Bid Management is a widely used term for any role within the sales cycle that is not clearly identified e.g. sales, technical, production, financial, legal. Within companies it can be interpreted differently across different divisions or countries. But isn’t the role exactly what is says – a person that manages bids? It is a poorly understood role and yet critical to the success of an opportunity.
Bids are risky and ultra-competitive with no second prize. They are critical to winning new work, as well as keeping existing contracts, and are the life-blood of any competitive organisation. Bids are detailed, complex and often large documents detailing how the sales organisation would meet a customer’s requirements. They cover a wide range of issues, from health and safety to customer care and staff issues, and are weighted for quality as well as price.
For the larger complex deals a bid manager is the essential member of the team as the facilitator and driver for timelines, governance and quality against an agreed internal budget. Many companies use project managers for this role but unless bidding is all they do this can lead to disaster. A project manager will approach a bid as another project. The difference between a project and a bid is there is a defined end or delivery point at proposal submission for a bid. There is no contingency or tolerance in a bid and without comprehensive bid planning and the bid manager’s personnel skills then all too frequently team effort will be ‘back-ended’ and the team will work through the night to complete the proposal before the customer’s deadline. A project manager will plan from the start of the engagement, whereas a bid manager has to plan backwards from the submission date. Interpersonal skills are key for the bid manager to influence team members to achieve their individual contributions within a defined and often tight deadline.
I was once asked by a senior sales account manager what my role was. Having explained the extent of the skill set and capability required of a bid manager he said to me “what do I do then?” In this instance the account manager was dealing with highly complex and large opportunities and I was staggered that he found time to manage a dispersed team towards producing a proposal as well as find time to define new opportunities AND maintain his customer relationships.
So when should a bid manager be engaged? As already mentioned, a fully experienced bid manager can be engaged from the initial opportunity identification. At this discovery stage the bid manager acts as a “Capture Manager” ensuring all relevant information is stored, researching the prospect, the competition, relevant solutions and reference-ability. Frequently the bid manager acts as the sounding board for the sales account manager and interfaces with marketing, commercial, legal and other supporting functions.
This information is critical to a thorough qualification of the opportunity – a stage all too frequently skipped but essential for ultimate success. From this position a bid manager can support the development of the proposition with a full understanding of the requirement, solution, USPs, commercial principles, competitive strategy, win themes, customer ‘Hot Buttons’ etc.
The bid manager is responsible for the ‘look’ of the proposal – not just completing it but ensuring it is professional and suitable for the target customer market. The physical appearance can be influential for the customer and, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be professionally produced it does need to be fit for purpose. I have always considered that a good looking proposal will not necessarily win the business but a bad one can lose it! It is useful to have members of your bid team that are experienced in proposal production – formatting, graphics, print/bind/delivery or electronic upload, burning CDs or memory sticks etc.
Following the proposal submission, the bid manager should monitor the changes that take place during the negotiation period. This important activity ensures that the signed contract reflects the customer’s requirement following negotiated changes and that there are no misunderstandings during the delivery phase.
The role and responsibilities of bid manager jobs vary between organisations but in essence a bid manager manages the risks to the business during the sales or acquisition stage of a customer engagement. So what does good look like?
A senior bid manager can manage a customer engagement from the initial opportunity identification right the way through to handover to delivery. At this level the individual should have:
- Team identification, management and motivation
- Process, governance and compliance management
- Bid planning, prioritisation and scheduling
- Bid cost management and resource utilisation
- Risk identification and management
- Commercial awareness
- Communication – verbal and written
- Reporting and presentation
- Coaching and mentoring
- Research and data collation
- Sales and business development awareness
- Drives for results and customer focused
- Team and relationship development
At a more junior level a bid manager will have a subset of the skills and competencies detailed above and would be expected to display the ability to manage the team to develop a quality proposal.
On a more personal note a bid manager should be nimble, tactful, efficient, self-motivated, cope with pressure, conciliatory, articulate, confident speaker, presentable….. shall I go on as it sounds too perfect to be true? It no doubt is and therefore as long as the bid manager demonstrates sufficient capability in all aspects then they are to be treasured.
Article kindly provided by guest author Sally Buttery of Unify.