“By following a strict prescriptive method, we become dumber, because we lose the ability to think for ourselves.” Mo Gawdat, Former Chief Business Officer, Google X
I’ve never followed strict processes throughout my bid career. I like consistency in filing, housekeeping, feedback and writing style, but not much more. Sure, I keep a set of loose principles (you can’t do/know some things without knowing others) but I’m not beholden to this.
Priorities are different from company to company, and so is the approach between in-house bidding teams and outsourced freelancers/consultants. In-house teams focus on one company – the one they work within. They can build a deeper knowledge of the business, their capabilities, people and what makes them different/better. Outsourcers often work for many different companies. The upside is they get to see what each are doing better, worse, differently, to the other and can apply this advantage to each bid. The downside is they have a lot less time to get under the skin of each company, build relationships, and find the information they need.
So, I question if there is a ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ method to bidding, or just a difference in focus. It’s made me look at where our approach at Mozer sits amongst this. We’re an outsourced bid consultancy and we’ve recently grown from one to five people. I came from a Head of Bids role at a national property company and I’ve been running Mozer for nine years now, so it’s been a while since I was in-house. We have two freelancers who recently took the leap from their in-house roles and we contract them in on major opportunities or bid retainers with our clients. We also have two permanent members of the team who have recently joined us from in-house bid team roles. All team members are learning to adapt to this shift from in-house to outsourced/consultancy. Here is what we’ve learned about in-house versus outsourced best practice, and what they tell me Mozer specifically does differently.
|Working on bids in-house versus outsourced|
|We have processes like a New Project folder, Project Programme, Bid Overview template, Timesheets, and Live Project sheet. We clearly file name everything so they’re easy to find when facing a bidder’s mind blank. We complete a lot of bids in a short space of time, so we determine what processes are critical.|
|Staying on top of your housekeeping|
|Time management is fundamental when juggling multiple bids with many different clients.|
We house images, case studies, and other content directly into a client library during a bid so it’s there ready to use again for the next bid. We don’t wait until the end of a bid. We also give clients a copy of this to help tackle a bid when they don’t need us. We version control every document so when we cut down a good response to meet limits, we take from the most detailed version for the library.
|Getting useful feedback|
|We have more control over bid content and can influence how we learn from previous client feedback. We share feedback with all contributors (client and consultants) and remind them of it when we start the next bid. We’re hot on this and don’t rely on others to look back on previous feedback/scores.|
|Scrapping answer plans|
|Answer plan templates are often complex, with multiple categories, questions, and minimal space for responses making it a deceptively big document. Mozer lays out the question number, title/question, score, and limits at the top of the document. Then we include Level 1 subtitles (mirror the main parts of the question), Level 2 subtitles (main points to cover), and guidance text (information we expect to see). This creates a single space for the writer to populate (without working across an answer plan) and a first draft document.|
|Setting and nailing deadlines|
|Mozer’s regular clients know how often we will chase them on actions and deadlines. They quickly learn that if they agree to a date, they have to stick to it. At kick off, we send an email with the action and send another email/make a call in the run up to the deadline. We then set a diary reminder in their calendar the morning of the deadline to alert them before the end of the day. No excuses left.|
It’s pretty standard, and even accepted, for in-house bid teams to work across too many bids at the same time. It’s the same for consultants, but with the added pressure/responsibility to give clients the top-quality service they’re paying for.
Mozer has been in business for nine years. Until recently I worked long hours, seven days a week. I’ve learned how to be incredibly efficient and logical with my time and approach. Working across multiple companies – from local SMEs to major global brands, with and without bid teams – I have taken the best from them to build what my colleagues tell me is a very smart way of doing things. Which result in big wins for our clients!
Top three things to implement
Don’t over-process – Too little and things get messy; too much and you stop adapting to the specific situation.
- Stay organised – Don’t just move onto the next bid/deadline and forget about the last. Extracting useful info from the bid and following up for proper feedback will save you so much time later and improve your responses.
- Be persistent – Check in with contributors long before the internal deadlines. Email, ring (we find senior people prefer a text) and set reminders.
This article was written by Alison Zalecki.
Since 2009, Alison has been helping companies to win more business. She has led successful deals from £50k – £1.2b across the public and private sector with an 80% success rate. As the Managing Director of Mozer, works with SMEs through to global brands in Professional Services, Real Estate, Development, Construction, Sports and Legal.