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Personal development

What’s in a name?

While we all work in the bid industry, how many variations of our job/role titles are there? We often see bid managers, bid leaders, bid strategy managers, work winning managers, bid advisers, proposal managers, pitch managers… and that’s before including all the writers, coordinators, assistants and designers!

If somebody asked you to describe the various roles, my guess would be many would say something along the lines of: bid managers lead to end to the end process, writers stick to the content, designers to the images, and co-ordinators/assistants help out where needed. Proposals and pitches are less strategic, shorter, and more proactive ‘punts’. Or, for many, the proposal can be just a small (!) part of the overall bid process.

Both Shipley and APMP Body of Knowledge (APMP BOK) describe the roles within the bid team. APMP suggests bid manager is more UK/Europe focused, and proposal or pitch manager is more US-based. In the last 24 hours on LinkedIn, there were 21 new bid roles and 14 proposal roles advertised in the UK; so there are signs that if that UK/US split was historically correct, this is beginning to merge. There is also a crossover between managers and writers – with many manager positions pitched (no pun intended!) as a ‘writer plus’.

Figure 1: Differences in job titles 1950 to 2013 https://cdn.lifehack.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/job-title1.jpg

But do you fully understand what the various roles actually mean? And what should be highlighted as key differences between the roles?

Increasingly, it seems it is organisational choice of whether your teams are bid, proposal or pitch, and managers, specialists or writers*. But at the grass-roots level, the different roles and responsibilities should be:

  • Bid/Proposal/Pitch manager: leads the overall proposal development, from bid decision through to post-submittal actions. They develop the win strategy, themes and discriminators and manages the integration of your organisation’s offering against the requirements. They lead the bid team (often multi-workstream) to prepare management/technical content and the commercial offering, schedules and manages reviews and sign offs of content and commercial, ensures the bid is compliant and is submitted on time, and manages any client follow-up, e.g., clarifications, presentations etc. The bid manager also ensures appropriate stakeholder involvement at all times – whether that is your internal senior management, or external third parties.
  • Writer: provides any specialised management or technical content required to respond to a proposal or bid. They will work to the agreed bid themes, win strategies and graphics, and follow guidance from the bid/proposal manager. The writer ensures timely provision of their content and other supporting information within the overall schedule.
  • Coordinator/Assistant: supports the bid manager in controlling the overall process and production plan. They will typically maintain and update the plan and content schedules, provide a point of liaison between the teams/specialists involved, and will support the review and production process including print and collation for hard copy submissions. They may also take on some of the more management focused content, such as producing team charts and CVs.
  • Designer: may solely produce images to be used within the bid, or may work with the bid manager from the bid decision to design the overall look and feel (and layout) of the bid. Adobe InDesign is increasingly used as the bid format of choice, and you’ll often see a requirement to have proficiency in/knowledge of in role advertisements.

Whether you are a bid, proposal or pitch manager, or a strategist, specialist, writer, co-ordinator, assistant or designer, one thing should be the same – we all work together to submit a compelling, compliant and on time submission, hopefully winning our organisations new business.

*For the purpose of understanding the differences between the team roles here, bid, proposal and pitch are interchangeable.

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Bid process Personal development

The Psychology of Bids, Part One

If you’ve ever studied a social science, psychology or business management discipline, or taken any organisational teamwork training, chances are you’re already aware of Belbin’s team roles and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Both have a strong crossover to bid management*. Their application is extremely useful in understanding what is happening in your bid teams, how you respond to a bid, and in identifying any issues and areas for improvement. In part one of this blog, we’re looking at Belbin’s team roles model and its application to internal bid teams.

Internal: Belbin’s Team Roles

Belbin’s team roles model is often used in team-building exercises where you complete a quiz to work out your team characteristics and how well you work together. For anyone unfamiliar, the below diagram shows the nine roles, their strengths, and “allowable weaknesses” (basically an inversion of the strength):

Figure 1: Belbin’s nine team roles (www.belbingetset.com)

It’s important to understand that you don’t need nine people in a team to perform each of the roles – we’re often a mix of primary and secondary characteristics.

When I previously completed the quiz, I was – probably unsurprisingly given my profession and to anyone who has worked with me – a primary Completer Finisher, and secondary Monitor Evaluator. You may have the Co-ordinator role in there instead. These three roles provide many of the key skills for a Bid Manager: maintaining awareness of the priorities and deadlines, encouraging the team, ensuring a high quality response by proof-reading and correcting issues, reviewing content coming in and identifying gaps, and getting the response across the line. Worry and be anxious? Never……….

During a bid, you’ll work alongside many, if not all, of these roles. Your Resource Investigator may be your Account or BD Manager, who knows the client well and initially brings the opportunity in, pushing for its pursuit. No doubt you’ll rely on some Specialists to produce technical input, and have the Teamworkers and Implementers who just put their heads down and get on with drafting content or designing graphics. And how many of us have worked with Plants and Shapers – maybe your MD, CFO, or Sponsor. Those who kick things off, gee the team up, leave you with a great idea, and then disappear off into the night until sign off time when you just can’t get the solution to add up? Can you recognise these roles (or personalities) in your bid teams?

Figure 2: Which type of Plants and Shapers do you know? The Ron, or The Leslie? (https://giphy.com)

While working on a bid, it’s vital we have a combination of roles

Do you have a balance in your bid team; are you too ‘heavy’ in a particular area, or are there any gaps? While working on a bid, it’s vital we have a combination of roles, since there’s such a mix of tasks and responsibilities which require different skillsets. Successful bid teams have this mix, even if you don’t realise it at the time.

If Belbin’s team roles model can help us look inwardly at our bid team, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help us really understand what is important to the client and to focus on the right areas in our response. We’ll cover this in part two, next week.

*In fact, in its more recent iterations, the APMP Body of Knowledge references Belbin amongst other traditionally social science models.