Qualification: A Game of Colour

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Qualification. Bid or no bid. Go or no go. Bid decision gates. It doesn’t matter what you call it – as long as you do it. Diligently, systematically and every time.

But is it really a black-and-white matter or is there room for a few shades of grey? I feel like a lawyer when answering this question but: it depends. This is where the real challenge lies.

Here are a few things I consider as either black-and-white or shades of grey. Black-and-white aspects are material, make or break showstoppers. For example:

  • Commitment against the clock. Are the right resources fully committed and do they have the available response time to develop a compliant, compelling, and persuasive proposal? Or will the proposal team have to make do with AI and the best effort (i.e. spare time nobody ever has) from SMEs, executives, and other key roles? And do I need to remind you that availability is not a skill?
  • Customer insight. Do you understand the customer’s challenges, industry, objectives, procurement processes and social value well enough to say without a doubt what outcomes they want to achieve with the tender? Or do you think ‘seen one, seen them all’?
  • Capability and capacity. Do you have the required solution knowledge, experience and skills to deliver against the scope of work? If you win it, will you have the capacity to deliver the work? It hardly helps your business to win the project of your dreams only to realise you cannot fulfil it.

It is a bid manager’s responsibility to guide their business through these black-and-white aspects to avoid low-win opportunities. But it is also their responsibility to address the shades of grey areas where you don’t 100% meet the customer’s requirements. For example:

  • If you lack ISO 27001 certification when responding to an RFP for an IT services provider, you can emphasise adherence to other security standards like NIST or CIS. Showcase your experience in similar projects and demonstrate understanding of security protocols, risk assessments, and compliance.
  • The RFP requires one certified professional with specific qualifications but your team has two members who collectively hold the required certifications. Highlight each member’s strengths and relevant qualifications. Emphasise how they collaborate and cross-train, and focus on the benefits such as flexibility, reduced dependency on a single individual, and continuity of service. Their combined strengths create a well-rounded team despite no single team member possessing all the qualifications.

The trick lies in knowing the difference between black-and-white or grey. Remember, your duty as a bid manager is to oversee and coordinate the bidding process, manage a team to prepare proposals, and win contracts.

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.

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