Bid management is a race - here's how to become unbeatable

Blog • Antoinette Wieman • May 10 • 5 min read

The European tender market is maturing. After nearly two decades of experience with procurement, public authorities have gotten much better at defining exactly what they want from contractors. Private procurement, too, is growing more and more sophisticated. Wary of the cost and instability of frequently rotating contractors, clients are increasingly moving towards long-term partnerships, driving a turn towards more competitive tenders for fewer, more sizeable contracts. 

Companies are increasingly waking up to this reality. Whereas previously, a dedicated bid team could succeed at winning plenty of lucrative smaller contracts to keep business flowing, this is no longer self-evidently the case. Those who rely on winning bids for their business continuity are feeling the pressure to professionalize their bid management. Many of our clients' bid teams are struggling to keep up in these increasingly competitive races.

Bizaline has trained bid teams in a wide range of industries to win contracts - often snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Here's our three essential tips to strengthen your bid management capabilities and become a far stronger competitor.

1. Bid management is a continuous commercial process

When our clients call us, they're often mere weeks away from a tender's deadline. As all bid professionals will know, these last few weeks before the deadline are an extremely intense period. There is always a great deal of work to be done in a short time. To maximize your odds of winning, it's a good idea to prepare in advance.

Bid management, in short, should be a continuous commercial process - something we like to call 'operate to bid'. Make sure you're regularly in touch with your (potential) clients and try to keep learning about their needs. What are they going to ask for in their tender? Monitor your performance, collect evidence and ask for regular feedback from your current contracts. Log all this information in a database.

You'll also want to design clear diagrams and templates of your organizational structure and operational processes. And spend some time defining your company's best practices - standardized ways of working that have proven to be effective. The more of this information you have prepared before the start of the next bid, the fewer precious hours you'll spend calling your account managers for evidence or looking around for answers. And that, in turn, allows you to focus more of your limited time on the unique circumstances and needs of your client.   

2. Use a structured approach to bid writing 

The bid evaluators will often apply an expressly structured method to score the qualitative chapters of the bid. It's a good idea to adopt the same strategy when writing a bid, and be as consistent and structured as possible. We recommend using the EFQM RADAR method as a guideline for writing most types bid content, while making the necessary adjustments to conform to the specifics of your client's questions. 

The EFQM RADAR method is an excellent tool to help you present your bid content in a complete and structured way. Its acronym stands for Results, Approach, Deployment, Assess and Refine:

  • Results: first, define the quantitative results you expect or commit to with a particular initiative, and relate these to your client's goals.
  • Approach: then, explain your motivations and overarching strategy, and link this to your client's needs as you understand them.
  • Deployment: next, detail any relevant implementation information, including planning, staffing, or resources needed from the client. Provide evidence that your proposal is realistic and that it achieves the stated Result.
  • Assess: the next step is to define a monitoring process for the initiative. How are you tracking the Result?
  • Refine: how are learning and improvement built into this initiative? If there are any risks to the initiative, what are they and how do you mitigate them? 

RADAR is quite similar in structure to another acronym sometimes tossed around, which is NOSE (Needs, Outcomes, Solutions, Evidence). You'll see that RADAR encompasses all of these in its Results, Approach and Deployment sections. In addition, RADAR includes information on the monitoring and improving of your initiatives, which is universally appreciated by clients and leads to better scores. Structurally embedding assessment and refinement into your bids also helps you realize better results as a contractor - and those results can serve as evidence in new bids. In that way, using RADAR fits perfectly with the operate-to-bid approach in tip 1.

3. Invest in your bid team - and don't hesitate to ask for help

Bid teams vary widely in size and experience. In some companies, a bid team is a makeshift temporary team that's tasked with doing the bid alongside their daily jobs. But if you're serious about winning more bids, your team should have at least several core members working almost exclusively on the bid for several weeks. Working together closely for multiple cycles is another necessity for bid teams to reach a high level of maturity. It's never a bad idea to do an assessment for your bid team: what are the individuals' strengths and weaknesses? What kind of skills or personality traits are you missing? By combining the right team formation, bid training and professional assistance, your bid competencies will skyrocket.

 Hiring consultants may feel like a big risk - with 2 or 3 strategic thinkers and writers, the hours will add up - but professional outside help can give your bid a massive boost. Especially for bigger contracts, very few businesses have access to an in-house bid team strong enough to go without help. There are several reasons for this. First, the members of internal bid teams often spend most of their time doing another job at the company. As a result, they are rarely aware of trends outside their own industry, and they are usually not professional writers. These limitations can make it difficult to write a truly cutting-edge bid.

Strategic bid consultants, on the other hand, write bids for a living and know how to present bid content to achieve the maximum score. They should also be comfortable thinking on a strategic level, and because they work for a range of clients, consultants have the opportunity to learn about best practices across multiple companies and industries. In short, if you're serious about winning, it's important to invest in your team's bid competencies and make sure you bring in the necessary strategic thinking and writing skills to seriously impress your potential client. 

Still, it's important that those people who do the operational work in the organisation are available to deliver information and substantive know-how for the bid. The strength of external consultants is also their weakness: they simply are not familiar enough with the operational situation to describe it in detail without input from the organisation that hires them.

Prioritizing strategy

If you're here reading this, it's probably because your company is in the business of bidding for contracts. How is that working out? Are you winning the contracts you want? Or are you struggling? And if so, do you know why? 

Bizaline has 30 years' combined experience working on bids and tenders in a wide range of industries, from IT architecture and engineering to public transport and facility management. In a matter of weeks, we can transform any bid into a serious contender. And we can teach you how to do it, too.

Our Building Better Bids training consists of two 90-minute sessions, in which we cover all of the above topics in greater detail. We'll talk about the architecture of bids; share our templates for evidence, case studies and initiatives; we'll practice writing and working with RADAR; and we'll have time to discuss the specific strengths and needs of your bid team in detail. We'll also include our Building Better Bids book. For a limited time, we're offering this package for €250: a small investment to significantly improve your hit rate. Send us an e-mail if you'd like to join us - we hope to see you there!

Antoinette Wieman

Antoinette Wieman

Managing Partner

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