There’s a chance in May to pass APMP’s Foundation Level exam in Edinburgh, at a course presented by our business partners, Strategic Proposals. APMP’s certification syllabus serves two purposes.
It allows bid and proposal specialists to demonstrate to their colleagues that this is indeed a profession – not a glorified admin function – by attaining the recognised international qualification in our area. And, by studying APMP’s view of best practice – based on extensive research worldwide – it allows you to assess what you’re doing well, and to glean new ideas to improve your bidding processes.
Strategic Proposals have helped some 2,000 people through the qualification, and have an exceptional pass rate. Perhaps as importantly, they bring the syllabus to life with numerous examples from successful bids they’ve led, and proposal centres they’ve built. Bookings close at the end of April, and you can register for the event here: https://bidsolutions.co.uk/event/apmp-foundation-workshop-exam-3/
If you join up as a member of APMP (the cheapest way to gain the qualification), you’ll then also have free access to a wide range of events across Scotland and further afield – as well as a wealth of online resources. We’d highly recommend the certification programme and this particular course to any bid or proposal staff in Scotland!
There’s very little clear guidance or tools available to help bid teams to develop value propositions. Bearing in mind that research suggests that only 14% of a seller’s unique benefits are actually seen as such by buyers, our partner Strategic Proposals decided to embark on some research to delve deeper in to value. Their aim was to try and help organisations to answer the ‘So What’ question better. This paper, written by Jon Williams and Graham Ablett is the result. It’s a fascinating read and explores all the different ways that a buyer looks at value and provides you with thoughts and ideas to help ensure you build these in to your proposals and presentations.
Last year Sixfold, one of our training partner, launched APMP Foundation level training in Manchester. These courses have been well attended and the feedback has been phenomenal. Based on this success, Sixfold has scheduled them quarterly for 2017 (the next is scheduled for March 7th).
All of the students elected to take the exam on the day and so left with a Foundation Level Certification from the APMP. This Certification will not only help raise their stature within their companies but it will also help their career prospects.
The day is about more than Certification. Sixfold weave into the syllabus a great deal of practical advice and guidance that will help attendees improve their job performance and their company’s internal processes. At least, that is the feedback Sixfold got from many of the delegates. Here are a couple of comments from the Mancunian students:
‘It was a great day all round and Peter, you were just a great instructor and I have taken so much away from the day, so much that I can hit my Directors with! They are very much looking forward to me sitting them down and going through the facts and figures of what we should be doing and why.
Thank you very much for a great day, so informative and I am very much looking forward to putting it into practice.’
Gill Tidmarsh. Bid Manager
‘Very much enjoyed the course last week and it was lovely to meet you at last. My boss is very keen to look at our BD and bid process in light of my new qualification’
Jean Isherwood, Senior Proposal Writer
Sixfold are considering running courses in Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow if there is the demand, so please do let us know if you think that would be helpful to you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategic Proposals’ ‘Rising Stars’ Award Programme
Calling the next generation of leaders in the UK bid and proposal management profession!
This year, Strategic Proposals’ is celebrating their 30th anniversary with a range of celebratory events worldwide. The first of these is their ‘Rising Stars’ award programme, with free training and activities for a group of up to twenty of the brightest and best young professionals working in bidding, proposals and work winning.
You will get three days of free courses (London on 5th April, and Stratford-upon-Avon on 12th and 13th September). With a range of industry-leading speakers, they will pool views on best practice, helping you to improve your own efficiency and effectiveness – and to win more business for your companies as a result.
You will get free coaching from one of Strategic Proposals’ senior team and there will be the chance to work on a short project with your fellow participants, looking at the future direction of our profession. (All they ask your company to do is to cover your travel costs).
It’s easy to apply (by email, no later than 17th February): full details can be found on Strategic Proposals’ website: http://www.strategicproposals.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Rising-Stars.pdf
A simple mistake
We have all been there! The computer system has collapsed in the final hours of the bid or a document has not been uploaded in time on the portal. Or, as happened to us once, the numbers should have been in dollars and not sterling (saving almost 40% of the cost). When it is discovered after the deadline, the sales lead panics and the pragmatic Bid Manager picks up the phone to the client and explains the problem, pleading for understanding and some mercy.
When this has happened in the past, on many occasions the client’s procurement team have relented and allowed us to recover the situation. Not anymore!
In recent months, we have seen procurement teams taking an increasingly harder line when unforeseen problems have occurred. We have seen bids being refused which were only a few seconds late and the problem was the portal and not the bid teams. However, a landmark court case in Scotland last month, showed a court would only allow the submission of missing information after tender submission deadlines in the most exceptional cases. These exceptional circumstances would not include slip-ups made by the tenderer, however simple and easily rectified.
In this case the tenderer was bidding for a framework contract lot. It inadvertently omitted percentage figures for overheads and profits in two lots and submitted a blank financial template for the third. When the Council’s procurement team pointed this out, the tenderer realised its mistake and immediately provided the missing information which it had to hand. After several days, the procurement team told the tenderer its bid was not going to be considered.
Legal action taken
The tenderer immediately launched legal proceedings and argued that as its omissions were obvious and easily corrected, it should have been allowed to correct its mistakes.
The Court found that there was no duty on the Council to give a tenderer the opportunity to correct errors discovered after the tender deadline. The tender documents only allowed the procurement team to “clarify” information in a bid, but not to permit late submission of information which should have been supplied before the deadline.
The Court considered that the fundamental principle of equal treatment should take priority when handling tender errors, in accordance with PCR 2015. The Court also observed that the tenderer left itself no margin of error and only submitted its tender on the day of the deadline.
The lessons for us are clear:
• If you suspect a competitor is introducing new information into its bid after the deadline you should object immediately to the procurement team
• Upload a complete version of your bid (even if it is still in the final authorisation and tuning stages) on to a portal the day before the portal closes. You can always choose to update your bid later, but you will not be able to submit if you are late
• Find a detail obsessed individual who has had no part in compiling the bid to independently verify its compliance. Instruct them that they are only checking for adherence to the process and accidental omissions. Make sure you have time to respond to their findings before the deadline expires.
If you do find yourselves in a situation like this and want to get some quick advice on what your options may be, do give Sixfold a call on 01227 860375.
They would be delighted to give you some feedback and thoughts with no obligation on your part.
Pass the Examination and Become Accredited
The next APMP Foundation Workshop and (Optional) Examination with Sixfold is taking place on Thursday 2nd February 2017 https://bidsolutions.co.uk/event/apmp-foundation-workshop-4/
The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) is the professional association for people working in any sales environment where formal bidding and tendering takes place. APMP certification is the global standard for developing and demonstrating proposal management competency. As an Authorised Training Organisation, Sixfold can help you prepare for and take the Foundation level examination.
The APMP accredits its members at three levels of increasing competence; Foundation, Practitioner and Professional. Once certified, recent salary surveys have shown that these members earn an average of 15% more than their peers.
The survey results are very compelling. For specific levels of accreditation, progressing from Foundation to Practitioner level typically attracts a 14% pay rise, whilst advancing to Professional level leads to a further 30% increase.
To start you down this road, Sixfold will guide you through the Foundation level syllabus and the examination itself, maximising your chances of passing first time. Should you wish, you can choose to attend the course and then take the APMP Foundation level examination online, at a later date.
Suitable for: Sales professionals who wish to enhance their ability to succeed at winning formal bids and tenders, including public sector bids.
For more information about all their courses please contact please contact Sixfold directly at email@example.com or call them on 01227 860375.
Proposal software: Is it worth the investment?
The quality of your pitches, proactive proposals and RFP responses can have a huge impact on the success of your sales activities but they always seem to take ages to create.
Proposal and RFP management software is designed to speed up the process by ensuring that the best content is readily available and by making it easy for users to put the right combination of content into branded templates and then merge it with CRM data to create a proposal that is personalised.
The idea is not that you can now send that proposal off to a prospect, but rather that, by saving a load of time by auto-generating a solid first draft of it, you can spend more time tailoring and adding context to it.
How do you know if a proposal generator is something that’s worth investing in?
Here are three questions that can help you decide:
1. How much time (and therefore) money is your team currently spending on proposals and presentations?
• Count up how many proposals, pitches or RFPs are produced on average each month.
• Multiply that number by the average number of hours expended on each one by everyone involved in the production process.
• Multiply that answer by the average hourly wage of those employees.
This will give you an estimate of what your proposal process is costing each month. If you are not seeing the return on these activities, or if your team is having to rewrite standard content every time, then proposal software would be worth investigating.
2. Do people complain about how difficult it is to find content to include in proposals?
This is a common complaint from sales teams who need to get information to a prospect immediately but are often either delayed because they have to wait for their colleagues over in marketing to send them the content, or tempted to use an old version they have had on their desktop for two years, or worse – to write their own content.
An easily searchable content library makes its quick and easy to find the right content without having to hassle colleagues or dig through old proposals and RFPs. The content stored in the library is pre-created, pre-approved and re-useable, so sales guys always know where to find the latest information and marketing guys can rest assured that the right content and template is being used.
3. Do people struggle to collaborate on a document?
When its crunch time, the last thing you want to hear is “oops you’ve been working on the wrong version.”
The ability to collaborate and co-author a document in real time can make a big difference to the quality of the final product.
It not only reduces the risk of old versions of content being used, it also simplifies things for whoever is managing the project and saves a lot of time.
4. Do looming deadlines often result in less time for customisation?
When the pressure’s on to get a document out the door, it can be tempting to send a ‘vanilla’ version that is only minimally customised.
A proposal generator that integrates with your CRM system and automatically merges customer information into the final document makes simple customisation as easy as a click of a button. It also vastly reduces the risk of embarrassing ‘copy and paste’ errors.
A word of advice
Like marketing automation and CRM systems, proposal software will only be as good as the people using it.
You need to sort out your content and proposal processes before you can streamline them. If you’re aware of this, then you won’t be disappointed when a solution isn’t an automatic fix. That said, sometimes implementing a solution like this is the catalyst you need to get your house in order.
If you are considering investing in a pitch and proposal generator, we recommend that you take a look at Qorus Software’s Website to help you know what to expect.
Author: Qorus Software
Keeping Them Honest!
We all have a great fear that, no matter what the rules say, a large and powerful Contracting Authority can play “fast and loose” with the procurement competition to meet their own agenda.
This has now been clearly and substantially curtailed.
In a recent High Court judgment, we have seen the Court underlining the importance of correct evaluation and scoring processes being used by the evaluators when they consider competing Public Sector bids under EU rules. In this case, the Authority was castigated for not adequately recording its scoring and assessment decisions, inconsistent scoring practices and manipulating the evaluation processes to avoid a particular bidder being disqualified!
The list of “errors” on the part of the Authority included:
* Informal (and unrecorded) conversations forming part of the evaluation process.
* The evaluator’s use of “cut and paste” techniques for the evaluation.
* The decision support system, used to process the tender submissions being altered.
* Admissions from the evaluators that they had been “non consistent” in their analysis of the competing tenders.
* Evaluator’s notes, not in the decision support system were expected to be destroyed.
The Judge noted that where there is an express obligation of transparency, as in the a procurement process, the Authority’s approach to note and record keeping and then proposing not to keep all written evaluation material, was not justified.
Following correct procedures
For us, this means we can rely upon a Court requiring a complete and fair disclosure of the evaluation processes in a procurement challenge. It will be up to the Authority to show it has:
* Run a process in line with the EU principles of transparency and equal treatment, and all bidders having been marked against the same objective criteria.
* Consistently followed clear and objective marking criteria.
* Enforced mandatory requirements.
* Properly recorded the evaluation process (including dialogue sessions) and retained the records.
* Not attempted to impede a legal challenge.
So if you are having problems with any Contracting Authority which you think has not evaluated your competition fairly, mention Energy Solutions EU Ltd v The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency in your next conversation and see if their attitudes suddenly change.
Of course, if you find yourself in this type of difficult situation, you may want to chat it through with Sixfold first. Please call Sixfold at any time on 01227 860375 for a no obligation discussion about how they might help with your next bid or challenge.
The PQQ is Dead – Long live the SQ!
On the 9th September 2016 the Crown Commercial Service announced that the standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) may no longer be used in Public Sector procurement and that it must be replaced with a standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ).
It has yet to be adopted in Scotland. However, the SQ must be used immediately by contracting authorities in England and in Wales and Northern Ireland that intend to pursue competitive procurements which are above the EU thresholds and which require pre-selection.
The SQ requires a supplier to self-certify its standing against both the exclusions grounds and the key selection criteria. Then, the Authority is only required to verify the winning supplier’s responses.
Nevertheless, it can choose to verify the responses of any suppliers at any stage in the process, if it is concerned that there may be a problem.
The SQ has three parts:
Part 1 – Information about the supplier
Part 2 – Exclusion grounds
Part 3 – Selection criteria
Authorities will not be allowed to change the questions in Parts 1 and 2. They can ask additional, project specific questions which relate to the supplier’s technical and professional ability in Part 3. However, if they want to change the standard Part 3 questions or ask questions beyond this scope, they will only be allowed to do this if they have reported their intentions to the Mystery Shopper Scheme.
The SQ is the latest development in the continuing push to simplify the selection processes and make it easier for SMEs to compete in Public procurements. The questions in the SQ comply with the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) and the CCS has said that Authorities must accept responses provided using the ESPD instead of the SQ, where they are offered.
For the Bid and Proposal professional, this move should make our lives a bit easier. Responses to the entire SQ can be pre-prepared. Then, so long as there is a process for keeping the information up to date, responding to Parts 1 and 2 should be a trivial administrative task.
Similarly, much of Part 3 can be pre-prepared, in the same manner as Parts 1 and 2. However, we will still need to create individual responses for project specific questions and tune the content of the other responses to make sure they show our capability for the project in the best light.
Nevertheless, this change will reduce the load on our bid teams and allow them to concentrate on the important stuff – maximising scores against the questions in the full proposal. All we need to do is create our baseline SQ document and then keep it up to date.
Author: Peter Lobl APMP Director, Sixfold International
If you need any more information about the SQ and its impact upon the way you respond to Government procurement opportunities, please call Sixfold International on 01227 860375.
Nigel Hudson talks about being one of Bid Solutions panel members at “Ask the Experts” via the Bid Hub
What’s your area of expertise? Does it give you an advantage? Do people come to you for advice? When they do, do you genuinely help them, or does their need just feed your ego? As an expert, it’s not about you; it’s all about what you can do for others.
John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It was a call to action for the public to do what was right for the greater good, focusing on the relationship between duty and power.
With that in mind, I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been appointed to the Ask the Expert panel at the Bid Solutions-sponsored BidHub. It’s a forum where you can ask questions directly to Europe’s top 15 experts in the field of bid and proposals, and get honest and free advice in return. I’m ‘the guy’ responsible for answering questions about professional development: continual learning, training, career planning, skills analysis and all the things that help you and your team to perform better and achieve your goals.
My first question was from Neal Todosijczuk, who sought to understand the choices regarding a move from employment into consultancy. I gave a detailed answer including ten considerations for becoming a consultant or contractor. My practical (and slightly sobering) advice was a ‘warts and all’ view for anyone thinking of going self-employed, or betting on their expertise as a means of success. It included things like asking why you want to do it, what impact it will have to those around you, and whether you’re as good as you think you are. But it didn’t include the one thing that’s applicable to everyone: that being a consultant doesn’t require you to quit your job and go it alone.
Anyone can be a consultant, either in addition to your job or within it. Each of us has a skill, or insight, or experience, or approach to something that makes us expert. The ‘one thing’ where we’re the natural go-to for advice, either amongst our close network of colleagues and friends, or to a broader audience.
So maybe it’s time to ponder your specific skill set – especially the one thing that sets you apart from the rest and provides your competitive advantage. Perhaps it’s time to become the consultant within your company, for the benefit of everyone around you?
If you have a specific skill that others value, then you are obligated, in my opinion, to use it to help, encourage and inspire them. They’ll see more benefit in learning from a true expert than from one of those job-hopping politically-agile ‘general’ managers who, like the pigeon, land, poop, then fly off again…leaving all manner of mess behind.
Assuming you’ll rise to the challenge, here are 12 pointers to help guide your success:
Know your strength. What one thing are you genuinely excellent (and ideally best) at? Align this to what your internal stakeholders (especially management) value.
Be the trusted advisor. Understand the challenges and motivators of your colleagues and managers. Align your services to what they need most. Be their saviour, their go-to, their trusted advisor.
Make your manager look good. Always remember that, in large organisations especially, managers will be looking to demonstrate their impact and success. There’s also every likelihood that they’ll be competing with other department heads for budget or promotion. The better you can make them look, the more they’ll value you as part of their team. This applies all the way to the top, so no matter how senior the manager is, there will always be someone they’re trying to impress.
Map out your network. Know the influencers who will sing your praise, know your supporters and detractors. Build a fan base. Network every day, meeting new people and keeping existing relationships alive. Set aside a ‘coffee budget’ to buy people drinks and spend time with them informally. Surround yourself with brilliant people, remembering that “we become the average of the five people we most associate with”.
Be visible andactive helping others. Be known for what you do best. Be ‘top of mind’ when someone’s in need. And always deliver on your promise.
Be businesslike. Act like a consultant. Package up your services and proactively offer them. Your knowledge and expertise is your product/service, but you’ll need to market them effectively. What’s your brand? How do you operate? What tools and processes do you use? How can you be more efficient and effective than others? How can you build and maintain competitive advantage?
Share your expertise freely. Use it to build relationships. Arranging meetings with others is easier when there’s something in it for them.
Volunteer, but be selective. Don’t get overloaded with ‘strategic projects’ that will keep you busy and distracted from what matters most.
Know that you’re doing a great job. Prove it first to yourself, then to others. Be confident and keep your chin high. Not everyone will appreciate what you do, and some will be threatened by it. Some crummy line managers seek to use the performance review process as a way of controlling their team, to say “yeah, but…” or indicate that although you met your objectives, they ‘way’ in which you achieved it could be improved. How lame, yet how common. You’re brilliant. Remember that.
Record your results, and the impact you had on others. Track your individual win and capture rates, and compare them to the team or business average. Be knowingly better than the rest, and know why you’re better. Then coach others to be as good as you.
Celebrate success. Keep an eye open for industry awards that your team (more so than you) can enter. When they win, everyone will be delighted, and you’ll be famous.
Stay ahead of the curve. Keep learning, keep stretching yourself, stay proactive with your development, and be the star that others will follow.
So, with this in mind, offer your help to others. And remember that I’m available via BidHub to help you too. So, go on, ask me a question!
View the Bid Hub
Author: Nigel Hudson, Senior Consultant at Strategic Proposals Limited