5 Bid Management Best Practices to Help You Win More (UK Edition)

Kyla Steeves, Content Marketing Manager at Loopio
Kyla Steeves

Our bidding benchmarks are in. The headline news? 🗞️ UK teams are performing well. They have larger teams than their North American counterparts and consistently respond faster than their peers.

But it’s not all hunky-dory.

UK teams also face tighter deadlines and earn a slightly lower win rate than the global average of 44%, which may indicate a more competitive bidding environment.

So, what can UK teams do to get an edge on the competition?

We teamed up with Ceri Mescall, a former UK proposal manager turned consultant with 16 years of experience, to dive into five bid management best practices from Loopio’s 2023 RFP Trends Report.

Read on to learn how UK teams stack up to proposal teams across the globe:


Best Practice #1: Appoint a Dedicated Expert to Manage the Full Bidding Process

According to our research, assigning someone to manage the bidding process, maintain the content library, and review the final proposal before submission leads to higher win rates. Yet, only 46% of UK teams have a dedicated RFP expert at the helm (like a bid manager), compared to the global average of 55%.

Bid Management Best Practice UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Teams 🌍 Verdict
Appoint a dedicated expert for the bidding process 46% have a dedicated RFP expert or team 55% have a dedicated RFP expert or team 📉

But leadership isn’t as simple as appointing one person.

That’s because bid managers are usually not in executive-level roles. While they can influence through knowledge without a title, it helps to have a project sponsor (a.k.a proposal sponsor)—someone accountable for signing on the dotted line. For UK teams, this might be the Business Development Director.

“There’s a difference between responsibility and accountability,” says Ceri. “One reason things can go wrong is when the bid manager is considered responsible and accountable.”

  • The responsible person owns the day-to-day tasks and projects. They’re responsible for managing the bidding process and submitting high-quality proposals on time.
  • The accountable person sets the high-level business strategy and objectives. They’re accountable for the end results and advocate for the bidding opportunity to senior leaders.

With this structure in place, the bid manager can focus on doing the heavy lifting. Whenever a major concern arises, they have the proposal sponsor to turn to for guidance—like requests for additional support. 

“Accountability can increase win rates and proposal team retention. If proposal professionals don’t feel like they’re being supported by their organizations, they can be at risk of burnout, and leave.”
Ceri Mescall, Work Winning Consultant

Best Practice #2: Work Effectively With the Right Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Pulling in more brain power helps to craft best-in-class answers. But working effectively with SMEs isn’t always easy. That’s why half of bid teams report this as a number one challenge. Only 37% of UK teams say the same.

Bid Management Best Practice UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Average 🌍 Verdict
Work effectively with the right SMEs 37% say this is a number one challenge 51% say this is a number one challenge 📈

UK teams must be doing something right. According to Ceri, the secret to success is enlisting the help of “the right people, at the right time, with the right availability.” They should meet these two criteria:

  1. Capacity: Does the given expert realistically have time to help? If they don’t, adding an extra task to their workload will create stress and cause delays. The best companies recognize they’re not utilizing SMEs 100% for billable work. They include proposals in their workload and KPIs.
  2. Capability: Is this SME the right person for your proposal? Don’t recruit them just to add an extra brain to your roster. Find people who offer deep expertise for the answers you need.

Of course, even the right SMEs can get a little side-tracked from responding in a timely fashion. So, to forge a strong and long-lasting relationship with them, here are some simple tips:

Simple Tips for Collaborating Better With SMEs 🫶

Know their communication preferences: If you’ve seen a SME’s inbox has 1000 unread messages during a Zoom screen share (this has happened to Ceri), your email is likely to get lost. Figure a better alternative to reach them, whether it’s phone, MS Teams chat, or text.

Add context to their contribution: SMEs need to know why you’re asking for information. Without it, they’ll see content requests as yet another meaningless admin task. Explain the proposal, brief them on the client, and demonstrate how valuable their expertise is.

Write the first draft for them: Some SMEs might be reluctant to write. To prevent the fear of the  blank page, consider hopping on an interview call instead and crafting answers from the transcript. All they have to do is review and validate.

Report back on proposal success: When working with a larger team, it’s tough to keep everyone informed, but SMEs need to know whether their work made an impact. So, keep them updated and invite them into the celebration if you win—they earned it.

✓ Ask SMEs for feedback: Since SMEs are also actively involved in the proposal process, make sure to include them in internal lessons learned reviews for a different perspective.

Best Practice #3: Actively Discuss Your Bid/No-Bid Criteria

Evaluating a bidding opportunity is a staple in the RFP process. You have a much higher chance of winning when it’s the right customer fit, competition is low, and the deadline is achievable. Fortunately, most proposal teams rely on a bid/no-bid process—80% for the global average, 77% for UK teams.

Bid Management Best Practice UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Average 🌍 Verdict
Actively discuss bid/no-bid criteria 77% follow an evaluation process 80% follow an evaluation process 📉

But the story is more nuanced.

57% of UK teams are not happy with how well their team follows it, highlighting the difference between strategy and execution. Defining your evaluation criteria is one thing; sticking to it is another.

Bid teams often lose their way by treating a bid/no-bid process as a “form-filling exercise.” If it’s a simple Excel document, people can work out how to game the system, tweaking scores until they get a green light. The result? Proposal teams waste time on a bid they have a low chance of winning.

The best qualification process is an ongoing conversation. There should be multiple decision gates. It starts before the RFP lands in the business development lifecycle, like your approach to the market and the opportunity. And it continues when you assess the RFP and review your response before submission.

That’s because things can change anytime. For example, you might spot a non-negotiable when reviewing the RFP document in more detail and need to abandon the response before investing 30 hours of work.

Pro tip: To prevent wasted time, start tracking the internal cost of bids (i.e. labour hours) that you lose or get cancelled. This can help convince stakeholders to take the go/no-go process more seriously.

“Proposals should be seen as an organization-level activity rather than as an island. You need the right people to discuss whether you can win the bid, deliver successfully, and make a profit.”
Ceri Mescall, Work Winning Consultant

Best Practice #4: Work Smarter, Not Harder—Write Quality Proposals, Faster

Writing a winning proposal requires a content plan, strong win themes, and highly-customized answers. For the average bid team, this takes around 32 hours to complete—a full work day longer than UK teams. Despite their speediness, 69% of UK teams are happy with the quality of their proposals.

Bid Management Best Practice UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Average 🌍 Verdict
Write quality proposals, faster 24 hours to write a single RFP response 32 hours to write a single RFP response 📈

Of course, the longer you work on proposals in an organization, the faster you become from your institutional knowledge. But the best teams also know how to put less time into manual work—like searching for up-to-date and accurate answers. Or worse, writing from scratch.

Here are three types of technology that can help you write quality proposals, faster:

  1. Collaboration platform: Somewhere to communicate, collaborate, and ask questions—like, “Do we have any testimonials from the satisfaction survey results?” Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are the two big players.
  2. Bid management software: This software automates routine tasks like information finding, formatting, and content population. Think of it as a shortcut: you have a curated content library to draw from for a first pass, leaving you time to customize answers for each buyer.
  3. Artificial intelligence tools: AI is like an assistant to the bid manager. For example, Microsoft Copilot can capture notes and actions from kickoff meetings. Or, you can use a tool like ChatGPT to summarize non-confidential information. (Ceri recommends loading ChatGPT with details from a LinkedIn profile and prompting it to write a bio for a proposed resource.)

Just remember: implementing a new tool is most effective when you onboard and educate new team members about the best practices for using it overall (otherwise, it’ll be garbage in, garbage out). 

Best Practice #5: Craft Strong Messaging That Beats the Competition

As competition grows fiercer in today’s economy, it’s important to know how to make your proposal stand out from the crowd of bidders. While the average proposal team successfully makes the shortlist 55% of the time, UK teams are still trying to find their competitive edge with an advancement rate of 48%.

Bid Management Best Practice UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Average 🌍 Verdict
Craft strong, competitive messaging Advances to the shortlist 48% of the time Advances to the shortlist 55% of the time 📉

While you don’t have to be distracted by your competitors, it helps to be aware of what they’re doing. For instance, if you know they’ll race to the bottom with pricing, make up points somewhere else.

Here are two ways to get a leg up on the competition in the RFP response process:

  1. Evaluate your competition: Use a bidder comparison matrix to predict how you measure up against other bidders. First, read through the RFP and list out all of the criteria. Add more weight to items that matter most to the customer and provide an estimated score for everyone (including your company). Then, use that to inform your proposal strategy.
  2. Conduct a win/loss review: Whether you make the shortlist or not, reach out to the evaluator for a debrief. If they agree to an interview, take the opportunity to ask what you did well and not so well in the proposal. (PsstCeri says it can be a good idea to have someone from your company who was not directly involved in the proposal conduct the interview. Someone to ask open-ended questions, listen actively, and remain objective.)
“You don’t want to go so low on the price that you’re essentially buying the contract—it needs to be deliverable and profitable. Even if you’re not the cheapest bidder, you can still win through your technical response and relationship.”
Ceri Mescall, Work Winning Consultant

Become One of the World’s Best Bidders

The best proposal teams don’t take a shortcut to excellence. They constantly look for ways to increase win rates through a more collaborative process, new technology, and in-depth competitor research.

For UK teams, that might mean appointing someone to lead the bidding process. Actively discussing your bid/no-bid criteria with stakeholders. Or, spending an extra day writing until you have a winning proposal.

Just check out this scorecard for areas you are strong in (and where you need to improve):

Bid Management Best Practices UK Teams 🇬🇧 Global Average 🌍 Verdict
Appoint a dedicated expert for the bidding process 46% have a dedicated RFP expert or team 55% have a dedicated RFP expert or team 📉
Work effectively with the right SMEs 37% say this is a number one challenge 51% say this is a number one challenge 📈
Actively discuss bid/no-bid criteria 77% follow an evaluation process 80% follow an evaluation process 📉
Write quality proposals, faster 24 hours to write a single RFP response 32 hours to write a single RFP response 📈
Craft strong, competitive messaging Advances to the shortlist 48% of the time Advances to the shortlist 55% of the time 📉

If you implement these bid management best practices, your performance will improve. You’ll maximize your impact, craft better bids, and win more deals.

Learn what best-in-class teams do differently to drive success.

Download The Full 2023 Trends Report

Learn what best-in-class teams do differently to drive success.