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Personal development

Onboarding in the Bid Industry

The volume of positions advertised at present, coupled with the number of people seeking or saying they are starting a new position, got me thinking about how important on boarding is in bid world, where we’re expected to have all-round oversight and knowledge. Bid writers and bid managers need a solid grounding in what they will be trying to ‘sell’ to clients, and how they get stakeholder engagement to support that in a new organisation.

This is not intended as gospel for every new starter or organisation, but in my experience, the most important facets of onboarding for bid professionals are:

  • Understanding the firm’s bid process/framework
  • Gaining knowledge about the firm’s products and services
  • Knowing the right people to go to

Understanding the firm’s bid process/framework

Whether they will be working within or managing the organisation’s bid framework, understanding that process is vital. Some of the core questions to understand include: What is the qualification criteria? Who is involved in the decision gates, kick off meetings, review and sign off? Where are case studies, CVs and previous content stored? How is the content library (if one exists!) structured? Who is responsible for commercial models and contract reviews? How do we track upcoming and in-progress opportunities? What reporting do we produce?

At a more granular level, if there is a team of bid writers and/or bid managers (perhaps also with bid co-ordinators/assistants at larger organisations): How is work assigned (e.g. by sector, product, seniority, capacity)? Who is responsible for which aspects of the process and the bid itself? Is there a peer review process in place?

Gaining knowledge about the firm’s products and services

It’s my belief that a bid writer/manager shouldn’t need to rely 100% on their operational and technical teams for subject matter expertise. With a grounding of understanding in the products and services your company offers, you should be able to draft anywhere from 50% to 75% (conservative guess!) of the more specific/technical sections of a bid, and then go to the experts to fill the gaps or double check against the client requirements. After all, writing for bids is not their day job.

This initial knowledge gathering can take many forms, from reading up on the company website and/or brochures, to listening in on sales/customer service calls or even going out on the road with field representatives, or even sitting in on other staff training sessions. If technology if part of your organisation’s offering, new starter bid professionals could also be provided with access to test systems – further helping their understanding of how a system works in practice, and allowing for walk-throughs when the client requirements come in.

Of course, at present onboarding may be remote – but that’s not to say the new starter shouldn’t have much the same experience as though they are there in person. Video conferences and calls can easily take the place of meetings, online courses to support the new systems rather than face-to-face training, and VOIP/video would allow people to listen in to calls or be virtually ‘on the road’ if that’s required as part of the process.

Knowing the right people to go to

When working on a bid, it is vital you know who to ask about various aspects of the bid response or to get those nuggets of gold to add – especially when you’re up against tight deadlines. While some of this will come naturally from initial knowledge sharing sessions, you may also have a distinct session on who is involved / for what expertise, or just hear about people in passing.

Collating a subject matter expert matrix can be useful when it comes back to remembering who you spoke to about what – their role, areas of expertise, email and telephone numbers (as well as any site or working hours information).

The role of the bid team is not only to win new business, but also to make the lives of the operational teams easier – so it is in their long-term benefit to support onboarding. Above all, if in doubt, ask!