Getting sales and bid on the same track

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There is no more mesmerising example of teamwork than a track cycling team pursuit event; 4 riders in perfect harmony, travelling at 45mph centimetres from the rider in front, taking it in turns to hit the front, driving the group ever faster, then dropping to the back to recover before going again.

But what has this got to do with bidding? We all know that teamwork is vital to success, and the bid world focuses heavily on collaboration to get the best result. But bids are heavily reliant upon customer insights that only sales can deliver, and I’d argue this is the area that most businesses are simply failing to get working properly.

To get back to my cycling analogy, it’s as if we create a well-drilled squad of three track cyclists from the bid team, and then ask someone from sales to join us who turns up on their mountain bike. They have many similar skills and enough fitness, but they simply aren’t equipped to be that crucial 4th rider.

At the root of the problem is that both teams ‘sort of’ understand the other side’s job, but neither fully gets it. Over the years I’ve heard salespeople dismiss bid functions as being merely admin, and I’ve heard bid functions dismiss sales as being people who promise the earth and then leave the bid team to it when the going gets tough.

Having been a salesman and sales trainer before spending the last decade with numerous amazing bid teams, I’ve truly seen both sides. But at heart, I’m still a salesman. And some of the behaviours I see from my own profession drive me to distraction.

I see salespeople throwing opportunities over the fence to bid and leaving them to get on with it; doing poor briefs and leaving bewildered bid experts to join the dots; and writing poor quality and generic executive summaries.

But, despite having seen bid teams try to intervene, these are issues they cannot fix alone. Successful selling takes far more skill and dedication than it is often given credit for, and any attempts from bid people to tell sales how to improve are routinely ignored.

So, we arrive at an impasse. Sales need to be better and up their game, and the bid team know this. But the bid team can’t tell them how to do this, as sales probably won’t listen to anyone without frontline sales experience.

The answer? Much like the track cycling team, it is all about training and more time working together until it gels. But to do this you can’t rely on traditional sales training methods, as most sales trainers are almost always ex-salespeople and rarely understand the nuances of the bidding world any better than the salespeople do. What is needed is more bespoke and joint training that creates shared understanding and ownership. Sales need to be engaged on how crucial they are in the bid process, and bid teams need more understanding of the pressures sales face.

In every customer where we’ve aligned sales training with bid approaches and created joint workshops, we’ve seen astounding results. Greater sales ownership brings clearer messaging, better direction and greater customer insight. And good bid teams thrive off this.

So, if you want to be more successful as a team don’t think you can just tell sales how they need to step up. Plan how you will create events for both teams to come together to learn and improve, and mutually respect each other’s abilities. This will help everybody gel and keep the team on track to success.

This article was written by Steve Robinson.

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