Why Bid Managers Are More Important Than Ever

I’m here to explain why bid managers have never been more critical to an organisation’s ability to win new business! Bids are becoming more complex as procurement teams get smarter, the way we consume information is changing, and there is more to distract us when trying to focus on work. This means we need to make our submissions stand out from the crowd. The unique skills of bid managers put them front and centre in overcoming these challenges.

Why I love bid management

Before we get into it, a bit about me, which should hopefully explain why I’ve chosen to write an article on this subject…

My first bid management role was in 2014, and in my current role as a knowledge manager, I work with bid managers across our organisation to coach and develop their skills.

When I was a bid manager, and someone asked me what I did for a living, I usually struggled with the answer. I wanted to say, “What don’t I do?” Bid professionals are often integral to the growth of a company, but most people who spend their lives working for these very same companies, don’t know what the role is or sometimes that it even exists.

I remember going for an eye test, and the optician asked me what my job was as one of her routine questions. I straight away replied, “bid manager,” and was met with a blank face. I moved on to saying something about working on proposals to win work, then settled on my final answer of “maybe just go with project management”. But that doesn’t really capture the value we know the role provides.

Sidenote: The optician also asked me for an estimate of my average daily screen time. I quickly told a white lie for that one!

Now that I’ve moved into a role that works closely with bid managers every day, I can more clearly see the value of the role and its unique position to overcome a couple of challenges we face.

Key challenges confronting bid teams and how bid managers are best placed to confront them

Increasingly complex bids require strong organisational, project management, and leadership skills.

Both RFIs and RFPs are becoming more complex. When I first became a bid manager, it would take a couple of days to complete an RFI. I’m not surprised when I see an RFI with fifty, mostly complex, questions.

The unique skills of a bid manager leave them best placed to help companies get through RFIs and then win RFPs. They can multitask, organise the team, and leverage their knowledge of the company. If you ask a bid manager to track down a report that came out two years ago or get a response from someone internally quickly, I bet they will be the person in the team that gets it done. They see and know everything

Bid managers keep the team on track.

More distractions and increasing time pressures require innovative planning of responses and well-structured documents.

The way we digest information has dramatically changed. Hard copies are now a rare requirement for bids, and we often read documents on our phones or tablets.

According to proposal writing expert Tom Sant, the average proposal decision takes only six minutes.[1]

This means our bids cannot look the same as they did a decade or more ago. When creating bids, it has never been clearer that it matters how we say it, not just what we say. Bid managers are the difference makers when it comes to structuring documents that grab and hold the readers’ attention. They elevate our content and turn a document that provides just information into a document that both informs and persuades. Their ability to read and understand all the documents and create a winning document structure, and then a complete response is unrivaled.

Bid managers are usually fantastic writers. That doesn’t just mean putting together 1,500 words under extreme time pressure (which they can usually ace). It’s about taking the time to think about structure, headings, and where and how to include case studies to ensure the bid gets the highest possible marks.

Sidenote: The APMP foundation certification really helped me to understand better how important structure is!

Other members of the team are critical to success. Still, it is bid managers who are pulling the strings, usually across several bids, and making sure the final submissions come together in cohesive and compelling proposals, consistently week after week.

All of this means that bid managers have less time than ever with even more demands. This brings me to another challenge (or opportunity!).

The elephant in the room…Artificial Intelligence (AI)

I’ve been sceptical about technology for as long as I can remember. I was the only person in my class to write my 1,500-word AS history essay by hand instead of using a computer.

This means I’m naturally hesitant about AI. We should embrace change that is good. I now can’t imagine anything worse than trying to put together 1,500 words on a piece of paper. It would take forever. It’s exciting to read about what AI could do for bid and knowledge management. However, can we trust the technology to be truly bespoke and answer the client’s needs? Will it address a comment the client made during a site visit? Is it accurate? Will clients want to receive bids that haven’t been carefully thought out by humans who have deep knowledge and experience – people that the client has met and trusts?

We are more likely to win work when we have ‘high, wide, and deep’ relationships with the client. Will the use of AI damage this? Maybe clients will adjust over time. I’m all for something that will make us more efficient and even free up time to be more client-centric in bids.

But for now, making bids bespoke is the job of a bid manager. AI cannot totally replace their role in leading and guiding the team to create compelling bids. There is also something almost intangible about the value bid managers provide, the relationships they form, and their knowledge that drives the team to success. They are the glue that holds the team together with their tenacity and encouragement, and their value isn’t always appreciated until they take a well-earned holiday!

To wrap up

I’d like to finish by acknowledging all the wonderful bid managers I work with.  It’s a unique role with a continuous high level of pressure. The deadlines are never-ending and I’m in awe of you all.


[1] Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win More Customers, Clients, and Contracts. Tom Sant, 2012

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