Your firm needs to submit a keen bid in order to win a big contract – but who’s going to do the work as everyone’s so busy?
We would all love to win business without the hassle of putting together a complex bid but that’s unlikely to happen with a contract that has complex requirements.
A winning bid will only happen if you have a proper process in place that involves all who need to contribute, allows sufficient time and allocates suitable resources to get the bid done.
Tendering is an inherent part of the sales process so the bid team should be fully integrated with it. The bid will reflect the sales team’s vision and win themes but, above all, will respond to the client’s requirements. Ideally, if sales and the bid team are well-aligned there will already be a client relationship in place and you will be have less need to bid speculatively.
Every bid should have high-level sponsorship from a senior person who understands why the bid needs to be done and who has the power to allocate the necessary resources – his/her role is that of the Bid Director. It almost goes without saying that, before any work is done, you hold a meeting with the team to decide if the bid is really worth doing, you stand a good chance, and all involved commit to doing their bit. This is the Bid/No bid decision.
Who will write the bid? If you have a bid team, that’s obvious: if not, who has the necessary skills? If you don’t know and don’t have someone in place you could use the services of a professional bid writing company. Yes, that will cost you – but probably less than the opportunity cost of you or a senior colleague spending time that you don’t have. Your chances of winning will be much improved by using experts but take care to choose one wisely.
Longer term, you may decide to build your own bid team or you may choose to outsource this activity to specialists, as above. Either way, the bid writer needs to be in tune with sales and ready to interpret what’s been said into the proposal document, interwoven with what the client’s buyer is asking for.
Bid team roles may be undertaken by people whose job titles are normally something else but they will need to take full responsibility for their part in the project. These roles will overlap with sales and include:
Bid Manager –
Oversees the planning, writing, completion and submission of a winning proposal. That is one that is compliant with all the client’s needs, brings out the sales team’s vision and win themes, looks good and shows clearly why your offer has the advantage over any other. Should be an experienced proposal professional with project management skills.
Bid Writer(s) –
An experienced wordsmith who puts all the Bid Manager’s instructions into good, concise English and is also adept at using visuals to enhance the proposal. Diagrams and other relevant images can improve understanding and clarify the offer, especially where there is a restrictive word count.
Solution Specialist(s) –
As with normal sales quotes and proposals where they work with the sales team, solution specialists put together the solution itself and how it will be delivered.
Reviewers and Approvers –
Depending on the scale of the bid, the Bid Manager will arrange two or more reviews. A ‘red review’ of the draft bid should be carried out by an impartial observer who is not directly involved with the bid. This enables objective scrutiny from the perspective of the client, ensuring that the bid is fully compliant. A final review of the bid will ensure that any recommended changes have been made and then a final QA check by the regular assessor will dot the ‘I’s and cross all ‘T’s.
The senior staff, in conjunction with the Bid Director, will sign off each part of the bid, notably the offer itself (the quality aspects) and of course the all-important pricing.
The Bid Manager will then submit the documents in accordance with the instructions, whether that entails uploading to a web portal or delivering ‘hard copy’ documents.
Whether you win or lose, make sure you get full feedback: you need to know why you lost or won as you will learn something every time. Whether you build your own bid team or arrange for ‘virtual bid team’ support from specialists, every time you submit a tender you will build your capability to submit a winning bid next time.
TEN TOP TIPS:
1. Bids and proposals are a vital part of the sales process.
2. Board level buy-in is crucial – as is the Bid/No bid meeting.
3. Only go for opportunities with a high likelihood of winning.
4. Identify all contributors and ensure each takes responsibility for their piece.
5. Allocate the core bid team and ensure that channels of communication are in place.
6. Make sure the pricing is in place and does not hold things up.
7. Schedule a ‘red review’ of the draft bid to ensure client needs are being fully met.
8. Incorporate necessary changes in the final draft.
9. Rigorously proof-check/edit the final draft.
10. Submit the bid in good time, well before the deadline.