Bid Set Up and Management

Set Up and Management


  • The bidder would find out about a bid or re-bid when it was a widely known fact.
  • Their sales guy would maybe have a meeting or two with the buyer, on his own. Notes may or may not be taken.
  • An internal meeting might be held to get ready for the bid but no real action took place until the ‘real’ bid came out.
  • Once out, a proposal manager would be thrown in, who would hastily allocate questions to different authors.
  • The commercial and legal people would dive in and start assessing contract risk and cost.
  • The writers would work independently on their allocated questions with limited context and direction.
  • The commercials and legal people would inevitably drive their bid approach based on their attitude to risk and pricing.
  • The proposal manager would bring the document together, navigating the commercial and legal bias and the solutions in the responses.

The end result was about a 50% win rate. In retrospect, this was down to the inability of the competition to do any better. It’s only when we introduced a disciplined approach to how we worked that we saw a significant upturn in our win rates. Crucial to this, is setting up the bid correctly from the start. If you don’t set up right, you risk being overwhelmed by the issues that will be thrown at you. It will be hard to catch your breath or make changes midway.

The Control sheet

The control sheet captures everything you need to know about the bid the requirements, content needs, ownership, scores & weightings, deadlines and format/page restrictions. The control sheet is our proven tool for managing the production of bids – it has worked with different bids and different buyers. We developed it in Word, it contains key columns, and headings. To populate it, you have to resolve some important issues, for example, the timing of solution development; when experts need to input into the process; who is writing each response; what support they need; when and who is doing the peer reviews and sign-offs. The control sheet will go through many iterations.

The control sheet in a complex bid will take approximately two hours to three-quarters of a day to complete. We recommend that the bid boss undertakes this seemingly basic admin task. Do not give it to a random assistant. This has nothing to do with skill – it is about getting buy-in to the requirements of the buyer. This is probably the most productive time the bid boss can spend at the outset of the process.

On the next page, we have included our control sheet template for free, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or complicate your life. We haven’t seen anything in bidding that the control sheet couldn’t handle.

Bid protocols

Every time someone adheres to a protocol, a fairy gets his wings. These small acts of discipline contribute to a culture of respect for process, they also save you a monumental amount of time. Simple things like how you name files, manage version control, respond to bid emails, can make life easier and frees up time you don’t have. Let people know what your bid protocols are at the outset, and don’t accept any deviation. Here are some of the bid protocols we use:

Bid File Structure
A filing structure for all documents relating to the bid, to make sure everyone can easily find what they need on every bid

Bid Emails
An email organization guide, to make it easy to search and find what you need on emails in the final stages of a bid

Two column templates
The primary bid management tool, ensures that everyone working on the bid knows the components of the bid, the elements needed for compliance, the timescales for deliver

Bid Control sheet
A template used to plan out and structure content for a question response

Version control
Rules for managing revisions, to save time and avoid multiple copies of responses

Clarificationes log
Cureved text on Adobe XD

Bid kick-off session

Creating a winning bid requires corralling a large group of people to work together, to take on responsibilities usually in addition to their day jobs, working to strict deadlines, with the expectation that they will develop a kick-ass bid. This is why you need a kick-off session to help the group gel and focus on the big task that lies ahead of them.

Here is what the kick-off session is for:

  • Sharing your intelligence.
  • Agreeing bid protocols.
  • Building on the control sheet.
  • Allocating work for the bid period.
  • Agreeing the timelines.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your kick-off session:

  • Locate the event away from the usual workplace, get people away from distractions.
  • Have a two-stage session. Stage one comes before the bid is out. People then have time to go away and get creative for stage two, which is when the bid is released.
  • Provide food, refreshments and regular comfort breaks.
  • Put your best people on the bid.
  • Use our control sheet for managing the bid – we haven’t seen anything in bidding that the control sheet couldn’t handle.
  • Set up bid protocols, simple things like how you name files, manage version control, and respond to bid emails, can make life easier and frees up time you don’t have.
  • Hold a bid kick-off session to get your teammates gelling and focused on what lies ahead of them.