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Having witnessed first-hand the development of the bids world in the UK ...
Having witnessed first-hand the development of the bids world in the UK over the last 10 years, last week I took the short trip across to Amsterdam and the BPC Europe 2023 conference. This offered me the chance to see and hear just how quickly the bid community has developed across Europe, too.
The APMP’s two-day European conference gave me an insight into what our European neighbours are achieving in the bid, pitch and proposal space. With talks that covered everything from AI and technology in the bid space through to better pitching and mental health in the industry, it was a chance for people across the continent and industry to come together and discuss best practice over coffee (and a beer or two!)
A week doesn’t go by without at least one conversation on how automations and AI will be the end of humans in the workplace. So, it was good to hear across the conference that I was not alone in thinking this moment is still far off (if ever) for the bid community. Yes, the technology out there (the likes of XAIT and CV Partner for example) is getting better at improving our capabilities to win – everything from speed and efficiency to accuracy – but it all still revolves around the human at the middle of the process, the Bid Manager.
John Eislen's talk about AI was particularly interesting, highlighting how AI learns from us. Those bid teams that can marry up the best use of technology with best practice will get the most out of it.
There were several talks focusing on wellbeing and burnout in the bid industry and it remains an important topic. Bid professionals still feel under pressure to work long hours with tight deadlines and struggle to get the same “work/life balance” that other sectors and industries have seemed to work towards in the last few years. In itself, the number of talks that centred on this topic (and their high attendance) shows just how much of a central issue this continues to be for the bid community.
I found it particularly interesting that a number of bid teams are still asked to work on global bids from a European base, working with stakeholders that could be based in the US, Asia or Australia. With bid teams being asked to work all day before turning their attention to a kick off meeting with someone in a different time zone well into their evening, it is no surprise that we see people leaving the industry burnt out and disillusioned. There is certainly still room for improvement here.
People still remain at the heart of the buying cycle and therefore remain integral to the bid process. Getting people from across the continent into the same room at the conference to interact face to face rather than having to do everything over Zoom or Teams was great to see.
Being a Bid Manager can sometimes feel like a lonely profession if you work in a smaller business without a wider team around you, so it was also a great opportunity for individuals across the industry to realise that there is a wider community and to share best practice with each other.
One really interesting talk from David Beckett got the audience up on their feet and introducing themselves over the “handshake pitch." It proved a timely reminder of just how important it is to still engage with our customers, rather than hiding behind a computer. We can’t expect to win bids without really understanding what the customers’ “pain points” are and to provide the right solution.
This year, for the first time APMP membership is split 50/50 between the US and the rest of the world. Until very recently, this had been a 75/25 split. A huge amount of this growth has originated from across Europe and not just in the “traditional” heartlands of Germany and the UK. It was great to meet people from across the Nordics, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Austria, all with a great passion for the industry and keen to keep that growth of the community going.
As ever, I was blown away by the linguistic talent of the bid community. As that awful Brit whose language skills stretch just about far enough to order a beer abroad, listening to bidders in their second, or even third, language discuss the benefits of a more stringent review process continues to blow my mind. I doff my hat to anyone who can do this job in a second language!
Whilst the community continues to grow with more companies realising the benefits of building a proper bid function in their organisation, the normal challenges of finding and recruiting the right talent rear their head again. Especially in the Nordics, there is a real thirst to hire into and grow their bid teams, but a number of Bid Directors I spoke to just can’t find the right people. Despite clear growth in the community, bid management still remains a niche area with a limited number of people that have the writing, project management and stakeholder skills to do the job and most recruitment agencies still don’t truly understand what the job is.
Unfortunately, too many bid teams are under-resourced at the moment which means that many firms are missing out on tender opportunities. It also means that the current bid team are going above and beyond, often working overtime to deliver when under resourced, which is leading to more burnout and wellbeing issues, as mentioned above.
If you are feeling this yourself and are struggling to hire into your bid team across Europe, then do get in touch with us at 3Search. We are a team of specialistbidand proposalrecruitmentconsultants, speaking the bid language and understanding the trials and tribulations that a bid team goes through. It’s that knowledge that allows us to work in partnership with you to hire the right talent, even in a tricky market.