How aligning bid management and pre-sales teams is the key to winning big business
I have been working in a bid related role for over a decade now - working for and with organisations of a different size, industry/vertical, market and client base. I have supported bid teams across the globe and always find that the core fundamentals remain the same – a combination of hard work, collaboration, and the ability to meet deadlines!
When I was asked by our partners Avnio, the leaders in Salesforce native, RFP automation, to write a blog about the bid management and presales relationship – it seemed logical to do just that. Rather than giving solely my opinion from a bid management standpoint, I asked my esteemed colleague Dan Harding to get involved too. Dan is our UK Head of Presales and we have worked together on many opportunities during my time at Sabio – he was even part of the hiring panel when I joined!
I wanted to focus this blog on each of our own individual perspectives of what makes a good bid team. Whilst we don’t claim to have always got it right, we learn from our experiences and look for new ways to adapt our approach.
Bid Management View
Presales play a fundamental role in the bid cycle – without them, I cannot do my job. I rely on our Solution Architects to help create a compelling story for our clients, either based on specific client asks or ideally, working with them to drive an outcome-based conversation rather than a technology-led one.
Our SAs are involved throughout the entire sales process – from facilitating discovery workshops with our clients and prospects, working on bids, delivering presentations, and then following up with our delivery teams and producing a statement of work. They are instrumental and we are very lucky to have such professional and diligent colleagues in Sabio.
My role as a bid manager is to ensure we have the right people working on the right opportunities and ensuring that everyone works together seamlessly. It’s always important to remember that not everyone is a bid writer and not everyone likes to work in the same way. Learning to adapt to different personalities is key to my role – and luckily I haven’t encountered much opposition in my career.
Some key tips from me...
Engage early – make sure you engage the key team members early in the process.
Get aligned and set expectations - make sure the whole team is aligned and understand the expectations, both internally and externally. Be clear on what each person’s role is, know what is expected from them and when.
Be honest – if you can’t meet a deadline, shout! If you are struggling and need help, ask! It’s important to flag issues early so we can mitigate any risks.
Communication is key – don’t assume everyone knows everything. Keep the whole team in the loop with regular updates. Once the bid is submitted, keep the team together for the subsequent stages.
Review – always ask for feedback from both the client and the bid team once a bid process has run its course – irrespective if it’s a win or loss. What worked well? What could you have done better?
Like it or not, responding to RFIs/RFPs etc. is something that PreSales in almost any organisation have input into; more often than not the lion’s share of the work sits with either a PreSales or Product team member(s).
But any RFx process needs to be much more than just the technical response to the questions asked. It needs to convey the differentiation and value an organisation can bring to a client and express in a (virtual) paper exercise concepts and messages that normally come alive and resonate best when you’re in front of a room full of people.
For Sabio, the creation of the Bid Management function brought consistency, structure, and far greater control and clarity on owners, actions, and timescales during an RFx process; things that are vital to make any bid process smoother, less stressful, and more successful.
The interactions between PreSales and Bid Management have come on leaps and bounds since we brought the function into play. We know we all have a lot to learn, and those of us involved in bids know that we can always do better. However, so far we have found that the following approaches certainly help towards driving a more professional process and creation of high-quality responses:
Qualify, and qualify hard – there is always a list of RFPs that can be responded to, but there is always a finite amount of time and resource to devote to them. Use the time of your skilled people wisely – it will result in more aligned responses and minimise RFP fatigue.
Engage early – Bringing the bid team together at the earliest opportunity is vital to any successful bid. RFPs are usually tight on timescales, so maximising the time of your resources on the bid is key. It’s important that every team member understands the direction of the response, the importance, and the roles they have to play.
Understand your win strategy – make sure everyone in the bid team (PreSales/Specialists/Commercial/Exec Sponsors /Bid Management) is clear on how we are approaching the response, and what are the key themes that differentiate and underpin the response. This should provide a strong message ‘spine’ throughout the response that echoes and underlines the key value points.
Allow time for peer review – it is easy to get lost in the words after hours and days spent responding in Excel or Word. Use a peer review process to take a step back to ensure the overall response is coherent, has a consistent tone and voice, and does not have conflicting sections.
The basics – check spelling and formatting before conducting a final review to optimise how well the response reads as a whole.
Expect the unexpected - always allow time for unexpected events, either on your own side or the client’s – have a ‘Plan B’ for submission.
We’ve made some significant progress over the past few years with our Bid Management process, and whilst the systems and processes we’ve implemented at Sabio are working for us, we know there’s still more to do. We appreciate that this could be the antithesis of how you choose to approach a bid, but some of this hopefully rings true for you.
In the spirit of the PreSales Collective, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how you and your business approach the RFx process, and what insights you have that have really changed the way you engage your internal teams to deliver success.
Stacey Moore leads Sabio’s Group Bid Management function, responsible for supporting the entire sales business on all things RFX related and has over a decade of bid management experience across multiple industries. She is a Mental Health First Aider and Diversity and Inclusion Champion at Sabio. She loves chocolate, passionfruit martinis and seafood! Her happy place is definitely anywhere by the sea! Connect with Stacey on LinkedIn
Daniel Harding has over 18 years of experience working in the Customer Experience and Business Communications industries. He has a proven track record in delivering success through Project Management, Architecture Design, Cloud transformation and Consultancy engagements across multiple business verticals and stakeholder/influence levels. Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn