Top 10 steps for a successful Bid
Updated: Sep 16
A key requirement of a successful sales and business development team is a highly-skilled bid team armed with an effective strategy.
Increasingly bids and proposals are becoming an essential requirement for organizations to conduct business successfully and fairly, particularly in the public sector, where transactions have to be transparent and auditable.
A bid allows companies to openly compete for work. The bid not only allows companies to compete on an equal playing field but also allows the client to have a full understanding of the service and commitment they are going to receive.
A bid can be a simple a face to face negotiation, or it can be an explanation or proposal, in document form, of the services or products offered at an estimated cost to a company. There can be many elements that determine a bid situation and what is required to participate.
Bids are most commonly known as; Proposal; RFP; Tender; Pursuit; Campaign; Submission; RFI; PQQ; RFQ; Grant Submission; Pitch; and more!
If the first thing you know about an opportunity is when the tender or RFP request for proposal is issued you are most likely too late. The majority of tenders are issued with a potential winner in mind because good sales leads will be aware when a client will go to tender and be practicing early positioning. They will have been working with their client them to help define a solution within budget and scope and are often invited to develop the RFP itself.
If your teams aren't doing this, another bidder will be!
Here are 10 steps to consider in your evaluation.
Understanding & Influence (know as early positioning) – As highlighted above, early positioning is critical to winning bids; so, what do you need to focus on to achieve this? As early as possible in the sales cycle, try to understand and influence the client’s underlying business need or issue; the ‘real’ requirement; the people and the politics; the procurement process; the potential competition, the risks for both parties; their budget and your win price.
Customer Relationships – Obviously, it is important that you cultivate close working relationships with the client, especially the key stakeholders and ultimate decision-maker so that establish the trust, credibility, and understanding needed to influence them towards your solution before any tenders are even thought about. Good relationships with potential third-party vendors or supply chain partners are also vital, as they could be the key to the success of the bid. If you have laid the groundwork here you will be well-positioned.
Qualify & Invest – Before allocating precious resources and time on a bid spending that you may not win, clarify at the very least the following. Why are we being asked to bid? (Does the client believe we can deliver or are we just making up the numbers?) Can we win and why? Is this viable and profitable? Why do we win opportunities like this? Why do we lose opportunities like this? Do we have the time, money, and resources to bid, or should we be investing time and money on better opportunities? Bid, or No Bid
Bid Strategy & Solution – If this is a bid opportunity too many organizations start answering the questions in a tender before developing their bid strategy and solution. Start by developing your organization’s offer to meet and exceed the client’s need or issue, which again is easier if you have been influencing that understanding from day one. Support this offer with key messages and themes that run through the proposal, making it read like a fluid document, rather than an exercise in cut & paste. Sum all this up in a draft Management Summary.
Sell your Solution & Value – Building on the four previous stages, a compelling, client-centric proposal, led by a crafted Management Summary, you will get the decision maker’s attention because you are targeting the bid directly and improving your chance of winning. Include case studies of clients with similar requirements, you have successfully addressed always helps. Make sure your proposal addresses the client’s needs and doesn’t just talk about your organization; and remember the client first, supplier second. Once shortlisted, create a great presentation team, and depending on the request an accompanying presentation.
Creativity & Innovation – Where possible it is also critical to differentiate and demonstrate creativity and innovation, with that in mind it is imperative to focus on the client’s issues and needs, holding workshops to apply creativity and innovation throughout the bid in terms of bid strategy, your solution, your proposal, and your presentation.
Planning & Process When opportunities are won, the delivery aspects are managed using structured planning and processes (Prince 2, etc) to ensure a successful outcome. The same degree of planning and process needs to be applied to a bid. Start with a clear plan and a ‘living’ bid process used by everyone, clearly defining their roles and responsibilities, timescales, and key milestones, including regular reviews.
Tools & Information – Many tender scenarios pose repeated questions relating to your products or service capabilities. Having this information organized and prepared, accessible, and managed under change control ensures that the right answers are found quickly, used, and always up to date is essential. This saves the bid team valuable time allowing you to concentrate on the detail of the bid itself.
Resource & Skills – Despite lots of automated processes, people win bids. People who can lead, people who can work as part of a holistic bid team, people who can write in persuasive business English, people who can innovate, people who can check the proposal until it is perfect, people who can sell, people who can negotiate, and people who can present. Without all these elements fitting together orchestrated by an effective Bid Manager bid's will not succeed.
Review & Learn – Regardless of the outcome, you must ask the client for feedback and evaluate what you did well and what you could have done better at the conclusion on the bid process. A post bid evaluation is critical. Communicating the successes and failures to everyone involved is integral to the approach to future opportunities, with lessons learned in order to deliver continual improvement and to claim some value from the opportunity.
Good Planning & Process will ensure that you manage the ‘real’ opportunities effectively and efficiently, delivering a real return on investment, improved win ratios, and reduce the cost of bidding!
Paula Harris at SavvyDesk is a member and qualified practitioner of Bid Management by the Association of Bid & Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) and has helped business leaders rethink their bid & tender process either acting as a mentor throughout the process or managing the practical elements of proposal preparation. Get in touch to find out more