Assigning an experienced Bid Manager to control the bid process is an excellent first step to creating winning submissions. By engaging this key role, you have acknowledged that high-quality proposals are integral to winning work and growing your business.
A strong Bid Manager is like an orchestra conductor; keeping everyone in time, making sure each section is shown off to best advantage and helping to create something greater than its parts. Exactly how this plays out in your organisation depends on (among other things), the industry you work in, your size and structure, and the style of the bid.
In all cases, “good starts” need to be followed up and continually built on. To get the best from your Bid Manager, there are things you need to do so that they can help you. Here are a few thoughts.
Stick to the schedule
From the arrival of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) “time is of the essence”; that is to say, there is a fixed end date for this project. Even if you do not use a strict Shipley bid process, as a minimum plan the bid writing, proof-reading and authorisation to submit needs, against the time available. The Bid Manager will review all the required elements, and on discussion with the key company functions, define a bid schedule. This will show the evolution of the final document, the key internal deadlines, and decision points, leading to a stress- free bid submission.
Appoint a team who can commit
Often the bid team has a fluid population, with many contributors or advisors working on the submission as one part of their job. This is true (and very reasonable) across organisations of all sizes and the majority of company functions; operations, R&D, HR, legal, HSE, and such. The number of hours that each member needs to commit to the bid is irrelevant, compared to they’re being committed. People who are too busy to attend bid meetings, unavailable to the Bid Manager, or cannot complete promised work, hinder the process and may derail the whole bid. If Mr X is needed to “do something”, make sure he’s got time in his diary to do it well.
Send contributions on time
It doesn’t matter if the assigned section requires three hours, three days or three weeks of the contributor’s time, it needs to be written by the time stipulated in the schedule. If there is a problem completing a piece of work, highlight to the Bid Manager. Also, if further information is required from the client, raise requests in early. Answers to such questions often part of a formal process that can delay your bid preparation. Don’t ignore a bid mini-deadline just because there are still XX weeks to submission. Once received by the bid team, every contribution has to be proof read, formatted, and perhaps edited to fit a word count or space limitation – all this takes time. As with the unavailability of key personnel, the knock-on affects of late documents are horrible.
Prepare for and engage in meetings
As with other areas of your business, bid review meetings are important forums to share information and make key decisions. Maximise productivity of this time by preparing or reviewing materials ahead, and fully participating in the conversation. If, for example, this is the final commercial review – permission to submit – meeting and there are elements (costs, risks?) missing from the data, flag this ahead of time, so they can be made available for the meeting or the meeting rescheduled.
Make and stick to decisions
The preparation of a winning bid is a key junction in the growth of your company – especially when entering new markets or bidding for significantly larger projects. Decisions made during this time can have long-term consequences – both positive and negative. It is important to make the right choices across all elements including the technical content, the price, the draft contract terms, as well as the format and aesthetics of the final bid document. This is not the time to debate major strategy changes for your organisation. Without the consistent focus on the win themes and reasons the client should pick you, confusion and delays seep into all areas of the bid. This will (at best) compress the schedule towards the bid submission date but is most likely to result in a disjointed, incoherent submission that will do you more harm than good.
The Bid Manager is the expert in the bid submission process; you are the expert in what you do. Both are needed to ensure your proposals are winning and result in profitable contracts.