Tender and Proposal Management. What does post COVID-19 promise?
By David Lunn, CP APMP, MCIPS
The Tender and Proposal Management function inside the B2B sales process involves producing written offers (eg tenders, proposals, quotations) to supply goods or services. These are most commonly prepared in response to invitations issued as part of a competitive sourcing process. In common parlance – tendering or bidding.
As we progress towards a future where COVID-19 is suppressed (or hopefully eliminated), is there any evidence to suggest that competitive tendering will lose its central role in B2B buying and selling processes? And if it does remain, is it likely to change?
Unequivocally, tendering will remain. BidWrite sees nothing to suggest otherwise. Competitive tendering will remain central to public and larger corporate procurement processes. Why? Because it still is the best way to demonstrate fairness of the sourcing activity and deliver defensible value outcomes.
But will it change? Absolutely. Like any business process, tendering will continue to evolve; transforming and developing as a result of the following change drivers:
1. Changes impacting the overall sales process in which an organisation’s tender and proposal management function resides. This is a ‘seller side’ influencer.
2. Changes impacting the tender and proposal management function as developed and deployed through global bodies such as the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). This is a ‘profession‘ influencer.
3. Changes being introduced by organisations seeking to acquire goods and services using tendering processes. This is a ‘buyer side’ influencer.
BidWrite’s view is that the buyer-side change driver – (3) above – is the most important in the context of post COVID-19. Our expectation is that it will, at least in the short to medium term, also underpin changes in (1) and (2).
What are these procurement-lead changes? Based on emerging research*, tender and proposal management practitioners can expect the following from their clients and prospects:
• Accelerating digitisation of procurement processes, use of AI and greater deployment of e-procurement technology – especially in relation to driving better quality information and further transactional efficiencies. This includes the ways in which buyers interact with the market place and internally during tendering as well after contract award.
• Increasing use of Agile® and other interactive processes to speed up problem framing and solution development – challenging traditional views of specification development, decision making and relationship management. This will give rise to differing work winning skill sets.
• Recalibrating supply risk and value for money drivers – including rethinking complete supply chains given changed views of spend importance and market vulnerabilities. This may substantially alter how whole spend categories are taken to market, how tendering is conducted and how these goods and services are consumed.
• So how should the tender and proposal management function respond to these changes? BidWrite’s view is that accommodating all of these procurement-lead changes will require the following Stop/Keep/Start actions:
Reflecting on how we ‘used to’ do tenders and close deals. Accelerating digitisation, changes to sourcing processes and even rethinking of entire spend categories mean that virtually every good and service acquired by an organisation will be affected. What was tendered before might now not be. Disaggregated services might now be bundled with others. And vice versa. Buyers might restrict face to face interactions. Previously less important social and sustainability initiatives may take on a whole new relevance and importance. Being abreast of these changes is essential and might mean rethinking how intelligence is gathered, awareness is raised and planning for bidding activities is undertaken.
Being a technology ostrich. Bids are rarely going to be submitted in a paper form going forward. Offer content will be increasingly read, evaluated and actioned in a digital form. This must mean adoption of differing communication techniques and media formats. Get used to virtual meetings, pitches and working sessions instead of face-to-face ones. Buyers will increasingly demand better information integration with their contractors and suppliers. The message is simple: Selling organisations should be on the front foot with technology, not simply reacting to enforced adoption.
Client centricity as your core trust building and work winning principle. Now, more than ever, being well attuned to the emerging challenges your clients and prospects face will yield positive tendering and ultimately sales results. Business development will be more important than ever, but not necessarily performed like it used to be.
Improving tender and proposal management efficiency – especially through use of secure content management and collaboration automation technology. The main reason for this is that work winning spend needs to be directed toward building competencies in emerging tendering skills areas such as visual storytelling, sophisticated written, graphical and video persuasive techniques, arguing value, competitive face to face pitch sessions and the like.
Embracing uncertainty. We have all faced challenging times in business before. But COVID-19 is different because it has, in many respects, shown us a less clear future than we have ever known. This means unprecedented opportunity for those willing to seize it, even in the context competitive tendering. How brave will tendering organisations dare to be?
Building interpersonal skills across all roles involved in the tender and proposal management function. Note that competitor ‘interactives’ and problem solving forums feature prominently in the Agile® processes that will increasingly be used to fast track procurements. How good are you people at being people?
What’s the punchline? How different will post-COVID-19 tendering be?
A lot. And not much. It depends on your perspective. At a high level you could easily conclude that not much will change. Tenders will still be needed and remain key to work winning. But looking a little deeper we will see changes everywhere. How and when goods and services are introduced to the market, how offers will be solicited, how decisions will be made and how value will be established are all in the procurement transformation and re-engineering mix. Couple that with more uncertainty and it’s fair to say that, from a tendering perspective, embracing change is now more important than it ever was. Although often overlooked, this is especially true for the tender and proposal management function, which will continue to be at the ‘pointy end’ of the sales process.