The bid toolkit wins Vendor of the Year
blog, News

The bid toolkit wins Vendor of the Year

The bid toolkit has won Vendor of the Year at the annual APMP global awards.

Due to Covid 19 the award ceremony hasn’t gone ahead in Nashville as part of Bid and a Proposal Con as planned. Instead the winning individuals, chapters and fellows have been recognised at the APMP’s virtual celebration- Week of Winners.

The APMP Vendor of the Year award honours one vendor who has gone above and beyond in advancing the profession and receives lots of nominations from across the globe.

Since it’s launch in 2018 the bid toolkit has been dedicated to bringing together the bidding and procurement communities with their regular events and thought pieces. Their bid process is renowned in the bidding community for aiding the successful and stress free submission of bids, whilst their bid training offering has cemented their status as leaders within the sector.

Jeremy Brim, Founder of the bid toolkit said of the win: “It’s a great achievement to have won this award especially as we were up against such strong competition from Strategic Proposals and Upland Qvidian. We’ve worked really hard on building our brand and offerings over the past two years so it’s great to be recognised within the community ”

During the award ceremony Mike Walsh, Chair of APMP’s Board of Directors said “the bid toolkit has done some outstanding work to promote this industry, we really appreciate vendors like the bid toolkit doing all they can to advance the cause!”

Rick Harris, APMP Chief Executive Officer added “They are a new company and a new ATO so this is an impressive win”

The APMP is the worldwide authority for professionals dedicated to the process of winning business through proposals, bids, capture, business development and presentations. APMP is a non-profit membership organization founded in August 1989 and has over 10,000 members and is frequently growing in 27 active chapters worldwide.

Bid Training, blog

Learning with impact – disrupting the 70-20-10 rule

In the early days of developing the bid toolkit concept – when we were thinking through how to not just raise win rates in an organisation for a short period or to drill a team for a specific bid, but to create sustained whole organisation impact through widespread adoption of best practice – we studied the 70-20-10 rule.  

We knew we could build a successful bids and proposals live training proposition. The market was a mixed picture with few established quality players. We didn’t have our APMP authorised training accreditation back then, or even a daydream that it could be possible. But we knew we could be disruptive and differentiate on quality and innovation, for instance with our ‘top tip’ videos by some of the best bidding professionals around the world interspersed throughout our content.

But how to you make it stick? How do you boil the ocean of raising win rates across a whole business?

The 70-20-10 model for learning and development (L&D) is a commonly used formula within the training profession.

The model was created in the 1980’s by three researchers and authors working with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro in the US. The model outlined the optimum split of learning consumption, suggesting that individuals obtain knowledge, skills and abilities in their roles through the following mixture of sources:

  • 70 percent from on-the-job experience
  • 20 percent from social sources such as interactions with others
  • 10 percent from formal structured training

They observed that hands-on experience (the 70 percent) is the most beneficial for employees. It enables them to learn from mistakes, discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with people in their organisation. Employees learn second best from others (the 20 percent) through encouragement and feedback, including social learning, coaching, mentoring, and collaborative learning. The most surprising element is that their research showed that only 10 percent of successful professional development comes from formal traditional live in person training.

We thought this concept was fascinating and really steered the development of our approach for the bid toolkit. We knew we needed to provide a collection of services and tools that injected improved performance across that spectrum, building momentum to create a dramatic rise in win rates bigger than the sum of our parts.

How has the approach moved on and how have online, virtual techniques and digital assets changed the game?

Helpfully around the same time we were preparing to launch the bid toolkit in early 2018 Training Industry Inc released an insights report, based on data from nearly 1,500 working professionals, to update the focus and efforts in accomplishing training impact. The updated on-the-job, social, formal (OSF) learning blend observed an increased role of social and formal learning. The overall blend is now closer to what might be called a 55-25-20 model. With higher quality and more impactful methods in live training, huge consumption and availability of online structured content and improved understanding of mentoring and social learning there has been a dramatic shift in the dynamic.

In the context of bidding

Previously I held a bid leadership role and was responsible for the leadership of the capability development and training of their 50+ people bid global function.

We saw APMP Foundation as a quick win, a fairly simplistic baseline qualification to recognise staff performance. There wasn’t a great deal of online content to speak of, certainly that wasn’t American market focused, when the rest of the world largely operates to a variant of UK practices, and that wasn’t dramatically over or under engineered for everyday needs.

Yes, we wanted to reward our staff with a qualification and to raise standards, but actually it wasn’t our bidding staff where the real capability improvement was required and where value could be driven – it was their stakeholders – their bid leaders and SME’s / content contributors.

Quite a common predicament. But you can’t pay for everyone in your whole business to go on a course. And if you did you would suffer from erosion of that upside quite quickly with 15-20% staff turnover and apparently it only having a 20% impact that dissipates over time.

The 55-25-20 model

We think we’ve cracked it. In the last 12 months we have found that leveraging the 55-25-20 model with a mixed economy of learning methods and interactions, organised to build and drive momentum, delivers the greatest long term impact and value.

With clients such as Quod, we’ve found that mobilising with live training (or webinars) for bidding ‘champions’ creates the initial upsweep in understanding and motivation, the 20.

We then support that wave with ongoing mentoring and coaching of key individuals and deliver ongoing modules as part of their apprentice, graduate and leadership development programmes – enabling social learning and embedding bidding good practice in their DNA. The 25.

Lastly we land an enterprise bid toolkit site in their intranet as their constant online digital mandated bid process and textbook, providing their consistent roadmap and governance to follow and embedded microlearning to refresh or upskill bid teams right when they need it, on live bids. The 55.

Our clients are averaging more than a 20% increase in win rates and finding the experience of their new measured methodical bidding far less stressful and draining on the business.

“Jeremy and the team have been immensely helpful, both in providing training for our technical staff and in building a robust bid process. We have already received some very positive client feedback on the quality of our submissions – all achieved with reduced stress levels generated from the efficiency of the approach.”

Chris Wheaton, Director – Quod

Bid writing, blog, Roles & Responsibilities

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity

Guest blog post by Jack Strickland

I recently offered to assist a project director in drafting sections of his content for a bid submission. I have worked in construction for over 20 years, and whilst I may not be able to lay a brick wall, I can write a compelling explanation of how you go about it, given even a scant explanation from somebody with a bit of technical expertise.

The PD in my story, however, looked at me as though I’d just confidently advised him that the Earth was flat. It struck me that the role of bidding people in many organisations is more confused than ever. Our work crosses over with that of so many others, and yet we often find our work constricted by fear, rooted in a lack of understanding of what we do. We’re asked consistently to do more in order to get our projects over the line, but also simultaneously to do less as our organisations backfill bid teams with dodgy consultants and ill-suited operations staff.

Bidding professionals must carefully define our identity and purpose. In many cases we cannot control or suitably influence what those around us are doing, and it then becomes critical to clearly understand who we are, and what we do.

This will largely be achieved by development of strong and capable teams, and understanding what leadership really means in the context of a bid process. These two elements, in equal measure, can have massive impact. They are also major contributors in fortifying the position of the bid team, and offering protection when dealing with challenging situations. The impact of the stresses of our roles should never be underestimated, and the more effectively we mitigate these through a bid process, the better the service we can offer.

So, a few things to think about as you go into battle. These are by no means exhaustive, but represent some of the more important concepts that I’ve tried to imbue in those I’ve managed over the years.

Be the best that you can, before expecting it of others

Something that bidders and non-bidders alike will know, is that the sector is awash with people doing the job, but by no means excelling. The profession is fun and exciting, and is well-paid for relatively junior people lacking in experience.

To identify yourself as outstanding, there is a real need to set great examples and achieve. Winning is paramount, of course, but a rigorous and structured approach to management of process helps enormously in governing the way your stakeholders will behave. The same is true of a wide assortment of other traits – clear, open and honest communication, all the way through to maintaining and metronomically distributing updates to your bid plan. By asking more of ourselves, we can expect more of others.

This statement has become especially critical to success of late, in relation to a creeping realisation of the criticality of assessing the service of our suppliers – particularly recruiters. Offering the best service means doing so by sourcing the best people. All too often I find that recruiters ask us to accept mediocre, or to interview a candidate with spelling errors in the opening line of their CV, because that’s the one to hand (rather than the one that’s right for me). I truly believe that standards are raised by a collective push to do better, which has to start with us.

Bidding and the associated outliers – consultant writers / managers, repro firms, 3d printers, 4D visualisers, graphic designers et al. – Need to be made to work harder for their (often considerable) money.

There’s a strong and clear reason that your employer offered you a contract…

Businesses need bidding people for an array of reasons, but principally it is because we offer something that nobody else can. The combination of strong project management twinned with creativity, plus sheer grunt when absolutely required, is a mix that is rarely found in any sector.

Always remember that you can offer many valuable things to a delivery team, no matter what industry. The ability of bidding people to apply logic, process and concept to somebody else’s ideas should never be underestimated.

… And it’s not because they needed another administrator!

In construction, particularly, our offices are awash with administrative staff fulfilling ill-defined roles – businesses do not actively seek bidding people because they need another to add to their ranks.

In any business, however, we all need to remember that the specialist knowledge provided to us as the components of an offer are often simply not that complex. Our contributors would like us to believe that their words are tantamount to complex works of genius, but it is our task not to be cowed by this. Having the courage to speak with confidence, with the aim of achieving the best outcomes for the working group, is a key component in establishing a bidder as being credible.

Whilst everybody should be treated fairly and not have to prove themselves, we all also know that it can be necessary. Remember your value to the process, and leverage it within your team.

“Why am I here, and what am I doing?!”

Jeremy will love the fact that I’m saying this, but it’s increasingly becoming a problem in construction – the roles and responsibilities of each person working on the bid must be clear to them, and moreover must consist of things that they can achieve.

For instance, on a massive recent bid we had upwards of 30 people contributing. A clear definition of what each of them needed to do is the very thing that would have assisted us in reaching a successful conclusion. However, we had a commercial director giving feedback on artwork; a design manager who believed his only task was to fill pages; a project director wasting meeting time complaining that he was too busy (although also not then contributing the bits required of him); an operations director being asked to complete sections of content even though we all knew he wouldn’t do it…

Lots of the contributors we all face don’t work on bids all the time, and in fact it may have been a long time since they last did so. Helping them to understand what they need to do will go a long way to limiting your frustration. Moreover, by properly briefing everybody at the start, it removes their ability to renege on fulfilment of their tasks.

Define the outcomes for yourself, nobody will do it for you

Usually referred to as ‘being the master of your own destiny’, the point is the same. Bidding as a profession, in terms of the elaborate and complicated form it takes presently, has not existed for a very long time. 15 years ago in my industry, a tendering exercise involved a sheet of paper featuring some numbers, placed inside a brown envelope.

In this sense, a lot of what we’re doing is entirely new. The ‘best’ or ‘right’ way in the eyes of one person is not always suitable for somebody else. Bright and capable young people get into this profession because there’s the opportunity to develop new and innovative ways of working which can have real impact.

I’m not a fan of the APMP personally, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work wonderfully for many people around the world. The point in its value is that a group of people took a chance on its development, and the validity of a set of tools. There are not many types of work where just a few people (or even one) can have that sort of impact, but ours is just that.

If we think we can do better – understand the problem, devise a solution, and then make it work. Never be afraid to challenge the accepted norm.

Conclusion

The title is a quote from Tsun Tzu’s Art of War, which a friend of mine recently gave to me as a birthday gift. The sentiments contained within it are hundreds of years old, but have stood the test of considerable time to now be used as a guide to effective business practice. This has stood the test of time because it was created to test the boundaries of what was possible, and to look to define an entirely new way of thinking.

As bidding folk, if we can be effective in the use of everyday methods whilst simultaneously innovating and exposing others to new and untested practice, we can lead our teams to victory.

Bid writing, blog, Influencing Skills

the art of influence

When it comes to positioning well with clients to set your bids up for success, strong influencing skills are key.

Thoughtful influencing not only ensures that you get the information and insight you need for your submission but it also helps you get the best from your team and stakeholders which is crucial for success.  

As part of our guest blogger series we asked Dan Connors of Applied Influence Group to write a post all about the art of influence.


It’s three years since I took off my uniform for the last time as a Regular Soldier in the British Army and stepped into the commercial world. Since then I’ve been applying my knowledge and understanding of how people work and how to influence them to the commercial sector. When I first left, I didn’t know what a P&L account or an RFP was along with all the other terminology used in the corporate world. Three years on and I’ve seen and learnt a lot and in this guest blog for The Bid Toolkit, I’ll look at a few of the things I’ve noticed so far. 

People Think They Know Their Stakeholders Better Than They Do 

At Applied Influence Group we use a simple model to think about those we wish to influence. Amongst other things, it makes you think about the type of person the stakeholder is, what their attitudes and beliefs are, what they are interested in and what they like and dislike. 

Invariably when we get our clients to apply the model to a stakeholder, they are surprised at how little they know, sometimes about critical stakeholders. Working with one client, we quickly established that a stakeholder who they had been focusing all their efforts on was an interim appointment and was moving to a different organisation imminently. Many of our clients realise that they know nothing about their stakeholders outside of a narrow business perspective. 

When we work with teams, we also regularly find out that one member of the team knows something which the remainder of team were unaware of. 

Understanding your stakeholders well and sharing this knowledge across your team significantly increases your chances of successfully influencing them. It allows for stronger rapport, builds trust and allows you to phrase your messaging in a way that will resonate much more with them. 

Most Influence Challenges Involve Internal Stakeholders 

Many of our clients engage us to help them with improving their success with their clients. Almost always when we begin to apply our methodology to their challenge, we discover that internal influence challenges represent as significant an obstacle to success as client-facing challenges. 

These internal challenges may revolve around winning support for a proposal at the appropriate level, getting people to accept a short term negative impact on their own part of the business for significant longer term gain for the wider business or just getting people to contribute effectively to a team issue. 

Some of these issues are down to organisational design, others to perverse incentives, while some are a result of organisations expecting their people to do more than they are capable of with the resources at hand. 

Ignoring internal influence challenges or accepting ‘that’s the way it is’ rather than attempting to influence the situation can have significant client-facing impacts. 

A Focus on Role and Position Rather Than Influence When Looking at an Issue 

When looking at complex situations with multiple stakeholders, many of our clients remain focused on the position or role that someone holds rather than the impact they can have on a challenge. In one example, a client had several members of their own organisation embedded within a client delivering on existing work but had made no attempt to get them to assist with an influence 

campaign as they had relatively low-level appointments. They’d failed to understand that these people had regular access to deliver influence messages across the organisation that they were seeking to influence. 

Another example we regularly see is clients talking about their challenges with getting appointments with key stakeholders but spending little time trying to build relationships with the Executive Assistants who can make this happen. 

Thinking more widely about who can have a positive impact on your situation and how you can influence them increases your chances of success. 

Missing the Wider Context 

Failing to identify aspects of a situation that are affecting decision-making has led to some of our clients struggling to be successful with what seems to be a very solid proposal. Multiple factors outside of the business case can affect the decision-making process. 

As an example, a change of personnel at the C-Suite level may make a decision-maker less confident in taking the calculated risk of doing something new until the internal dynamics at the senior level has settled down. 

Sometimes these factors may be highly personal, sometimes they may be related to strategic changes within a large organisation. In our experience, these factors are often known but the impacts of them on individual or group decision-making have not been thought through fully. 

Understand what is affecting those who need to make a decision and adapt your approach accordingly. 

Ignoring the Personal Perspective of the stakeholder 

We all have our own mix of desires and fears that shape our personal way of viewing things. If we can understand what these are within the people that we want to influence, then we can phrase our messages in a way that speak to these desires and address their fears. Describing a sound business case in a way that makes sense to someone at an individual level increases its relevance and potency. Someone may have a strong desire for order whilst someone else may be driven by status – the same business message can be phrased differently to speak to both of these. 

When dealing with a panel of individuals, a careful assessment of these desires and fears can ensure that different parts of your influence message resonate with different individuals. 

Align your sound business case with an individual’s desires and fears and it will make emotional sense as well as rational sense. 

Want to know more about gaining a competitive advantage through elite influence? Join us on the 11th September when Dan Connors will be joining us as a keynote speaker at Bids and Procurement LIVE!

Our series of LIVE! events bring together bidding and procurement professionals in a relaxed environment to drive greater mutual understanding and sharing of best practice. As part of this we will also have panel  discussions around Wellbeing in the workplace and bid libraries giving attendees the opportunity to get involved in the discussion and share their thoughts and ask our expert panels and burning questions they have.

Tickets cost just £25 (+ vat) and include breakfast for more info and to secure your spot click here.

More information about Applied Influence Group and their services can be found here, alternatively you can contact Dan direct via email on dan@appliedinfluencegroup.com.

blog, Events

YPO World of Procurement – Enabling change through the procurement process

For more than a while now austerity and efficiency has dictated that something needs to change in how the public sector procures. Budget pressures are now driving you far beyond simply looking for a better deal, doing things together and driving down cost. We’ve reached the breaking point.

Whichever way Brexit goes now – whatever they say – Government will have no choice by to maintain the downward pressure. They may well invest in vote grabbing services and infrastructure to bolster industry, but what about the stuff that the public doesn’t see? Or that doesn’t win elections? The expression ‘do more with less’ may well become all too painful. Well, unless we do something about it – think like entrepreneurs and refocus on the business outcome your organisation needs.

I’m really excited about speaking at the YPO World of Procurement event this year. I attended last year just before we signed our partnership agreement with YPO and found it to be a really vibrant and insightful day.

I think I may well be being positioned by my YPO friends as a fairly provocative speaker, and I guess they would be right. I’m not a procurement person. I’m from the ‘dark side’ – I’m a Business Developer and bidding specialist who among other things now teaches the private sector how to deliver compelling compliant bids to you lovely public sector procurement lot.

The benefit of now being an impartial consultant in the forum I’m presented with in July is that I can really genuinely tell you the truth. We’re finding there is a great deal of value in putting procurement and bidding people together away from live procurements to share ideas and best practice. We’re going to be in a room together with the doors shut, away from a competitive procurement situation and without any agenda. I’m not going to be pushing a client or a proposition. I’m just there as a friend to ‘have the conversation’ as I call it.

I’m going to talk you through some of what we have found through our work with YPO and their suppliers – in trying to raise the game of suppliers in bidding for work to obtain a better value outcome for the buyer. Beyond the basics of compliance and best practice writing, my YPO friends have been fascinated to hear about how we bidders (should) profile them and their stakeholders, strategise, and build solutions to not just meet the clients needs, but to enable a greater value business outcome. And we’ve had some really constructive conversations about what the private sector wished you’d do, dare I say, better.

We’ll talk through:

  • How the private sector mirrors your strategic sourcing approach with capture management and how we are missing a trick
  • How we wish we could share value with you, and
  • Some things we wished we’d talked about before the ITT came out

Please do contribute to the session, ask questions, challenge, give me context, etc. I’m looking forward to it.

Details of our partnership with YPO can be found in the Supplier Hub https://www.ypo.co.uk/suppliers/procurement-tools