A Perspective on Bidding and Bid Management

Bid management as a discipline continues to evolve at a rapid rate and whilst many businesses are embracing the significant value that can be leveraged, it is clear others are being left behind. We asked bid management expert, Paul Curry, to give his perspective.

Mention the word ‘bidding’ and it usually conjures up mental images of layers of process and administration, gantt charts, organising interminable reviews and late night pizza deliveries. Bid managers themselves are often similarly positioned as a form of mongrel project manager with a foot in the door but not yet a fully paid up member of that regimented discipline. Yet the reality is that bidding and its cohorts are not just the heartbeat and engine room of an organisation, comparatively inconspicuous against the external facing bright lights of sales, it also represents the nervous system coordinating and harmonising other parts of the business. Keeping this ecosystem together requires care and upkeep, recognition and reward. Ultimately it’s a simple and binary equation, bid well and you’re successful, bid badly and you fail.

It is hard to think of any other function which involves so many individuals, effort and therefore cost and which touches so many parts of a business. It is pivotal in driving not only revenue growth but cost management and in unifying and aligning an organisation behind a common purpose. Yet despite this it is often relatively unrecognised and undervalued. Likewise, roles involving diverse disciplined skills such as planning, analysis, process management and monitoring on the one hand with sales strategy, creativity and financial understanding on the other, along with both leadership and management skills are the daily reality for good bid managers.

Structurally bidding should sit at the heart of an organisation rather than an adjunct. Its raison d’etre is to drive profitable revenue growth through enabling the effectiveness and efficiency of winning bids and as such is best suited to sit as part of the sales operation. Here it is ideally positioned to cement functions such as sales, marketing, solution ownership, delivery, finance, commercial and procurement and marshal and align them behind the sales effort through ownership of the bid pipeline and prioritisation and resourcing. Effectiveness is typically measured through the value and number of contract wins which equates to a win rate percentage. Efficiency can be measured by ratios such as value of bids won per pound sterling of bid cost.

Bid managers themselves have a vitally important role to play in the winning of business. In too many organisations they are still viewed as being there to primarily manage an administrative process sitting on the peripheries of the bid team rather than effectively acting as the opportunities’ COO to the sales lead’s CEO. In my experience the most successful bidding functions have been where the bid manager is able to understand and challenge sales strategy and is comfortable working with and pitching to the customer as well as leading and managing the bid team. Running an effective process to budget is important but most competitors will be following similar lines. The real value add comes with layering it with a smorgasbord of additional skills in sales, marketing, law, HR, finance and solution development as well as pragmatism, discipline, leading, managing and communicating effectively. Reward and recognition for bid managers varies considerably within the market. However, we should not forget that they are ultimately in the business of winning profitable bids and reward mechanisms should reflect this. Similarly, as a cornerstone of a sales function bid managers should clearly have an understanding of life at the sharp end of the sales process. As such they should be included in most forms of sales effectiveness training including key areas such as pitching to customers and in writing winning bids.

Some organisations are beginning to recognise the criticality of bidding to sales and revenue growth and the central role bid managers play in this and are re thinking and repositioning the function accordingly. However, there are still far too many who fail to give it the recognition it deserves and capitalise on this key area.

Paul Curry is a leader with over 20 years’ experience of driving revenue growth through transforming and running bidding and sales enablement functions.  He has worked primarily in the IT, BPO and professional services industries on both a UK and global basis with companies such as Fujitsu and Atos.

A boutique search firm, helping technology and outsourcing companies navigate complex, challenging disciplines and senior employment markets to ensure they hire the best talent that will positively impact the business. Operating as a strategic recruitment partner and offering expertise across executive leadership, finance, commercial management, pricing and bid management.