When the next big RFQ arrives, how easy will your operation find it to respond? If you find it easy there could be two explanations: it could be that your level of competence has developed to the point where responding to tenders seems instinctive; or it could be that you don’t appreciate how much you don’t yet know and what you need to learn.
Your answer will depend on the capabilities your organisation has developed across each of the main elements of the tender process.
There are four stages to acquiring competence:
Understanding where your organisation sits on this four stage model for each element of the process is the first step to long-term improvement. In the short to mid term this understanding will help you identify the external support that will have the biggest impact on your chances of success.
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. You start out without much understanding of what you need to do. You can be shown or told about the importance of balance, how to steer and the link between speed and stability. But you can’t master it without trying to do it.
You might have stabiliser wheels or somebody holding the saddle while you gradually acquire the skills. Different people will acquire the skills at different rates and might need different approaches to build their confidence. Eventually, you can ride a bike without thinking too much about what you are doing.
You can make a similar analogy with driving. With experienced drivers much of what happens in the car is subconscious. You don’t think about how to change gear or even the precise mechanics of how to steer or change lane safely.
So it is with writing contract-winning bids, delivering exemplary presentations and excelling at behavioural workshops. All the theory in the world is of nothing until everybody gets it for themselves and moves from unconscious incompetence towards unconscious capability.
The journey calls for perseverance and resilience. Your guides must understand the theory of what you're striving to achieve but also be able to provide you with techniques and tools to help you ‘get it’ for yourself.
This is the approach that the Bid Coach team uses, whether that’s for bid writing, presentations skills, competitive dialogue or behavioural analysis. We help your team understand their capabilities and development needs. We then break the learning stages into practical chunks with a gradual building and reinforcement of skills and confidence. Eventually, we aim to make you experts, with the unconscious competence needed to instinctively do the right thing.
I’m sure we all know somebody who plays sport for fun and tries to improve their game with free online coaching resources. Every possible bit of advice you could ever need to improve your game can be found on YouTube.
So with all this free and knowledgeable advice, how come golfers everywhere are still slicing, pulling and shanking shots? Why are tennis players across the globe serving long and mishitting volleys into the net?
Talent, of course, is a factor. So is looking for shortcuts to performance improvement. A friend of mine watches golfing tips on YouTube after every bad round (believe me, that’s a lot of videos watched). “I think I’m probably getting too steep on my downswing,” or some such nugget is identified as the cause. Next round, no difference.
The problem with all this free online coaching is that it isn’t really coaching at all (and this is where it becomes relevant to the work we do to help companies win more bids).
What’s presented is a generalised view. Most golfers with a bad slice tend to do this… See how Federer hits a forehand passing shot...
Good coaches look at what you’re actually doing. They normally identify small changes to your natural style that will have the maximum impact on performance. They give you drills that you can practice to ingrain those changes. As a result you get real, measurable performance improvements.
And that’s pretty much how the Bid Coach team works.
With presentations we don’t aim to turn you into everyone’s idea of a charismatic presence. We look at your natural communication style and identify practical ways to make it more persuasive, while still being ‘you.’
With tender submissions we don’t aim to impose model answers to questions. What you submit has to be authentic and representative of your organisation. We’ll look at your draft response and suggest improvements: maybe use more active language, rearrange it slightly to cover the customer’s main issues first, add a couple of bits of key information so the customer can see that you really understand their objectives.
With competitive dialogue and behavioural assessments we provide an environment where we can observe how you handle the challenging situations these processes throw up. We then give targeted advice so you can focus on changes that will have a significant impact on performance.
We know that this approach works by analysing bid feedback from procurement teams. In the areas where we’ve worked with bidders they consistently outscore other areas of the bid and the competition.
It works because we follow the fundamental rules of good coaching: building on the strengths you already have and adding specific skills and techniques so you can see and experience the improvement. This gives you positive feedback and the confidence you need to go on improving.
As a Manchester United fan I’m watching with particular interest how replacing an experienced and successful coach with somebody untried like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will play out. It’s equally interesting with my coach’s hat on.
The obvious question is, why get rid of the man who has won more trophies than any other manager currently still working, for a man who’s managerial experience could at best be described as “slight”?
Here’s why: it’s all about belief and resilience.
Jose has a style that is his. He won’t compromise for anything or anyone. Channelled positively, belief in his abilities and methods has delivered results in the past. But without some “give and take” this system slowly backs itself into a proverbial corner. It can start to eat away at the self-belief and commitment of the team.
Back, for a moment to the work we do at the Bid Coach. The Mourinho style is like not listening to the fundamental needs of your client or key stakeholders and persisting with proposals that don’t meet their needs. Pressing on with the belief that you are always right. Failure follows failure and the client and stakeholders are blamed for not getting what the proposition is.
The other issue with the Mourinho style was the public and continued criticism of the team. Did players live down to the expectations of the manager – so fuelling a downward spiral?
Having deep financial pockets that can acquire the services of some of the best talent in the world doesn’t guarantee success (in football or business). Players need to understand what’s expected of them and also need to go onto the pitch and demonstrate their talents to the benefit of the overall team.
In sport, business and life, the margins between success and failure can be slight. When people don’t understand what’s expected of them they are much less likely to put in that extra 10% of effort to do what is required.
Under Jose Mourinho the atmosphere grew progressively more negative with the manager continually attacking the players’ performances. Perhaps he expected that this would motivate them to prove him wrong. It didn’t work.
A Healthy Culture
Ole brings a fresh face (literally). His appointment is an appreciation of what “Manchester United” stands for - a positive attitude to go out and try to win games through attacking and entertaining football, developing young players, and buying a few existing big names as necessary.
Other key “back-room” staff were also changed, bringing back key people who have a deep appreciation of what it means to play for Manchester United.
The difference has been immediate. Not just wins but games played in the right spirit. Freedom, confidence and self-belief flow through a team that appears to be less rigidly coached.
This natural, uncoached appearance is what we aim to achieve with the teams we prepare for presentations and assessments. A significant element of what Bid Coach does is to let individuals and teams see that they are good enough. We do this by providing a safe environment where they can refine their skills and learn from mistakes, without fear of retribution or rebuke.
When they do face their prospective clients they have already experienced (in that safe environment) situations at least as challenging as they will face during the interview or assessment panel. They are not fazed or intimidated by the experience.
The United team still has challenges to face but has a much healthier environment in which to find answers. It is also developing the self-belief that builds resilience.
This is very much what we do at the Bid Coach. We advise our clients where their potential team’s strengths lie in relation to the requirements of the client. Sometimes new people have to be brought in to add strength in certain key areas to give the team a better balance but usually it’s about building belief and confidence.
Taking the pressure off and building belief allows the team to perform without looking coached. Behaviours and interactions seem positive and natural, especially when put under pressure (as with behavioural assessment). Your client can then see how your people will behave if you are appointed as the nominated provider.
Feedback from bid appraisals shows that the difference in confidence and collaborative behaviours following interventions from the Bid Coach is something clients notice and appreciate. It could tip the scales in your favour on that next bid opportunity.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.