I’ve been having some lively debates lately with clients on that age-old favourite, the respective definitions and roles of bid management versus proposal management.
In case it helps others, let’s go back to basics. Your organisation has a sales relationship with a current or prospective client. At some point, your salesperson will identify an opportunity to capture a piece of business at some point in the future. You’ll need to carry out a range of bid activities if you’re to win this contract or project – meeting the client, conducting proofs of concept, arranging reference site visits, negotiating… as part of which, you’ll doubtless submit a written proposal.
Likewise, danger lurks whenever a proposal professional lays claim to expertise outside their scope of expertise. Ask me to coach a team through the negotiation phase? Not my skill – but I know the best people to do so. Get me to review the terms and conditions, design the offer, build the pricing model – I could probably muddle through (in some market sectors), but it’s not what I’m best at, what I’m paid for, or where I should be spending my time. And bidding is no place for enthusiastic amateurism.
APMP doesn’t always help matters: in its drive to grow its membership base over the years (and, perhaps, to reflect the commercial aspirations of some of its sponsoring companies), it’s diluted its focus away from proposal management (the clue’s in the name, folks) to discuss capture planning, business development and the like. You know: if I wanted an expert in business development, I’d turn to one of the many excellent sales consultancies or forums out there (such as Huthwaite or SAMA), rather than rely on a group of proposal folks seeking to broaden their horizons.
Cost of sale does play a factor, of course. I fully recognise that some organisations can’t afford to engage both a bid manager and a proposal manager on a deal – just as many can’t justify specialist writing, graphics or document management resource within their proposal centre. I’m nothing if not a pragmatist. But if there’s no separate bid manager, I’d advocate reallocating most of their responsibilities into the sales and technical teams, rather than inevitably compromising the quality of that so-important proposal. And the fact remains that those organisations which maximise their win rates do, by and large, clearly understand the difference between the bid and proposal, and resource their efforts accordingly.