It’s often the case in business that as the size of the opportunity increases, so do the risks and the number of views on how to proceed. A significant contract opportunity could represent a sizeable chunk of your business. It’s likely to touch on key areas of your business strategy and may have implications on your share price or even your viability.
The challenge for a bid manager can be about building a consensus quickly so there’s a route forward that everyone can get behind. One that has a good chance of success and which delivers long-term business value.
If you’re faced with a high-stakes, short deadline challenge, how do you proceed?
To illustrate the options I’m going to draw a parallel with where Theresa May found herself when she inherited the PM’s job. A huge challenge (with far-reaching consequences), no consensus, and a fixed deadline. And, of course, still with a great deal of routine business that has to be taken care of.
Do you try to sell your ‘deal’ after the event, or find out what has majority support and work with that?
As a bid manager trying to hit a high-stakes deadline under pressure you have three basic choices:
Option 1: Go it alone. Stay within your inner circle of colleagues and try to persuade or browbeat them to adopt your position so you can take this to the client as being representative of the entire team.
Option 2: Stay within your closest team, but seek out a plan that works for all of them, perhaps with a bit of compromise. Agree what they will be prepared to stand by, come what may (no pun intended with the “may” reference!).
Option 3: Engage the widest possible audience so that you can create a plan based on what could work best for the widest possible range of stakeholders.
And don’t forget, your organisation isn’t the only party involved. Whatever you come up with still has to be sold to negotiators on the other side - your client (or the EU in the case of Brexit).
Each of the above approaches has its merits and drawbacks. Option 1 clearly has the advantage of speed, but what happens when the project actually has to be delivered (“I said this would never work”).
Option 3 is safer but will you ever get to a decision?
How do you decide which route to take? Maybe an external ‘mediator’ would help to take the personalities out of the process and identify the common ground that is best aligned with what your client wants to achieve.
The answer I believe is to understand all of the different views and then take the route that you believe will have the best chance of being accepted by your client. BUT, this is with the proviso that the compromises needed don’t involve selling your business down the river. With big business decisions such as major contract opportunities there’s always pressure to get the deal ‘over the line.’ Doing the deal, whatever it takes, can become an obsession. Who, under these circumstances is going to be the one to hold their nerve and say, ‘a win on these terms isn’t a win at all.’ And who was doing that at Carillion, Mitie, Interserve etc? And I’ll dodge the question of who’s doing it in the Government.
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.