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Engagement Manager, Bid Manager? What’s The Difference?

Bid-Review-The-Three-ViewpointsA common area of confusion on complex bids is between the different roles and responsibilities that need to be established to lead the team successfully.  This confusion is, in my view, a straight reflection of the tension that exists between the following internal functions:

  • Commercial: objective is to achieve a target margin or return on capital (often with a remit to reject business that fails the target).
  • Solution: objective is to comply with the technical requirements specification (often without particular regard to the level of profitability or product mix).
  • Proposal: objective is to persuade the customer that the offer provides the best fit to their evaluation criteria

Given the main functional areas have differing objectives, it is almost inevitable that there will be conflict between them during the development of the customer proposal.

The team may be full of talented, well-intentioned professionals who want to win, but there has to be a way for them to prioritise and make decisions, such as:

  • Should we include this additional feature that reduces complexity in the on-going service?
  • How much value does the customer attribute to getting the project implemented by the end of month 6?  Is it worth the extra cost we will need to include to bring in contract resources to complete it?
  • What does the customer actually mean by this requirement for improvements to the speed of implementing change controls?
  • Can we put in place a non-standard solution here, or should we insist on our standard model?

So, who brings these strands together and makes the, often difficult, calls as the bid is being developed?

Here’s a clue, it’s not the bid manager.

The bid manager is responsible for process leadership – that is to say, ensuring that all of the best practice methods and processes are followed in the production of the proposal. However, they are not, and cannot be, responsible for content leadership – that is to say, ensuring that the technical, delivery, pricing and production proposition is packaged in a way that best meets the customer’s requirements. A good bid manager will have some really useful things to say about the content, but their role in its development is advisory, not executive.

On many tenders, the role of overall content leadership is taken on in an ad hoc way by one or other of the functions listed above.

Should the Sales Lead Do It?

Sometimes the sales lead takes on the mantle. In fact, they often see themselves as the natural home for this responsibility. However, this assumes three things: firstly, that the sales person has a deep understanding of the technical and service elements of the solution, and how they interact. Secondly, that they are motivated to deliver BOTH a winning proposal and an acceptable return to the company. Thirdly, that they understand the delivery risks and issues that need to be managed in order to control both cost and revenue in the resulting contract.

Salespeople like this are pretty rare. In fact, if you find some, let me know as I have clients who would love to employ them!

What About Solutions, or Commercial?

Conversely, you could ask the solution architect or pre-sales consultant to do this. The question is will they make the right calls between quality, time and cost to provide a response that meets the customer’s key requirements (and explain to them how the solution delivers the benefits that are expected)? Will they price to win, or specify the Rolls Royce solution?

And don’t get me started on the commercial lead…!

Where a product is tightly defined, with clear (non-negotiable) parameters and a pricing model that can be easily delegated to the sales lead, it may be possible for the commercial lead to do the job. However, when you are selling complex IT solutions, these criteria hardly ever exist in practice.