Effectively managing the bid process is crucial and contributes to successful bidding. In most organisations this is the remit of the Bid or Proposal Manager.
The Role of The Bid Manager
A successful Bid Manager has effective project managements skills. They need to be able to manage complex processes, problem solve, adapt to change and communicate effectively with a range of stakeholders.
This takes an organised and disciplined person with the right tools and the support they need from within the business (and externally too when needed) to produce winning bids, delivered on time, to a high standard and that compellingly answer the brief.
The Role of the Business Development / Account Manager
The Business Development / Account Manager has a vital role to play and owns the client relationship. They work in close collaboration with the Bid Manager.
The Account Manager provides insight into the client that will help win the bid:
Client Profile – an overview of their business and structure
Specification – what services they require
Incumbents – who delivers the goods or services currently
Competitors – who will you be competing with for this opportunity
Client Motivations – why now and what are the key focus areas – price, improving quality, compliance etc.
It is the sales owner’s responsibility to provide intelligence, based on what they already know and can be augmented by research: website, annual reviews, public information, news articles and client events. They can also draw information from their own organisation to obtain insights from previous experience with the client. This information should be collated and insights fed into the bid team.
The Account Manager delivers or contributes to capture points and holds ultimate responsibility for creating and managing the capture plan. They are part of the bid kick off and bid progress updates, has action points to complete and will source any further information required for the bid to be successful.
Deciding What to Bid For
The Bid Manager is responsible for leading the business decision for what to bid for which includes:
Understanding the Pipeline – what is coming to allow for preparation and effective resource planning
Bid Capture Planning – collating the information needed to qualify the fit of the bid to the business – existing relationships with the client, the opportunity and to make an informed bid/no-bid decision
Assessment of the Bid Requirements – understanding the clients need and desired outcomes using the intelligence provided by the Account Manager
Bid Management Plan – using the information available, collate a plan for the bid kick off. Outline the client requirements, timelines and deadlines, who is needed, their roles, responsibilities, key tasks and deliverables
The Bid Kick Off
The Bid Manager invites everyone required to contribute to the bid and takes them through the plan in order to secure buy-in from the teams involved. This is an opportunity to discuss any concerns/issues, allows the organisation to allocate the required resources and raise questions that need clarified. It is also an opportunity to review the bid/no bid matrix and decide if it is a ‘no bid’. It is best to no bid at an early stage before a large amount of time and resource has been expended.
The Compliance Matrix
For a complex scope of work, it is best to manage this using a compliance matrix. This is a proposal development tool to help identify, track, monitor and manage everything the client is asking for. It includes details of all written responses, questions, sub questions and supporting documentation such as: pricing matrix, memberships, certificates, deliverables schedule, a note of signatures needed, etc.
The Resources Required to Deliver the Bid
It is essential to identify the key people required and ring-fence the time needed. For critical roles identify a Deputy so that if the key person is not available, the Deputy can deliver instead. Availability can be impacted by other projects, ill health, holidays and unexpected absences.
Escalation Process – this should be outlined in advance to address situations that may arise. The issue should be discussed with those involved and only escalated if not resolved. Escalate in a transparent and respectful way to ensure issues can be resolved and the bid is completed and submitted on time.
Senior Sponsor – this is a senior contact who can champion the bid within the organisation and make decisions as required once the relevant lines of management and head of the bid team have been consulted.
Sign off and Key Decision Making – The Bid Manager plans ahead to identify when information, decisions and signatures are required and understands how different people want to receive the information. They also need to understand how to provide information and ensure that time has been booked into relevant people’s diaries. It is an advantage to have a good relationship with the PAs who have access to the senior team should flexibility or a fast signature be required.
Bid Review Team – well in advance plan time to review the bid before its submission. Identify who is required to review from various perspectives – compliance, commercial etc.
Reviews are recommended to be in two stages:
Blue Team – bid is 75% complete – to ensure the bid is on track, is factually correct, emphasises the key win themes, meets the client requirements, reads well and is accurate – grammar, punctuation, client name etc. At this point there is time to make any changes required
Red Team – this should take place when the bid is in the final stages of completion. In a four to six week bid period this is typically at the start of the final week. The bid should be almost ready to send and any outstanding actions/issues, reviews, edits and final checks should be completed
Bid Content and Structure
The Bid Manager will review the bid writers content plans, although they will not be delivering the contents, they must be aware of the requirements and timelines such as information from subject matter experts, graphics, charts etc so they can be briefed and delivered on time.
If the bid writers experience any issues or delays, they can raise them with the Bid Manager early so remedial action can be taken and resources or timings adjusted.
The Bid Manager is responsible for the overall bid structure, numbering and naming sections, indexation, caption styles etc. They manage documentation collation, storage, back-up and the updating and sharing of the Proposal Management Plan.
It is crucial for the Bid Manager to communicate effectively with the bid team and other stakeholders involved throughout the process.
A good method of keeping everyone up-to-date and receiving regular feedback is organising bid progress update calls. These ensure accountability for deliverables and allow concerns and clarification questions be raised and dealt with early. These calls provide an opportunity to track progress so things do not slip behind.
Having a senior sponsor or a senior person on the accountability calls helps focus the team on delivering. Any issues or requirements for additional resource can be dealt with swiftly by having all the right people, regularly on a call.
Bid Team Working
The Bid Manager needs to consider how the bid team works together. There is a great benefit to working in a bid ‘war room’ environment particularly for large strategic bids. A war room enables you to use the walls, tables, notice boards etc. to display key information such as the main bid win themes. When working with remote team members or across time zones, create a virtual sharing space for communal information and use video conferencing to collaborate.
Bid Completion Review
From the beginning of the process the Bid Manager keeps a key learnings log and encourages the team to share lessons learned. A short debrief session is advised a few days after the bid submission while it is fresh in people’s minds. This identifies key learnings, what worked well and what could be done better next time to improve what you are doing and increase the chances of bid success.
Most importantly the Bid Manager should thank all those involved and give commendation to those that worked hard to get the bid over the line. With the time and effort involved in submitting a bid, and with the agreement of the senior sponsor, it is recommended to celebrate the bid submission as well as bid wins.