Winning is all About Strategic Planning and Smart Bidding!
Winning large and complex deals is dependent more on a carefully architected pursuit strategy than on relationships and price. This is not, however, to disregard the importance of proximity to decision-makers and competitive pricing.
Particularly so on high-value bids that go beyond pure-play offers and involve multiple solution components (or solution towers, in telecom/IT parlance). Not surprisingly, hence, bid management as a function has begun to gain traction in Asia.
The role has for long been an integral part of the pursuit process within large technology, telcos and professional services firms in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.
Filling a Critical Business Need: Doing business the ethical way in those countries meant bids were rarely won through relationships alone within their target customer base. So, bid managers met a critical business requirement.
When MNCs started pursuing big opportunities in Asia, they went with their positive experience back home and started hiring bid managers in the region. Though that added to their cost of doing business, the return on investment is a factor in their favour.
Singapore and Hong Kong (besides Australia) were among the early adopters within the Asia-Pacific region – again driven by MNCs with a foothold there. Singapore teams often cater to bids in South and SE Asia while those in Hong Kong pursued opportunities in North Asia.
Slow Adoption: Nonetheless, large Asian professional services companies, including those operating out of India but with a global clientele, were slow to embrace the practice with higher resource costs coming in their way.
Their apprehensions were not misplaced as higher pursuit costs are bound to push the bid price up and affect their win probability. Lower prices were, after all, their trump card.
Outsourcing: Firms such as Infosys and Tech Mahindra did clasp the idea, building a team of bid managers by tapping the large pool of engineers in India.
But they were mostly outsourced to multinationals in the West for supporting less-complex bids within their shores.
While an engineering degree can help, it is hardly mandatory. Strong writing, project management and bid planning skills are more important with a fair grip on industry trends and the solution being offered.
Bid management requires a strategic focus and specialised expertise and technical depth is not key.
In fact, being an engineer can even impede work as they can be distracted and lose focus on the tasks at hand. Domain knowledge is best left to subject matter experts.
As those companies began to expand their presence overseas, seeing the competitive landscape get tougher, they started recognizing the value of having dedicated bid management teams to deal with their own bids.
Shipley training and APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals) accreditation can cement the position of bid managers in the industry. The Shipley Proposal Guide is an indispensable bid management tool.
Relationships and Pipeline Building: Relationships help you build a pipeline with insights into upcoming opportunities. It enables firms to do some preplanning and be ready with a pursuit strategy even before the RFP is out.
Good equations with a potential customer can get you that edge. Translating that into a contractual win will depend on how your proposal stacks up against the well-defined evaluation criteria of the prospects in a level-playing field.
An Exception than a Rule: Once, a telco in Asia issued a tender, seeking a multi-product infrastructural solution. For one part of the solution, it had already chosen the vendor without going through the RFP route.
The vendor was named in the RFP and it was mandated that the other bidders will need to work with them to ensure interoperability and seamless integration. That is the result of close ties with the customer, but that kind of an engagement is more an exception than a rule.
Third-Party Consultants: For high-value projects, buyers tend to engage professional third-party consultants for preparation of the tender documents and evaluation of the proposals. They can be very demanding with their expectations and any half-baked effort at getting it through is fraught with the risk of failing to make the cut.
Overcoming Pitfalls: A proposal that is seen as poor in terms of high-quality writing, compliance with customer requirements and lacking in aesthetic value is unlikely to be viewed favourably. Worse, it may not even get you shortlisted.
A professionally managed bid can help you overcome such pitfalls and ensure that you put your best foot forward. So it is a better-late-than-never scenario for Asian companies.
G Joslin Vethakumar