Big Fish, Small Pond?

What makes someone outstanding? It’s their ability to understand value and consistently deliver it better than their peers. They’re likely to be obsessed with delivering the performance expected of them, so do they know they’re better than others? Only when they know what others are doing, which requires them to keep an eye on the competition.

Keeping one eye on others and one on our performance isn’t easy in bidding. All those deadlines prevent us from stepping back from the coal face. But we need to stop digging if we are to compare our capabilities with those of our peers. If we do, we’re likely to just glance over our shoulder at those working alongside us. Is their win rate higher than ours? Is their proposal quality better? Do they ‘shine’ brighter? Hmm. When was the last time you tracked a colleague’s win rate, critiqued their proposals, or respectfully asked to shadow them in a meeting?

Be brave: look beyond your immediate team or company. Benchmark yourself at an industry level. Only then will you be able to undertake a meaningful skills gap analysis and create a personal development plan that reflects the competition in your employment market. It can lead to you walking confidently into a job interview knowing you’re the one to beat – and potentially the one worth the highest salary.

Sounds easy? Not so. It requires you to know where to find the information, and have enough bidding professionals in your network to see how you compare. If you’re not one for asking questions, or shy away from building new relationships, then you might need assistance in developing your career.

Where, then, to start?

Job adverts will display high-level profiles for each role; recruitment consultants will provide feedback on your CV; passing exams and winning awards will acknowledge your competence; and, of course, interviews are a good way to find out if there’s someone better than you.

You might also check the APMP Practitioner Certification competencies. But as you’d expect from an association of proposal management professionals, their competency areas are skewed towards process management effectiveness rather than measuring the quality of output at each stage.

Ideally you should get a mentor who can provide honest feedback on your performance and guide your development. This expert should know the job specifications for bidding roles in our industry, and the associated competency frameworks that map the differences between jobs of progressively higher grades. More importantly, they should understand the behaviours required to excel at each task. (Excellence is usually found in the ‘how’ more than the ‘what’.) And, if they don’t already work for one, they should know the consulting firms that provide the training and coaching to help advance your skills.

Learning from others is the best way to accelerate your knowledge and career. So keep your gaze wide. Never be jealous, but always envious of those more successful than you. It’s how you become a bigger fish in an ever growing pond.

This article was written by Nigel Hudson.

Nigel Hudson APMP CPP is Head of Bid Programmes for Babcock International. Previously he was Senior Professional Development Consultant for Strategic Proposals and Head of Bid & Contract Training for Vodafone Group. He won the APMP People Development Award in 2015 and has trained more than 4,000 people worldwide.

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