Every sales person needs to understand what Bid Managers do and how to get the best out of them. The chances of winning an RFP depends in no small part on how well the responsible Bid Manager turns it into a winning proposal. I am very grateful for the time and support of Rebecca Clacken, a highly regarded Bid Manager, who helped me write this article.
What does a Bid Manager do?
This is the response I received from Rebecca. “In basic terms a Bid Manager is a mini project manager. We ensure as a minimum that each bidding activity has a timeline with the required milestones and governance in place, and a team assembled to deliver the finished document. We hold a log of the key activities and questions that need satisfying and assign these to appropriate members of the win team, ensuring the responses are compliant and written to the requisite quality.
A contemporary and high performing bid manager adds something extra though; they are pivotal in working with the sales lead to consider the strategic approach to the opportunity, including how to position against the competition and how to convince the customer to buy our solution. They need to be commercially astute and able to work with the wider team to determine what our win themes should be, and how we communicate these in the response document. Ultimately, a great bid manager is a hybrid combination of project manager and strategist.”
What is the process required to submit a good bid?
Bidding is essentially a project with its own process. There are two basic bid management steps; identifying the right people to be in the win team and creating a properly managed timetable with tasks assigned and deadlines met.
Bids are usually turned around quite quickly and therefore a simple 4 step bid process works well; kick-off, win workshop, governance review and quality assurance review. From the Bid Managers’ point of view, without a good quality sales process, the bid process is seriously compromised. Ultimately, a good sales process and methodology will supply the bid team with the information they need to design a compelling solution, align the value proposition to the buyer’s objectives and present a winning proposition.
When I asked the about bid process Rebecca gave me this excellent insight into what the bid team really needs. “A professional sales process is the first step to a successful bid. If the sales lead knows the opportunity inside out, has asked the right questions, qualified the opportunity well and shares that intelligence with the win team, you’re going to submit a solid high quality proposal with a great chance of winning.”
How can you help a bid manager to respond to an RFP?
It’s a big challenge for a Bid Manager to be presented with an opportunity at RFP stage where there has been little or no engagement with the customer. For them to provide a great response it is imperative that they understand what that customer is looking to achieve, who will be assessing the proposal in the organisation and what their drivers are, what their ‘buying process’ looks like, who the competition they are up against and exactly what will compel the customer to buy – from you!
In the words of Rebecca “We can cram the bid full of nice writing and good visual graphics, but if it doesn’t resonate with the customer it’s essentially akin to flogging a dead horse. Equally, I have seen opportunities where a USP has been majored on, but that USP is only going to be of interest to the customer if it can be converted into a value proposition – I always ask the sales lead whether that USP passes the ‘so what’ test for this customer?”
The dreaded dead horse
So we know that Bid Managers have to work hard and quickly to produce a great proposal. They want to work on proposals that have a real chance of winning; if you ask them to work on a proposal that can’t win you are giving the bid team a double problem. Firstly, it’s very demotivating to try and do a good job when there is little or no chance of it winning. Secondly, all that time could have been spent on a proposal that does have a real chance of winning.
Your responsibility as a sales person
Your first responsibility is to make sure the opportunity is real. That vitally important GO/NO GO decision has to be made by sales people and sales managers before it gets to the bid team. Then you have to ensure the bid team have all the information they need about the customer, their needs, how their buying process works and anything you know about the competition.
As Rebecca said to me, “A high performing bid manager is motivated by the opportunity to shape the strategic direction of the bid and contribute to the dialogue about solution, win themes and value proposition.”
Why didn’t we win?
Every sales professional should be keen to understand why a particular proposal didn’t succeed. You can use it to assess your own performance and to improve future pitches. When I hear sales people repeatedly blaming price for lost pitches I begin to question their professional skills.
But for the Bid Manager, the feedback from losses is potentially even more valuable. They work on every bid so when they get the feedback from every loss they can use it as quantative data to build up a picture across the organisation. They can see where potential weaknesses may be developing and identify possible fixes.
And if you still doubt the value of a customer de-briefing, read this quote from Rebecca Clacken. “I think most customers see this as a professional and important element of the procurement process. It’s in their interests to have a great field of providers to choose from next time round and their feedback contributes to potential suppliers’ continuous improvement.
A recent loss analysis resulted in us building an even greater understanding of the customer and a better relationship. When their contract negotiation with the awarded bidder stalled, they reached out to us. I am confident we may yet recover this opportunity and snatch it from the jaws of defeat”
- Are you wasting Bid Team resources on dead horses?
- Do you motivate your Bid Team by giving them everything they need?
- Do you give them the feedback they need to improve future proposals?