In the 25 years BiD Masters has been involved in business development, the bid and proposal preparation has burgeoned from a niche activity to a recognised profession. Over that period, though, appropriate training has not kept pace. Certifications are available, but they’re for people who already deliver within the profession. What about newcomers?
Many companies recruit bid writers or bid managers but they don’t have the facility to train them. Even the job specifications tend to be a bit woolly as there’s no training curriculum to map against.
Who are these bidmasters?
There are many aspects of the profession and a diverse range of skills and qualities represented. Generically, bid and proposal professionals are all bidmasters, but this generic title can be broken down into four main areas:
• Management and Coordination: Controlling the process and activities to achieve the submission date
• Response Planning and Review: Understanding the customer’s requirements for the response document and how it will be scored
• Written and Visual Content Preparation: Portraying a detailed solution in concise and compelling words and images
• Final Production and Quality Control: Attention to detail in proofreading, formatting and document configuration control.
There is one other key element in the preparation of a successful proposal, although not part of the bidmaster cadre, and that’s the subject matter expert (SME). This is the person who has the expertise to develop the solution, or at least part of it, to meet the technical requirements. In other words, they’re the person in the know. The bidmaster works with the SME to present the solution in the most convincing way.
How do you become a bidmaster?
Currently, most people fall into the profession – they get involved in a bid as a sideline to their normal job, and are either hooked on continuing or get labelled as an expert. This leads to rapid on-the-job training based on “that seems to work.”
It’s not really a substitute for formal training.
There are three key elements to training: knowledge, skill and behaviour.
• Knowledge provides industry-specific best practice in terms of the process, procedures and terminology
• Skills are more specific to the activity being carried out, e.g. copywriting, scheduling, graphic design or desktop publishing
• Behaviour is about putting the knowledge and skills into practice.
All three are necessary to elevate performance.
For many companies, winning work through bidding is the norm. This means the people preparing bids are incredibly important. Bidding is a fast-paced, high-stress environment. It necessarily involves interaction with people from different backgrounds, both work and personal, and a broad range of skills. No doubt, all bidmasters could benefit from better training.
What training opportunities are out there for bidmasters?
There is good news on the horizon. Dedicated training may be in its nascent stages, but it is beginning to happen. Within tertiary education, some degree courses now include modules devoted to winning contracts. Perhaps the biggest step, though, is the introduction of the Level 3 Bid and Proposal Coordinators Apprenticeship. This is focussed on the management and coordination of bids, but includes aspects of the other areas, so it is a great entry point for anyone wanting a career as a bidmaster.
Currently, there are only two training providers for this apprenticeship, JGA Group and and RHG Consult. Let’s hope they are a sign of things to come: the development of a broader range of apprenticeships and ongoing higher level opportunities.
For businesses, these training streams present an opportunity to make good use of the Apprenticeship Levy, one that will lead on to long-term benefit. After all, winning business is always going to be important.