Bid Training

The unspoken problem in the bid training world

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:

Be selective

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

Roles & Responsibilities

How to create a great bid team

A team can only function at peak if egos are left at the door, and each member of the team is 100% committed to the defined objective.

This is true for any team, but especially when we’re talking about bid teams. Guest blogger, Sam Shilton has listed the steps to follow to help you create the best bid teams.

STEP 1: Demonstrate Buy-in from the Top

Setting expectations around how important a bid is to you starts with the bid lead and sponsor. Nothing says ‘we mean business’ like a strong and confident leader at the helm, with the backing of someone from the upper levels of management. Getting these two appointments right is critical for success.

STEP 2: Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities 

There are few things more frustrating than people and/or teams working at cross-purposes or unwittingly working on the same thing. Avoid this by sitting down with your bid lead and sponsor to agree a strategy for your bid, and then define roles and responsibilities for the people you need to help get your bid over the line – including all stakeholders, contributors, writers, designers etc.

STEP 3: Promote Collaborative Thinking 

Once you’ve identified a team, invite all members to a kick-off workshop (in-person is best, but it can be a conference call at a push) to get everyone on the same page with what you’re trying to achieve. This is your chance to provide them with clarity on the role they will play, get a feel for their enthusiasm levels and assess the dynamics of the team.

STEP 4: Create a Team Ethos 

This initial workshop is also your chance to demonstrate and communicate the positive behaviours you expect everyone on the team to embody – such as an openness to sharing information, and respecting other people’s opinions and contributions regardless of seniority. Mutually agreeing deadlines, and what will happen if people miss deadlines, is also a good idea to support a successful outcome for your bid.

Procurement Regulations

Post-Brexit procurement regs; an SME’s view.

We’re starting off 2019 with a guest blog from Bid Manager Steph Hague, which looks at procurement regulations in a post-Brexit world … 

Whether or not the UK will leave the EU on 29th March or at some point thereafter is still very much open to (heated) debate but, in the meantime, the far-reaching implications of Brexit are being considered across the public and private sectors to ensure readiness for a leave scenario, deal or no deal.  For those of us in the bidding world, the most significant issue will be any changes to the EU procurement regulations, which are currently aimed at ensuring that the purchasing of goods and services by public bodies in each EU Member State is open to EU-wide advertising and competition, creating an EU “single market” for public procurement.

It is safe to assume that the UK Government has no desire to move away from rules which support the core principles of transparency and competitive procurement.  Nonetheless, there have been calls for the rules to be simplified and made more flexible, including from the Local Government Association (LGA) which, in an August 2017 press release, proclaimed the benefits of a “lighter touch” system which simplifies procurement. 

The LGA claims that under the current rules the process can take twice as long as typical private sector procurements and that only 20% of English councils receive EU expressions of interest from companies based in other EU countries and only 1.6% of public contracts are awarded to companies in other member states. Both issues clearly reflect the frustration of those of us working for SMEs where, in reality, access to wider EU opportunities is of little interest and the bidding requirements for even low value, non-complex opportunities involve a significant resource, time and cost investment.

Of course, some regulation of public procurement will remain necessary post-Brexit in order to ensure that councils, and other public-sector bodies, continue to demonstrate best value for money and ensure effective and fair competition.  However, as the current processes and entry requirements rule out many SMEs, therefore supressing rather than encouraging competition, the post-Brexit world may offer an opportunity to really enable the Davids to compete against the Goliaths.

In reality, the scope for the UK to make substantial modifications to the UK Procurement Regulations is likely to be constrained, post-Brexit; the UK will most likely remain obliged to keep most of the core features of the current procurement rules, including prior advertising of above-threshold contracts, minimum time periods for certain stages of the process, the application of transparent, pre-disclosed criteria at the selection and award stages and, perhaps most crucially, non-discrimination against tenderers from other EU or GPA countries.

Watch this space…..

Bid writing

How to create winning bid CVs

Compiling a collection of standout CVs is one of the most important parts of any bid response, yet it’s one that can often be rushed through at the last minute – with a couple of word changes as an attempt at customisation.

To help your people stand out from the crowd guest blogger, Samantha Shilton has compiled a list of must-haves…

Set a structure 

Determining a standard structure for your CVs is a great place to start, and length-wise they should be no more than two pages long. You want to guide your audience to the key bits of information that differentiate you from your competitors. We recommend the following content areas:

  • Brief career overview and commitment to the project: Resist the urge to write War & Peace – just include some high level statements that demonstrate suitability for the role.
  • A snapshot of education and experience: This can usually be contained to a pull-out box, set to one side or positioned underneath the picture, and should include your most salient Years of service with employers is also highly valued, but there are certain countries where this is considered discriminatory – so feel free to leave this out.
  • Personal statement: A succinct quote from the individual about why they want to work on the project, and the skills and expertise they will bring to make it successful.
  • Cultural fit: A short statement on why the person is the right fit for the client organisation can give your CV a competitive edge. People with a track record of open, collaborative work practices are highly sought after, and any particularly innovative work as well as relevant previous experience should be clearly called out.
  • Practical experience: A shortlist of three mini case study-type examples will really bring your CVs to life. Focus on the achievements of the individual as opposed to the company – highlighting their specific job roles, ways they added value to the project and, crucially, why it’s relevant for this client on this project. You can even bold this or add as a subtitle of sorts to really make it stand out on the page.

Customise to the client 

Has the client requested references, or other elements not included in the above structure? In this case, make sure your template allows for the inclusion of these and do a little wordsmithing (with their approval) to make sure references read well and are tweaked to suit the project in question.

Demonstrate team efficacy 

If your team has worked together on a previous project, or for the client in question, insert this as a table in your submission. Teams that have worked together before and can demonstrate success from doing so tend to be more valued by clients in procurement processes.

Bid writing

What are win themes and why are they important?

We often see confused use of the term ‘win themes’, with various different interpretations within even a single organisation or a business unit, let alone across sectors or markets.

We see anything from great big long lists of what we would determine as client needs or service features to a single statement that is inward facing and means nothing to the client. Here is our interpretation …

Your win themes are your big memorable messages that will resonate with the client. We believe they should be three clear, succinct, client centric headline statements that sum up the outcomes you will deliver for them and the value those outcomes create.

So, what does all that mean?

We always say – visualise the key decision maker at the water cooler in their office talking to a colleague after having appointed a winner of their procurement process. When asked who has secured the business with them the decision maker should respond with your name followed by your three win themes as their reasons why. Your key messages. “Company A won the deal because of X, Y and Z . .  .”

Win themes are the ‘golden threads’ that will run throughout your executive summary, into your submission and your presentation. They should be the proposition at the heart of your exec summary and wherever possible – at least one of them should feature in every response or area of your bid. They should be the key anchor pillars of your presentation, and referred to at the start and in conclusion.

Win themes should:

  • be the ‘sum of the parts’ of your proposals, linking to your solution and propositions
  • resonate with the client as solving their issues, delivering their needs, and deriving value
  • be easy to understand – the client should ‘get it’ for each win theme in three seconds
  • be client centric, articulated in their language and terminology
  • provide clear unique differentiation from your competitors
  • be restricted to three big messages only, as people do not tend to remember more than three things from any form of communication.

Why are win themes important?

Your bid needs to be exciting and memorable. But more importantly, it needs to tell the client what’s in it for them and why they should select you – very clearly and quickly. Having well defined win themes that permeate throughout your proposals helps you achieve that. They provide three hooks that draw the client in and help them believe you are the supplier for them.

The development of win themes early in the bid process also helps galvanise your bid team, giving them belief that you will win and to go that extra mile by having clear differentiation.