The bid profession is one full of contradictions to be carefully navigated (usually with a looming deadline!). For me, one of the most notable contradictions is the expectation of having extensive technical expertise (in whichever sector you operate) and the creative, lateral and flexible thinking needed to pull together a winning submission.
While these skillsets are not mutually exclusive, the concept of industry knowledge versus bid knowledge has made me reflect on my own career and the variety of industries I have worked in. I started my bidding career in recruitment and the idea of moving out of that sector was initially terrifying. Transitioning into the built environment was a challenge at first, where everything was different to my first bidding post.
On reflection, this may be because the first industry you work in as a bid professional is where you learn your ‘base’ bidding skills and terminology. A leap into a new sector and move away from that can feel incredibly unnerving, trying to learn new technical language, processes and even bid structure. Another layer of anxiety may also be added – one of being acutely aware of the direct correlation between the bidding function and the overall success of the organisation.
However, exercising patience, open mindedness and a willingness to learn really does help to smooth the transition into a new sector. Once you are able to overcome the initial fear, it becomes easier to move into different industries and start applying bidding best practice to that sector.
I believe this is underpinned by a unique formula bidding professionals develop when working in differing sectors:
Learning by osmosis + Steadfast bid practices + Key attributes and skills + Curiosity = Success in any sector
A little breakdown of the formula:
Learning by osmosis: When entering a new sector, particularly a highly technical one, it can be very daunting getting to grips with the language and terminology used. Continual exposure to, and conversations with, technical specialists (over time) allows you to naturally absorb important sector knowledge to help craft successful bids.
Steadfast bid practices: A development of strong bid practices early in your career can be compared to a deep-rooted tree – strong and grounding but with the ability to evolve and rejuvenate when needed. There will always be core practices to be drawn upon when moving into differing industries (such as tools, templates and process structures) which can be a very stabilising force in bidding.
Key attributes and skills: There are a number of innate personal attributes and skills needed in the world of bidding – tenacity, relationship building, collaboration and strategic thinking are just a few. Carefully honed over time, these are highly transferable skills. The majority of organisations will value these types of attributes and skills to guide them through bids (especially complex ones).
Curiosity: A sense of curiosity about your chosen industry is a great foundation for bidding success. Curiosity about the technical aspects to be included in your bid (e.g. via conversations with your team of subject matter experts) is important for translating that information into a winning submission. Additionally, curiosity about the procurement process driving the whole tender and understanding the outcomes clients are trying to achieve all contribute to successful bidding in any sector.
Personally, the aforementioned elements have been particularly vital in the last few years working in the emerging market of EV infrastructure. The sector itself is fast paced with technology, and the legislation to accompany it, continually developing. With this in mind, it has been helpful to reflect and remind myself that those unique transferable skills and the right attitude of a bid professional are more important than depth of technical expertise.
There is a balance between remaining steadfast in your approach, practices and behaviours towards bidding as you advance at pace in a new sector and applying adaptability, curiosity and mindfulness. Perhaps, like nature itself, balance is paramount for successful bidding.
This article was written by Isabelle Stevenson .
Bella started her career in bids over 14 years ago working for a recruitment consultancy co-ordinating their EMEA-wide bid submissions. For the last 10 years, she has worked as a Bid Manager, mainly within the built environment, but also in sectors as diverse as facilities management, security and dentistry.
She enjoys collaborating with technical teams via workshops and review sessions to build win themes, install best practice and develop creative thinking to win more contracts and help organisations meet their business development objectives.