Ten Slides in Ten Minutes:
To Bid or not to Bid
[Capturing the Hearts and Minds of Prospects & Clients]
Bill Graham APM.APMP
One of the most important decisions during opportunity management is whether to bid –
or not to bid – ‘To B or not to B’ - for a particular opportunity. Choices depend on a
number of aspects, not least of which are:
Have we the actual solution/service/product?
Does it support our strategic direction?
Is it an industry/marketplace we want to move into?
Have we the relevant and skilled resources to deliver?
Have we the time and resources to craft / submit a winning bid?
In other words, the actual decision is based on factors other than those that a
salesperson would typically think about.
“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous,
and conflicting information.”
~ Winston Churchill
An active (or should I rather say, ‘pro-active’) salesforce is one that identifies
opportunities within a marketplace in advance of competitors. It then plans the strategy
to bring each opportunity to a successful fruition - as a ‘win’.
However, there are many organisations – who market themselves as sales organisations –
that are actually just ‘one of many’ in the marketplace and have a dysfunctional sales
structure based on ‘bluebird’ and ‘reactive’ selling.
• The purpose of opportunity qualification is to determine the ability to ‘close’ each
tabled sales opportunity. Tabled at an opportunity qualification review (or forum)
• Qualifying sales opportunities is not merely the action of following steps in a process.
It is an integral part of the ongoing business processes of the organisation itself. So, as
circumstances change an opportunity could be qualified ‘in’ one day and qualified
‘out’ the following day
• Each sales opportunity in the funnel needs investment to move it forward. This is not
just the salesperson doing their usual thing, but possible involvement of other
resources such as at the ‘C’ level (e.g. CEO, CIO, and COO)
• Simple qualification questions such as ‘What do they want and when do they want it?’
are actually worthless in reality. Similarly, chasing large opportunities because they
sound good is also pretty much worthless
• The simple reality is that a logical process of qualification must be followed and the
decision from the process must be upheld.
Elements of a Qualification Review
The typical high-level areas that must be addressed in a qualification review are
Customer strategy & requirements (capability alignment and value proposition)
Solution definition (including complexity)
Resource skills and availability (for submission & implementation)
Competitors (positioning & differentiators)
Submission content (ability to craft a winning proposition/submission)
Application development (new development vs packaged solutions)
Customer relationship (Relationship Intellectual Property)
Relevant Experience (Appropriate track record & case studies)
Terms and conditions (legal obligations – including regulatory)
Financial (including business case & pricing)
Third party involvement (e.g. partners, sub-contractors).
Note: Application Development has been split out of the ‘Solution definition’ and
‘Submission content’ to show that it’s fine to have a more granular approach - if it’s
applicable to the situation.
Opportunity Qualification - Ownership
• This is the contentious question, as a number of people would come forward and say
it’s their responsibility (and accountability) from Salespersons, Sales Director, Bid
Centre Manager, Business Unit Manager and the like. However, the reality is that it
resides firmly in Sales Operations (sometimes called Sales Support or Sales Services)
• All aspects of the opportunity qualification process must be crafted by the Sales
Operations Manager. This will range from the process to follow, the tool(s) to be used,
the format of the reviews, attendance at the reviews (in fact, chairing the weekly
review sessions), selection criteria to be used, resulting actions (and follow up
process), alignment with the sales tracking system, background information to be
presented, alignment with the organisation’s sales plan (& market development plan)
In large organisations there must be a sales support function for any of the possible sales
structures that are implemented. Some of these systems & activities will be based in
these sales support structures:
Opportunity tracking system (with a high degree of data integrity)
o If missing, you won’t be able to view up-and-coming opportunities – and plan
Opportunity review sessions (facilitated regularly and formally)
o If lacking, then opportunities will not be qualified and all will be chased
Bid Management function (staffed with professional Bid Managers)
o If missing, then no continuity or standardisation between submissions resulting
in time-wasting, incomplete view of the opportunity etc.
Bid Centre (fully functional and also staffed correctly)
o If missing, then (possibly) a poor quality submission
Sales Operations (also fully functional and staffed correctly)
o If lacking, then no actual view of sales altogether (advancing in a vacuum)
Sales Methodology & Processes (fully implemented and adhered to)
o If missing, or not supported, then poor quality across the whole sales function.
Sales Operations: A ‘Necessity’ – not a ‘Nice to Have’
If the basics aren’t in place, then there is no foundation(s) on which to grow…
The Fulcrum of [potential] Fatality
Identify and define your own rainbow…
Rogue sales resources
Unclear client requirements
Out-of-date solutions portfolio
Weak deal pursuit decisions
Strategic Market Development
Relevant solutions portfolio
Supported client strategy
Open-minded sales leadership
The actual decision to bid – or not to bid - is based on business decisions by the Sales
Operations Manager – with supporting input from the salesforce, middle management,
sales leadership and senior executives.