Bid management - how to improve tender preparation, produce high value complex bid responses with less effort, and win bids.
Last minute scrambles to complete sales proposals or RFP submissions before looming deadlines may always be part of the selling experience, yet these days it can all be a whole lot easier. When a large RFP response is required, everyone pulls their weight and joins in to contribute. People not normally involved in the sales process, drop what they are doing and volunteer to take responsibility for their chunk of content.
No one needs chasing and many hands make light work. All the salesperson has to do is coordinate the efforts of others and concentrate on presentation of the information. All elements of the proposal come together in a timely fashion and there is even leeway for a thorough proofreading exercise. Nirvana perhaps . . .
Here is a more recognisable scenario:
Someone identifies a large opportunity and decides to compete for it. Sometimes the main sponsor of the effort is an individual salesperson or manager. The commitment to compete may be made at a senior level and the task delegated. Either way, one person ends up with the primary responsibility. It might be a the making of their career or a hospital pass.
After studying the 178 mandatory requirements, the person who takes on the task of bid management realises that help from others will be essential. A few of the requirements can be answered with updated information from the last large RFP response. Most will require a huge effort and involve obtaining detailed information from a range of specialists both inside and outside the company.
If morale is good the specialists volunteer willingly however, they all have day jobs. Making contributions tends to be put off until the deadline is approaching and the bid manager is hounding them. The effort to complete the work by the deadline becomes a crisis. The possibility of failure seems increasingly likely. In the end, panic and pressure motivate the necessary acceleration.
The proposal is finished just in time for it to be hand delivered by someone willing to drive very fast. Despite the rush and sloppy presentation, it scores well and is judged second. Being pipped at the post is no consolation. There is no second prize. It begs the question, “what if we had started a little earlier?”
The cost of failure is too painful to contemplate. No one dares put a number on it. Worse is the missed opportunity cost – all the other progress that would have been made and all the other business that might have been found and won with the resources used up to compete for the elephant sized sale.
Sometimes deciding not to compete is the better decision.
The vital step is to make a rational decision about each opportunity. Hold a deal review meeting that includes all of the people who will have to contribute to the response document. The purpose is to solicit a consensus about committing the resources necessary to win. Then if all the stakeholders agree to support the effort, have them publicly and irrevocably commit to providing their share of resources – be it time, people, or equipment.
If there isn't full commitment, it will be wiser to abandon the effort.
Using a checklist is the best way to evaluate or quantify chances of winning any particular opportunity. They are easy to develop. Brainstorm for a long list of indicators and prune it until you have a manageable number or ask about our 'win prediction check list. Answering the questions returns a score that indicates the likelihood of success. The questions indicate actions to improve the score.
On its own, a successful deal review is not enough to ensure success. Whoever takes the lead as bid manager must allocate the work and ensure that all contributors understand what is expected of them.
Collaboration tools that publish action lists and progress reports in a shared area reduce the incidence of things being overlooked and ease the load of monitoring and maintaining progress.
Having a methodical approach to sales proposal preparation makes a significant difference to success rates and productive use of resources. Those opportunities that won't happen, can't be won, or wouldn't be profitable are quickly dismissed.
Methods or frameworks based on best practice models have an impact on quality. Where best practice guidance is embedded in the process, contributors find it easier to create consistent, compliant, and compelling content.
Having a common work area where everyone can view each other's progress, makes a difference. It encourages cross boundary contributions and draws on a wider pool of knowledge. A common workspace promotes team spirit and the sense of community that gives a project momentum.
When winning a large sale or contract depends on the quality and effectiveness of the proposal, bid management becomes a vital part of the process. Adopting a thought out, methodical, and systematized approach saves time, minimises errors, and generates proposals that outscore the competition.
Article by Clive Miller
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