During my wild ride in the world of bids and proposals, I’ve worked with all sorts – bid managers, bid coordinators, designers, and writers. I’ve gained insight into what really makes someone click in this profession. It’s not just about juggling tasks effectively or generating snazzy templates; it’s also about thriving under pressure and maintaining an eagle eye for each minute detail.
Sometimes, the bidding world throws Shakespeare’s famous line, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” out the window. A rose might be a rose for you, but for someone else, it might be an entirely different bloom. Bids are a complex beast; my take on what’s competent might be completely different from the next person’s.
Where am I going with this?
Not all bid and proposal approaches are created equal, which is a significant part of what makes this industry so captivating. They present a challenge but also a splendid invitation to innovate, adapt, and evolve as a bid professional, regardless of your industry.
- Bidding maturity: a kaleidoscope of viewpoints
Our proposal consultancy doesn’t discriminate between industries. Our clients’ views are colourful and full spectrum – bid and proposal development may be a high-stakes game-changer to one or a sales prop and administrative chore to another. And there’s a whole gamut in between.
This ever-shifting sea of opinions isn’t only about how far bidding sectors have come; it’s about how bidding, as a strategic value must-have, has evolved within the bigger picture. South Africa is our case in point.
What’s the takeaway here? Bid and proposal work offers a doubled-edged sword for those bewildered but intrigued souls daring to dive in. Tricky to navigate challenges offer uncharted and rewarding opportunities.
With an open mind and a go-getter attitude, these adventurous spirits may ignite fresh perspectives that’ll reshape (perhaps revolutionise?) the bidding landscape.
- Making it big as a bid pro: the indispensable ingredients
Being a bid professional is for fearless souls who want to survive and soar.
By arming themselves with an arsenal of skills, traits, and experiences that make them stand out. My top four indispensable ingredients are:
- Stay insatiably curious: Fuel your curiosity and never stop exploring! Can’t help but question why things are done a certain way and how they could be improved? Fantastic!
You’re toying with what I call ‘figuring it out’, better known as ‘design thinking’. This mindset lets you break away from traditional problems to create outside-the-box solutions.
Design thinking pushes you to put yourself in the client’s shoes, map out clear goals, brainstorm inventive solutions, create prototypes of the most promising picks, and put them through a rigorous reality check.
The more curious your mind, the more you break away from the ordinary – redrafting the script for addressing client needs, deciphering the latest procurement trends, nailing down industry nuances or mastering must-have skills.
- Never underestimate the power of certifications: Dreaming of making a name for yourself in bid and proposal management, especially in a boutique-style consulting firm? Be ready to show your pedigree with the right credentials.
The APMP certifications reign supreme. The Practitioner level certification is now considered an entry-level criterion (at least by Moi).
An APMP certification skyrockets your credibility and cements your dedication to mastering the craft.
- Continuously cultivate your experience: Accumulate the right kind of experience. It’s not just a numbers game – quality matters as much as quantity.
Becoming a seasoned professional takes more than one successful bid or one year of experience. On the flip side, even a decade in the business doesn’t translate to expertise if you haven’t continually evolved and grown. Remember, meaningful practice—not just clocking in the hours—makes perfect. Misdirected or stagnating efforts lead to deep-rooted, ineffective methodologies, stifling growth and limiting your potential.
- Strive to become an agile learner and communicator: A bid professional who can adapt to different industries and situations while communicating effectively is truly indispensable. Expand your knowledge base, delve into different sectors and keep refining your communication skills. Efficient and effective communication can make or break your proposal’s impact.
Collaborate with team members and listen closely to clients. This continuous learning and communication loop allows you to better understand needs, address challenges, and ultimately offer a winning proposal.
- Concluding impressions: evolution, exploration, and exuberant bids in the making
The bidding industry is a compelling realm, characterised by unique dynamics and trends poised at the intersection of strategic business functions and sales support. Emerging practices driven by procurement teams’ behaviours are colouring the industry canvas, with new opportunities blooming on the horizon.
While bidding maturity levels may vary, the basic principle of crafting personalised, impactful proposals remains a non-negotiable constant across industry segments. The do’s and don’ts of bidding and APMP qualifications play pivotal roles in shaping successful bid careers, fortifying a bid professional’s arsenal in making a mark in the industry.
Beyond these academic accomplishments, the industry fervently calls for innovative thinkers and creative problem solvers. Those who truly excel are curious and can learn, adapt, and transfer their skills across different sectors and geographies and work outside their comfort zone. Bid and proposal skills are entirely transferable, making the walls of industry knowledge mere stepping stones rather than insurmountable obstacles.
Just as rare and exotic flowers grow from seeds nurtured with thoughtful tending and diligent care, winning proposals are the fruits of tireless dedication, creativity, and the innovative spirit of the professionals steering the ship.
If you are a newcomer navigating this exhilarating industry, or at a crossroads determined to conquer a new sector, or revisiting your bidding strategies with a keen eye, embrace the call for relentless evolution, unwavering curiosity, and an insatiable desire for mastering your craft.
This article was written by Izane Cloete-Hamilton .
Izane is the Master of Inspiration at nFold, a strategic proposal consultancy in South Africa. She is a compassionate leader with a rare and innate ability to develop people. She has held various senior management positions in business development, marketing, and bid management for over 20 years. Izane joined nFold as a partner in 2021, where she continues to inspire success in others through thought leadership, training and strategy development.