Overcoming Bidding Challenges (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series, we offered some solutions to the most common challenges you are likely to face from buyers as a bid professional. Sometimes the challenges are within your own organisation. We have outlined some ways you can approach these challenges and start to change the culture of your organisation.

It is important to remember that you have agency and must advocate for best bidding practice to improve the chances of success. Many of the solutions proposed below require you as a bid professional to gradually introduce culture change in your organisation.

Organisational challenges

Challenge: Submitting too many bids

  • Results in burnt-out bid professionals and a lower success rate
  • Shows a lack of focus and understanding about what makes a bid winnable


Solution: Implement a bid/no bid process

Many organisations see a tender that is related to their industry and assume they should be bidding for it no matter what. A bid/no bid process helps an organisation to focus and only bid on appropriate, winnable bids. People can be resistant to change, so suggest a time-limited pilot which key stakeholders could use to reach a decision in under 30 minutes based on relevant factors rather than an emotional or uninformed decision. Monitor the pilot and present your success rate at the end of the pilot period.

Challenge: Inadequate intelligence from sales/business development/operations 

  • Internal teams do not always have, or share, relevant information that is needed for a winning bid
  • Individuals might not understand that their role in the bid process starts before a bid is even released


Solution: Educate your internal teams

As a bid professional, you need to be able to articulate the importance of crucial information to every bid that your organisation submits. Your sales/business development/operations teams should be able to identify: what is important to the client; how the current supplier is performing; who the competition is; the price point; and the buyer’s appetite for change. If you are the incumbent supplier, these teams should give you information about complaints the buyer has made and any evidence of dissatisfaction, so that you can work on a solution and overcome these challenges in the bid.

Challenge: Back-ended work on bids and senior decision-makers coming to the process late

  • Leadership team can assume that most of the work can be done in the last week or two if the deadline is seemingly far away
  • Solution can take place too late to ask clarification questions
  • Senior leaders can make decisions that impact the bid too late to address them effectively


Solution: Use statistics to demonstrate the importance of using the whole bid window

Your organisation might have done things a certain way for a long time and it could seem impossible to change. Everyone is busy with their day jobs, and this fosters a culture of getting to bids later in process, which leads to bad results. As a bid professional, take ownership of the process and speak to senior people to explain the benefits of using the bid window appropriately and running the bid according to bid best practice. It is likely that if you are working in this way then there is scope to work better and win more, so use bid statistics to support your points. Look at bid budgets, time people are spending on bids, working hours of people on bids, and bid success metrics. If your bid win rate could be moved up by 10 or 20%, show the impact that would have on business to illustrate the point to senior team. This could convince them to bring in more staff or bid consultants.

Subject matter experts

Subject matter experts are crucial to the success of the bid, but they are busy with their main role which can cause challenges, as outlined below.

Challenges when working with subject matter experts:

  • Often not present at bid kick off meetings so do not understand capture plans, proposition, or bid win themes
  • Information is provided late and is irrelevant, leading to extra hours of work for bid professional


Solution: Make it easier for the subject matter expert to provide the information

Consider how you are requesting the information from subject matter experts and whether you could tailor it to them. Could you grab a quick coffee with them and note down key points? Could you ask for bullet points so they don’t feel obliged to write a long narrative? A 15-minute call is likely to feel manageable in a busy working day.

If your organisation uses a tool like Insights profiling, factor their style into your request for information. Do they prefer working with details or seeing the bigger picture? Are they more creative or supportive? The more you work with subject matter experts, the better you will get at understanding their preferred working styles and using this to work with them to get better information earlier in the process.

Management and development culture of bidding organisations

The main challenge you are facing might be the culture of your organisation.

Challenge: Not enough care and recognition for bid staff

  • An expectation of late working which negatively impacts the quality of the bid professional’s life
  • Late provision of information leads to extra hours to be worked by bid professional
  • Lack of focus on career development for bid professionals


Solution: Set boundaries and use professional resources

There is best practice in the bidding profession, and you can work towards attaining qualifications in bidding with the Association of Proposal Management Professional (APMP). At APMP conferences, members repeatedly request sessions on stress and burnout, and the profession needs to be mindful of this.

Working extra hours to get bids over the line should be an occasional occurrence, not the norm. If you can’t change your organisation, then you can learn to be confident setting boundaries. Following bidding best practice will reduce the need for overworking, and your organisation needs to support you in implementing this.

Advocating for yourself as a bid professional

The key to overcoming all of these common bidding challenges is advocating for yourself in your profession. You can change the culture in your organisation if you take a gradual approach and use solid expertise. There is bidding best practice that has been built up over decades, and when best practice is followed, more winning bids are delivered.

Draw boundaries around your working life and recognise that you have agency. If you don’t get the changes that you need, you may need to look elsewhere for an employer who respects that your profession has a standard for best practice. Bear this in mind if interviewing with a prospective new employer: you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.