In their career, most business leaders and senior bid professionals face the same problem.
No matter how good your relationship with the client and no matter how good your proposition and win themes are… get the wrong technical input and you’re not going to win your next pursuit.
The problem many bid team face is the reliance on subject matter experts who also have a day job. This is a particular challenge for those in the professional services world as you might end up with a wide pool of SMEs who may only do one or two bids a year, balancing utilisation targets to try and maximise their billable hours.
Creating a bid training programme
I have to admit that I, like a lot of senior bid people I know, have had a go at creating a training programme. In a previous role, I developed and rolled out a bid training programme, snappily titled Bid Smarter, Win More. We spent hours training technical teams on bid writing, management and theory, and gave them big hefty training guides that captured everything we wanted them to know.
This all sounds great… but…
By the time people were allocated back onto a bid, they had forgotten their training. We had trained people who were bad at bidding, and whilst the training had moved them in the right direction a little, they were still just… bad!
People left the business, new people had joined and the training was quickly lost.
Overall, in hindsight, my first foray into bid training wasn’t successful because it wasn’t sustainable. We had focused too much on the textbook and not enough on behaviours, process and culture.
Since Bid Smarter, Win More, bid training has moved on. If I tried it again my approach would be a tad different. (I might even look at the Bid Toolkit as a shortcut, but don’t tell Jeremy!)
Bid Even Smarter, Win Even More
After the initial rollout of Bid Smarter, Win More I was able to refine and develop the approach further, giving me some valuable learning and insights. If I had to run a training programme again, these are the three things I would make sure I focus on:
We need to be much more selective over who gets training. We need to help the best improve, rather than trying to force those who hate bidding to love it. Rather than bidding becoming something everyone does, we need to focus on small groups, enabling us to build teams which support one another and learn and develop together.
Embed bidding in business processes
Bidding is business critical, so we need to make sure its part of the business fabric, from the staff induction process right up to reporting win rates by a business unit at the Senior Management Group meeting. This, in turn, helps to get people to want to commit to training and learning, it fires up new starters who’ve never been introduced to bidding and makes improving the process, not just celebrating wins, important for our senior management team.
Break the training down
Staff in professional services businesses aren’t any busier than those in other industries, but the scrutiny on utilisation is a big factor we need to consider. This statement will make my bid training colleagues shake their head, but I think we need to condense and break up training into smaller chunks, using a quarter to half-day workshops. This gives the benefit of providing more tailored training and enables people to be more selective over what they are focused on.
Where will bid training go in the future?
With the emergence of new automation tools, improved content library platforms and increasing competence and capability of the best bid teams, bid training needs should focus more on capture and strategy, teaching teams to think creatively and develop solutions which genuinely differ from their competitors. There will always be a place for practical training on writing, reviews and management but focusing on the element which will make the difference between first and second place will become more prevalent in the best teams.
By Mike Reader