Do bid professionals across all industries have similar personality traits that reflect resilience ensuring high-performing bid teams? Have you ever wondered if specific traits exist that are identifiable that engender bid success? Are such notions illusory?
Whilst many bid professionals tend to have the right skills for the role, they sometimes lack certain personality traits to make them successful in their careers. The greatest personal drawbacks in individuals seems to be an extreme lack of a sense of responsibility and the inability to endure and manage continuous and persistent levels of stress.
Research on bid professionals’ required personality traits and skills was perused from other experts in the industry. For example, In February 2022 Eric Gregory from Shipley Associates stated that proposal manager success is squarely based on certain personality traits. He identified the following traits of successful bid professionals:
- Intellectual smartness
- The knack to make things happen (proactive)
- Energy (or drive) not to give up
- A positive attitude
- Competitiveness and efficiency
A questionnaire was drafted, based on the traits mentioned in the literature as well as those identified from my experience. A study was undertaken to test the questionnaire, which was verbally administered in an interview format to participants. Fifty-five bid professionals were interviewed (41% managerial and 59% non-managerial). They all had more than three years bid experience and represented various industries. Sixty-four percent of the sample were females. The total study sample was split into two age groups: those below 40 and those above the age of 40.
The participants were asked to score each of the questions on a rating between 1 to 10, where 1 reflected a low score and 10 a high score. The participants provided a score based on how they perceive themselves in each question related to each of the personality traits. There was a requirement to elaborate on certain questions.
The following six personality traits were tested in the study:
- Responsibility and accountability
- Attention to detail
- Internal locus of control – taking ownership and control of life decisions
- Lateral and innovative thinking
- Level of stress tolerance and stress management capability
The results of the study were revealing.
Responsibility and accountability
The top personality trait identified was the ability to take absolute responsibility and accountability for one’s actions. The participants scored 91% on this attribute. Males scored 4% higher than females. Eighty-one percent of bid professionals admitted they would rectify a mistake and admitted when a mistake had been made. They also don’t have big egos. Bid writers focus on the task and move on very quickly. They are proud of their work and will, therefore, admit when making a mistake. Seventy-three percent of participants ensured accountability by making daily lists of every task to be done. Seventy eight percent of the study sample still used hand written task lists, whereas only 22% made use of electronic means. Bid professionals work methodically and are committed to complete every task to complete a project. A large sample of bid professionals are still using manual systems to manage their workloads. They have not embraced technology for personal tracking yet. Being responsible and taking accountability for the management of a bid end-to-end irrespective of any personal circumstances stand out as a personality trait.
Attention to detail
Eighty-seven percent of participants scored on this personality trait, ranking it as the second highest in the study. All bid writers use checklists to avoid making errors. Fifty-five percent of the sample participants used manual checklists, 10% used spreadsheets and tools, and 5% used MS Teams and Shipley checklists. A bid professional should be able to identify mistakes and take note of every detailed requirement to ensure completeness and non disqualification of bids.
Internal locus of control
The third most highly endorsed trait was an internal locus of control with a score of 90%. Participants below the age of 40 years had a 6% higher locus of control. This personality trait indicates how individuals take charge of their circumstances, destiny in life, and their career path. Taking responsibility for oneself thus contributes towards bid professionals taking ownership for every bid irrespective of the circumstances or their position.
Lateral and innovative thinking
Thinking innovatively was the fourth most highly endorsed personality trait with a score of 82%. This shows that bid professionals think laterally and think of new ways to present bid responses and proposals to clients. In view of short concentration spans of readers, we need to present information in a concise manner, preferably with graphics. Individuals that can think innovatively will present information in graphical formats.
Persevering personally and at work obtained a score of 80%. Bid professionals stated that they reach work goals 84% of the time. Bid professionals set high targets and standards for themselves. Bid writers have a high fear of failure. They don’t want to let their team down as this will break down their own self-confidence and make them lose the trust of team members. Bid professionals are critical of themselves and push themselves harder to achieve.
Bid teams apparently seldom celebrate successes. From the sample, 22% said that they don’t allow themselves the time to celebrate successes. They just move on to the next task as they don’t allow themselves to take a break between projects. Of the sample, 20% stated that they celebrate individually by themselves, and 10% of the group celebrate big wins only. The participants agreed that bid professionals are too hard on themselves and don’t feel that they deserve to celebrate success.
High level of stress tolerance
Bid professionals are extremely stressed-out individuals. Nearly 40% of the sample suffered from headaches, an inability to sleep well, as well as anxiety. However, 80% of the sample reported that they work hard at reducing stress levels with various activities.
Despite this being a study, the questionnaire has been most helpful in appointing new bid professionals to the writer’s team. Investigating these personality traits in individuals is just one of six steps that are followed to appoint bid managers to my team. The process starts by firstly having informal coffee chats with potential individuals who were met at various business interactions and APMP events. The next step is to administer the verbally presented personality questionnaire. Once the personality traits have been established, a competency interview is set up to test competencies and technical knowledge of bid writing. Junior bid professional applicants are then requested to complete a technical test, and their proofreading skills and creative thinking abilities are lastly tested.
The personality traits identified in this research are distinct traits that bid professionals should have to reach maximum potential in the industry. They don’t have large egos and once they are in a role, they get the job done and excel. Using the questionnaire in the last few appointments made, assisted me in identifying individuals during the first encounter who will not succeed in the role of bid specialist.
Marlize Shwar is the Head of Tenders & Proposals at Absa Bank.