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Get That Job: Engagement Manager

Updated on February 23, 2018
JaldertMaat profile image

Jaldert is a Capability Development blogger at Smörgåsjobb and works as Head of Capability Development for Fujitsu. His views are his own.

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Introduction

As an Engagement Manager you will be the linchpin between Sales and Presales in a company, effectively overseeing the process of winning large deals for customers.

But how do you become one?

Quick Primer on Sourcing Deals

Business often look to other service companies to do some of their work for them, which is called Sourcing. Often they will create a set of requirements on how they want their business issues solved, and then go to the market, where service companies compete to win the contract.

Often this will happen in multiple stages, starting with a Market Inquiry or Request for Information (RFI) to gauge the possibilities, followed up by a Request for Proposal (RFP) which asks companies to work out their solutions, including the pricing, and commit to them.

Based on the requirements, companies score points, and the leading companies are sometimes pitted against each other for a Best and Final Offer.

What does an Engagement Manager do?

When a Sales team expects a large potential customer to send out an RFI or RFP, they will get a team together to analyze the customer's requirements, create a solution that matches, at a competitive price that offers margin for the company. Such a team is called a Bid Team and, especially for very large or international bids, can range from a handful to dozens of people in size.

Sales, Marketing, Solution Design, Finance - all of them have to work together to create a Proposal for the customer that works out all the details, at a great price, that looks great and is factually correct. And the person who runs this team, leads it, manages to project and its costs, that is an Engagement Manager.

This role can also be called Bid Manager, Engagement Lead, or Proposal Team Lead.

Engagement Manager Skills

Skill
Priority
Complexity
Commerical Insight
High
Medium
Project Management
High
Low
Budgeting
High
Low
Solution Requirements
Low to Medium
Medium to High
Legal Insight
Low to Medium
Medium to High
Creative Writing and Editing
Medium
Low to Medium
Team Leadership
Medium
Medium
Business Intelligence
Low to Medium
Medium to High
Negotiation Skills
Medium to High
Medium to High
Time Management
High
Low to Medium
Priorities and complexities according to the Author. Solution Requirements, Legal Insight and Negotiation skills are at their lower priority levels when a dedicated team member is available to handle those aspects.

The Tools of the Trade

Engagement Managers often use a bid plan to coordinate their efforts. It contains important deadlines (approval of finances, final delivery date, final date to deliver all solution texts, analyzing the legal documents, dates you can ask questions to customers) as well as important information like a running total of the completed deliverables and their status and quality, team members' contact information and availability, questions asked to the customer and their associated answers, and so on.

Additionally, large companies usually have have a process in place to check your work and have it officially approved by management. This can happen multiple times in each phase of a bid, and for each you will need to have an updated status and budget plan. Sometimes this can all be handled fully electronically, but it is possible you might need to hold (online) meetings for this as well.

Common Phases in a Bid

Phases
RFI or Market Inquiry
Request for Proposal
Decision to Bid or Not Bid
Acceptance or Rejection of Proposal
Best and Final Offer
Contract Negotiations
Contract Signature
Implementation / Go Live
Each phase may have its own internal approvals, and their might be specific deadlines for asking questions from the customer. RFIs are usually designed to weed out companies that cannot deliver a desired solutions, RFPs are to find the top candidates

Education and Previous Experience

If you are planning to become an Engagement Manager, whose responsibilities lie midway between a Project Manager and Sales Rep, both Project Management and Business degrees are great foundations for entering this career.

Since the job also handles proposal documents and negotiations with customers, Communication skills and Creative Writing and Editing are valuable additions. If you want to improve your ability to manage a bid budget you may want to look into basic Finance, while further reading on Business Law might help you understand the underlying outsourcing model and associated legislation.

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Getting Hired as an Engagement Manager

Engagement Manager is an intensely commercial function, and touches upon a core business aspect for most big services companies. This means you can expect rigorous interviewing, background checks and scenarios.

Preparing your profile: Update any profiles you have on Linkedin or job-seeking sites to emphasize the required skills. If you are lacking any, see if you can follow an online course or at least gain enough insights to be able to at minimum pass as a novice in the field.

Your email or cover letter: Make special note of any projects where time was of the essence, or you took on a leadership role. If nothing else, an assignment team in college or university where you managed to project for your team might already give you credibility, but being a soccer coach, cub scout troop lead or having done military service all have aspects valuable to an Engagement Manager.

Understand sourcing and financials: Make sure what an average outsourcing project looks like, and how you balance a team budget. Come prepared with a bid plan (a calendar with tasks, including assigned dates and checkup points) for each of the major phases in a bid. Know how business revenue and margin work, and that you know enough of law (including things like corruption and collusion) that you can recognize and avoid it when it comes in your path.

Pushing the Sales role: If you are a member of a Sales team, have been so in the past, or are/have been an entrepreneur, make sure to make note of this. Be able to support this with results, especially win rates and achieved revenue and margin. It shows you know the value of winning and know how to handle yourself in a business deal. If you want experience with this, spend some time doing a holiday job selling charities door-to-door. You will learn how to recognize a lost opportunity as well as a receptive customer quick enough, and you will also learn to value return on investment.

Internal Promotion Opportunities

When one wishes to grow into the Engagement Manager role from inside the company where you currently work, the focus of your skill package should be on commercial insights and project management.

In essence the role is part Marketing, part Sales and part Project Management, so growing into it from any of these departments is an option. Marketing people should focus on emphasizing their ability to handle complex projects, while Sales people should emphasize their ability to direct teams successfully. Those who are in Project Management should focus on their enthusiasm, knowledge of the customer and the market, and their ability to negotiate based from real life situations.

Engagement Management positions are not frequent, so it pays to address your interest early on with your manager and HR. Gaining more hands-on experience with managing a team budget or doing internal business plans gives you more practical experience.

During interviews, the core of your message should be that you are capable of managing a diverse team of specialists to deliver a single, well-rounded document on time and within budget. You should be able to balance the energy of your Sales lead with the more conservative estimates of your operations team. Your skills in time management and working under pressure are key and it may help to have your manager or colleagues vouch for you in this case, if appropriate.

If you are an acceptable match, but you lack some experience, you may be given a Junior Engagement Manager position, giving you the option to learn and expand your repertoire under a more experienced Engagement Manager. This is usually an option only if the company is large and has multiple teams.

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Potential Career Options

The primary line of promotion for an Engagement Manager is in seniority (Senior Engagement Manager, Principal Engagement Manager). Further versatility can be gained by being part of an international company and performing your role across multiple countries. This would lead to being involved in larger and more complex projects.

As with internal promotion, an Engagement Manager can equally easily migrate towards a Sales or Project Management role, since many of the principles are similar. Additional experience managing complex and budget-sensitive bids may reflect well when applying to Project Management especially.

An ambitious Engagement Manager might be able to impress management with their leadership skills, and potentially qualify for senior functions such as Head of Presales, Sales or Business Operations/Project Management.

© 2018 Jaldert Maat

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