A common frustration, particularly in public sector bids, is that the effort required to bid for a £5 million contract is often similar to the effort required for one worth £50 million or more. Sometimes it can even be greater, as while the number of documents, responses and artefacts required is roughly the same, the time available to create and collate these is frequently much less for lower value opportunities. Often bid/no-bid decisions focus on the ability to deliver against the customer’s requirements, while glossing over the difficulties that the bid process will create. On other occasions, the quality of the submitted bid suffers because the budget allocated is too closely tied to the contract value and not the resources required to deliver a compliant, compelling, and concise submission in the time available. So how do we work out whether the juice is worth the squeeze, especially in the case of low-to-medium value opportunities with short submission times?
Responding to lower value opportunities can often feel like harder work than it should.
The true value of a contract often extends beyond the financial sum the customer has attributed to it. For example, it may present a valuable opportunity to improve your company’s standing with an important customer ahead of a more strategic contract. Likewise, it may be part of a transition out of the organisation’s comfort-zone, into a new or developing arena. Capturing these wider considerations to align the bid’s budget and resources with the true value of the opportunity is vital.
The three-way conflict between cost, time and quality always presents a difficult balance to strike. Compressed timeframes compound the frustrations of having to deliver such a comparatively large number of responses and documents. Maximising the output of the process is paramount. Structure and schedule your kick-offs, battle-rhythm and reviews to empower your subject matter experts. While they need to be given the maximum time possible to refine and communicate the benefits and value of your offer, they also need to focus on what is important. They cannot be left to waste time writing speculatively. A detailed analysis of the opportunity and the customer’s requirements is vital and that cannot happen too soon.
The analysis of what is required, what will score highly, and what will resonate with the customer is essential. But it needs to be distilled into something that allows SMEs and writers to make progress rapidly. Storyboards have their place, but not when time is short and there is so much else to be done. At the end of the day, the customer will never see them and they will never be scored or assessed. Instead the product of this analysis needs to be content plans and draft documents. They are quicker to create and easier for SMEs to pick up and run with.
How is your bid team oriented? Is it reactive or proactive? How key roles and their outputs are defined can make a big difference. Bid writers and graphic designers should be deployed as ‘force-multipliers’, maximising the output of SMEs who often need to be in more than one place and working on multiple documents at the same time. Bringing these resources onboard early will deliver impact sooner, taking the pain out of the process later. Instead of a last-minute panic to deliver the various documents required, the later stages of the bid can focus on refining and improving the score of the submission, maximising the chances of winning.
Unfortunately, the customer is not always realistic in asking for the volume of information, in the timeframe that it does. If this is unrealistic, we should say so. Given the choice, most customers would rather give an extension, than receive fewer or poorer quality bids. If the customer is unwilling to give an extension, the resource requirements will have to reflect this. Either way, if the resources required to bid are still not justified by the value of the opportunity then it may be time to revisit your bid/no-bid decision.