Fit for the Bidding Battle

It’s like going on a diet. I’ve tried 5:2. I wasn’t fun to be around on the two days I had to starve. I’ve been carb-free: I’d have bitten your hand off for a bowl of pasta. Weight Watchers? Been there. Slimming World? Got the badge. At one point, I was even seeing a nutritionist who recommended that I ate 22 different dietary supplements a day.

And you know what? Each of them works brilliantly, for the first six months. And then I lose focus. My weight creeps back up. I need to remind myself of what works and get back to eating the right things – or, not eating the wrong things! Sometimes, it’s simply that I’m bored; I crave variety.

Falling into bad habits. Needing fresh ideas. I can see parallels all round with the world of bids and proposals.

You know, ours is an incredibly fast-moving profession. Huge improvements in the standard of storytelling and writing. Proposal design that’s improved beyond all recognition in the past decade.

Radical changes to what good looks like when it comes to the bid presentation. PowerPoint pitches are so passé these days; PowerPoint done badly is simply not acceptable.

A huge shift towards more work on proactive and renewal proposals – in our team, up from around 10% of the live deals we support to 40% in the past few years, as sales teams expect their proposal colleagues to align ever-closer to the business development lifecycle.

Clients that are evolving – the “long march of procurement” and their infernal online systems leading to tighter timescales, more bureaucracy, less freedom to innovate unless you understand buyer behaviour and the tricks of the trade. Technology that’s changing, too, in its ability to make our lives easier. I no longer define a “virtual team” as “one working on a shared initiative, but not physically co-located”; these days, I just define it as “business as usual”.

Any of us who aren’t taking control of our personal development, and continually monitoring best practice, risk falling behind the times. If you’re still working in the same way five years from now as you are today, I guarantee your win rate will have fallen. And all professionals – even those at the top of their game – need to stand back from time-to-time and remind ourselves of all of those great things we know should do, but which get lost in the heat of the battle.

As someone who runs countless courses, and has helped huge numbers of people through their APMP qualifications, you’d probably expect me at this point to plug our training. And, naturally, we’d love to meet you! But I’d rather reflect on the wealth of knowledge that’s out there that you can tap into at little or no cost. Let me ask you five questions:

  1. How many books did you read last year on bids, proposals, writing, design, projects, teams, sales, procurement? (My recent favourites: “The Challenger Sale” and “Pre-suasion”).
  2. List three articles or white papers on bidding that you read in 2017. (If you read everything we’d shared, free, online, you’d be as up-to-date as can be. And lots of other people post fabulous insights, too).
  3. How much time a week do you spend browsing LinkedIn – about bids and proposals, and about developments in your market sector?
  4. When did you last look at each of your key competitors’ websites, to see what they’re up to?
  5. If you’re a member of APMP – and I’d argue that you should be… How many of APMP UK’s free chapter events did you attend in 2017? Have you delved into their Body of Knowledge? Did you read the last issue of their online “Journal” from cover to cover? Do you subscribe to and read their weekly European newsletter?

Personal development isn’t something someone else should do for or to us. It’s personal. And if you can build a plan for 2018 that gives you fresh perspectives, you’ll find that it helps to continually re-invigorate you and to help you to win ever more business. Bidding’s such fun; embracing new ideas makes it ever more so.

This article was written by Jon Williams.

Jon is Managing Director of Strategic Proposals, and a Fellow of both APMP and the Royal Society of Arts.

Back to foreword