Shubhada Kulkarni

What inspires you the most in your role as a Proposal Manager?
The opportunity to contribute in drafting winning proposals for my employer that resolve the customer’s business challenges, inspires me the most. This gives me a view of what the service providers and buys are aspiring for, in the future. Their vision and objectives for the procurement are mostly aligned with the latest technology trends. So, it also gives me a sneak peek of how the technology is going to be leveraged for a better and sustainable future for buyers, providers and the community.

Did you always aspire to be a Proposal Manager and Why? or Did you accidentally landed in this profession and How?
Frankly, I had not heard of the Presales profession before actually working on the government tenders in my first job. I got my first proposal was assignment accidentally – most certainly – because I was one of available or free resources from the project delivery team. What fascinated me the most was the proposal we put together for the next 5 years.
I have been working with IT Services providers in the Presales functions. It has given me a view of what the technology holds for future. The ‘as-a-service’ models, the 4G, 5G evolutions, unified communication prospects, AI and machine learning solution that the service providers are offering, amaze me the most.
Being in this role helps in explaining the technological aspects in compelling business aspects, to get us ahead in the game of sales. That’s why I have come back to this role after trying my hands in technical writing, manual testing and other activities.

What tactics and strategies did you leverage in your role that ultimately led you to win this award?
Well, it was my proposal to APMP to select me as one of the 40 awardees. So I applied the ‘best practices’ in proposal management.

  1. I mentioned the work I did apart from my main responsibilities as a proposal manager – the support I extended to my team members and connections within the community to share skills, knowledge and experiences. It included the initiatives I worked on within my company and the volunteering work I was doing for APMP India and other NGOs. This for me was my ‘unique value proposition’.
  2. I could support this claim through my LinkedIn profile.
  3. I also mentioned my aspirations for future and how I was going to leverage my knowledge and experience.

These are the points mentioned in the description against award on the APMP ’40 under 40 class of 2020’ page. So this is my best guess for ‘why me’.

What advice would you want to give to the next-generation professionals or your peers?
In the Indian IT scenario, most of the companies don’t have a clearly defined role for Proposal Managers. Mostly the responsibilities for Bid and Proposal Management are handled by one employee with a title of ‘Bid Manager’. It gets overwhelming to handle these responsibilities, to be honest. Therefore, my advices to my peers would be

  • Winning business is a team work. Ensure everyone in a bid team understands this. There is not one person more important than others. Everyone including you deserves to be treated respectfully.
  • Seek ‘help’ when you feel like it’s getting out of control.
  • Don’t be complacent with yourself after winning a few bids and disheartened after losing s
  • Learn something new every day and it could be anything small, to give you a sense of accomplishment.

My advice to the next-generation professionals:

  • It’s OK to not have a career plan sorted out when you start working.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand anything. There is no such thing as a ‘silly question’.
  • Voice your opinion. Develop your communication and presentation skills so that people will listen to you when you have anything to say.
  • Say ‘no’ to anything you don’t want to do, provided you have valid reasons.
  • Learn something new every day and it could be anything small, to give you a sense of accomplishment.

Please give us one tip for creating a Winning Proposal?
Ensure that your proposal is all about the customer. It should tell your customer that we are here to help you achieve your business objectives. We will be your partner and leverage the best of our skills, resources and experience to reach the goal.
Don’t tell the customer why you think you understand them the best and how you are their best partner.

What is something you wish others understood about the importance of Proposal Management in today’s market?

I hope the Sales and Presales experts would understand that Proposal Management is not just about formatting and editing the proposals. A proposal manager could significantly contribute in drafting a compelling proposal through storytelling. We can help in making your proposal customer-centric instead of it being otherwise.
The bid teams need to appreciate the fact that the SMEs and technical experts are not necessarily the best business writers and this is where a proposal manager can help. Expect your proposal manager to bridge the gap between the business and technical aspects of your proposal.
Together we will make a difference. 🙂

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