is working at a low level. They are gathering boilerplate information, filling out forms, scheduling meetings for the team, making sure all the right pieces are in the proposal. They are printing, binding, and shipping proposals. They are coordinating the effort. However, they have no say in which projects or people go in the proposal. They are doing little to no proposal writing.

Level Two

At level two, the proposal developer is more involved in the process. They are choosing which projects go into the proposal. They are leading team meetings. They are not only defining the schedule, but they are making sure everyone is getting the appropriate pieces in at the right time. They are reviewing portions of the proposal written by others (grammar, spelling, readability check). They are working with teaming partners, telling them which pieces to deliver and when. They are tailoring portions of the proposal to reflect the team’s knowledge of the client and to make sure the submission speaks to the requirements of the RFP.

Proposal developers operating at level two are sometimes responsible for identifying relevant RFPs that the firm might go after. They are also weeding out RFPs that don’t match up with the firm’s experience or skillset.

It’s my belief that many people in our business operate at this level. And by the way, this is the level where the Livescribe Smartpen starts making your life a whole lot easier.

Level Three

The level three proposal developer is even more involved in the process. They are defining the people and projects that go into the proposal. They are identifying the right subconsultants or teaming partners for the submission. They are leading the effort and might take the “first stab” at the technical approach. They review the technical and management approaches not just from a writing perspective, but also asking the question, “Does this make sense?” Often, people operating at level three are writing the cover letter or executive summary.

At level three, you are much more involved in the strategic aspects of the proposal. This could include helping the team develop a proposal theme or coming up with solutions for the client’s challenges.

Level Four

A level four proposal developer can put together an entire proposal (from soup to nuts) by themselves. They develop the pricing for the proposal. In many instances, they are communicating with the client or asking formal questions about the RFP. They can write an entire technical or management approach.

Hopefully, there is still someone reviewing their work (even if it’s just a peer review), because submitting anything without two sets of eyes looking at it is just plain stupid.

Level four proposal developers are making go/no go decisions for RFPs. They can sometimes still be “overruled” by a principal, but such is life.

I’d love to know where people fall in the proposal experience spectrum. If you want share, let us know by posting a comment.


  1. Matt – This is an excellent breakdown of the experience levels for proposal staff. Once identified where a marketer falls on the spectrum, he/she might ask themselves to what level they want to go. As always, thanks for the great content!

    • Matt Handal says


      I agree. Once you know where you are, you can determine where you want to go.

      Thank you for reading!

  2. Sandee Jackson says

    Great piece! I’m pretty sure I’m at Level 3 — looking to now get back in the biz so I can evolve to Level 4 and make more meaningful contributions to my future firm!

  3. Speaking from a Level Two’s perspective, this was a great outline. I’ve been struggling lately with where I am and where I want to be. This helped me flesh out where my current set of skills lie and which areas I need to start developing more. Thanks!

  4. I’m at a Level III. Definitely enjoyed reading this article.

  5. David Warley says

    Not sure I see Level IV (the way it’s described) as a step up from III.

    It sounds eerily similar to the put upon one man band proposal departments that abound in commercial sector organisations.

    If someone is performing at this level then I’d expect it to be more about leading a team, prioritising resource allocation and managing a portfolio of opportunities.

    So I certainly endorse your characterisation as making ‘go/no go’ decisions; just as I recognise the omnipresence of the JFDI overides by senior managers.

    • Matt Handal says


      Thank you for commenting.

      There are certainly firms that work on multi-million dollar proposals that only have one or two marketers working on them. It’s tough to say what’s the norm.

  6. Looks like I am a (mostly)level 2 after 5 years experience but have taken the lead on parts of levels 3 and 4 too….The joy of being a small business unit in a massive(120,000+ employee) company with most projects in the hundreds of thousands of pounds range and some into the millions. Looking to take the lead more and more….thanks for the insight

  7. Matt – that is an excellent breakdown of the proposals making effort. I can see many people in my organization falling under various categories. I initially started out with level 1 and over the years have moved on to level 4. I am involved in Management Consulting proposals for Infrastructure Development – specifically in relation to transport sector and have managed (level 3 & 4 type) over 150-160 proposals in this duration.

    Thanks & regards,

    Kunal Kalele

  8. Great article. Thanks, Helen (3.5)

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