Bid Managers and Tender Writers must surely be masochists! Who else would choose to work in an environment that’s always stressed, frequently represents the life-blood of a business (no pressure!), and is often not particularly handsomely rewarded or recognised?
Before they all start leaving to become dog walkers, submarine captains, or join the underwater knitting guild, it’s worthwhile considering how you can get the very best from your fellow bid teams. What’s the secret to making your tasks satisfying, easing stress, and boosting the quality of your outputs so your win rate (and the recognition you get for those wins!) goes through the roof?
We’ve brainstormed a few ideas across our Plan A Tendering team, and come up with a few pointers that make life more exciting and rewarding when we’re working on tenders. Here are our suggestions:
1. Become an expert on the drivers and priorities for project you’re tendering. Surprisingly, this doesn’t always mean you have to be a technical specialist on your solution. Often, a bit of internet research can fill you in on what the evaluators’ sensitivity points are – and then you’ll enjoy building those into the content of your bid. If all those writing and reviewing the bid get the chance to contribute to the strategy at the outset, the level of alignment and buy-in is far greater than if some parties are excluded till later.
2. Work in teams. Slavishly toiling away in isolation on pulling a bid document together can be soul-destroying. But more importantly, it stifles innovation, the potential for bouncing ideas around, and the synergies that emerge when you’re working together. Brainstorm ideas as a group; then delegate the sections with clear vision of what the overall messages are. Then marvel at the different ways those messages can be driven home in different ways, by different contributors, through the different sections of the bid.
3. Don’t skimp on project management. A clear roadmap of who needs to produce what deliverable by when, and a fierce bid manager who monitors progress tirelessly, is essential to get the right inputs at the right times. Delays not only cause stress, but also introduce piecemeal approaches, where the win themes that should permeate and be interpreted and reinforced in new ways in every section are diluted and often lost.
4. Don’t try to put square pegs in round holes. Play to each person’s strengths. In bid teams, there is frequently a wide range of communication styles, and you’ll need to assess and negotiate each, to get the best out of each person’s offer. Some (many!) are great at talking about the strategy but struggle to document it. Find a buddy who can ask the right questions and document their responses, then sit with them to review it. Others like to work in isolation – allow this, but don’t let them do it for too long: check that their outputs are aligned and on task, or you’ll end up rewriting a truckload of content.
5. Stage your reviews. An early review of the Executive Summary is like gold. Get the input of your Big Cheeses at that stage, so you capture their insights and intelligence with time to incorporate it into your bid. This also heads off the seagulls, whose aim in life is to fly in late, squawk noisily, crap on everyone and fly away. Capturing their inputs early not only improves the quality of your bid, but will deliver a more harmonious and aligned response.
6. Chase the stragglers mercilessly. Late content is almost always poorer quality than the rest. The contributors who delay their inputs are usually the ones who are least comfortable with, or least able to contribute focused, quality responses to the sections they are delegated to complete.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff: While it’s important that your bid is easy to read, conveys your win themes effectively, and substantiates your claims of superiority, the time needed for outstanding presentation should not overly compromise the substance of your response. If you need to reduce an already tight bidding timetable by up to a week in order to present a glossy, brochure-type response, you may need to inspect your priorities. Accurate content that clearly describes the benefits of your offer to your client may well be more important than the pictures on the page, especially if designing those brings an added risk of transmission errors or insufficient review time from your bid strategists. Avoid unnecessary stress, and focus on getter the content as good as it can be.
8. When the bid’s in the box, de-brief, praise, and celebrate. Even if you have lessons to be learned for next time, you’ve done the best you can. The Blame Game won’t help you to create a high-performing team next time – let it go (and learn!)
Your bid team – whether it’s entirely internal, or a mixture of internal and specialist external consultants, is key to the future of your business. To get the most of their efforts, it’s important to provide them with an environment that’s satisfying, where the pressures of bidding are shared and there’s a collaborative, enthusiastic culture that rewards extra efforts.
Where possible, create some variety in the work that they do, so each project they launch into is exciting and fulfilling; so they get great satisfaction from the work they do together; and so they enjoy a sense of progress and achievement each time they complete a demanding bid timetable and post that winning bid in the box.