Company bosses failing to support bid managers and proposal managers

From: Policy Publications
Published: Tue Feb 27 2007

Bid managers are unsung heroes in many companies according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas of the University of Lincoln: "The fortunes of many construction, consulting, engineering, manufacturing, IT, distribution and services companies are heavily dependent upon their success at competitive bidding. Yet too often teams putting proposals together are left to their own devices and provided with inadequate support. Some directors and senior managers largely ignore the very people whose efforts make the greatest contribution to their salaries."

Speaking at the Annual Conference of the UK Association of Proposal Management Professionals Coulson-Thomas outlined key findings from his continuing investigation of winning business and competitive bidding: "The senior management of companies with low win rates tends to view proposal professionals as ‘boring techies or grafting geeks who work out prices’. They are also often risk averse and worry about the ‘cost of bidding’. They put bid teams through a battery of internal checks and confrontational reviews that add little value to submitted proposals, but greatly complicate their preparation."

Prof. Coulson-Thomas argues that many senior executives need to ‘get real’: "Bid managers often work long hours in poor conditions to generate the revenues that many of their more highly ranked colleagues burn on activities that have little or no impact upon customers. The walking overheads padding the plush corridors of some head offices may well be good company in the executive restaurant, but directors need to remember the bid teams on lower floors snatching a sandwich as they put the proposals together that will determine whether or not their companies have a future."

According to Coulson-Thomas, "Some CEOs and corporate cultures are supportive of bidding, others are not. The perspective of those who find most of their proposals are rejected is often ‘internal’, upon the mechanics of assembling the basic information they need. Getting input from colleagues can be like extracting teeth. More effort is sometimes spent fighting the organisation to get proposals out of the door than on working out ways of delivering extra value to prospective customers. One group had to regularly stay after hours in order to find a free table on which to collate the various sets of documents they were required to submit."

Coulson-Thomas finds the more successful companies are very different: "Corporate leaders in winning organisations back and support their bid teams. They invest in ways of making it easier for bid managers and proposal professionals to do their jobs. They visit people who are working upon important bids and contribute directly when required. Internal reviews are designed to add value. Bid managers are trusted. They are encouraged to innovate, differentiate and bespoke their proposals. Risks are accepted when they are managed and shared."

Winners who win more than three out of four competitive bids focus - claims Coulson-Thomas - externally: "Successful bid teams concentrate upon understanding what is driving the purchase requirement, the benefits sought and how buying decisions are made. They consider the people and personalities involved and what each of them is looking for. Proposals are structured around the criteria for buying. Winners make it easy for recipients to select their proposals and justify their decision."

The Professor reveals "Winners aspire to get ever better at what they do. Bidding gets tougher all the time. Winners are always looking for ways of raising their game. They build critical success factors identified by our continuing investigation into their bidding processes. They incorporate the approaches of high performing superstars into their practices. They invest in support tools that enable average performers to adopt the winning ways of their more successful peers and help prospects to understand and buy what is being offered. Their bid professionals are creative and fulfilled. They are rightly recognised and richly rewarded."

The winning business research and best practice programme led by Prof. Coulson-Thomas has published a series of reports covering the critical success factors for securing new business in various commercial sectors and seven professions, a guide to the top twenty skills required and a suite of 30 practical tools for bid managers. Bespoke benchmarking reports can also be generated for companies that would like to compare their approaches with their peers and high performing winners. Details of these and other services can be obtained from Tel: +44 (0) 1733 361 149; or from

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, co-author of 'Winning New Business' and leader of the Winning New Business Research and Best Practice Programme and author of the forthcoming ‘Winning Companies; Winning People’, has reviewed the processes and practices for winning business of over 100 companies and helped over 100 boards to improve board and/or corporate performance. He has spoken at over 200 national and international conferences and corporate events in over 25 countries and can be contacted by Tel: + 44 (0)1733 361149; or via
Company: Policy Publications
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