News & Insights

How to get the most value from your Bids and Proposals team

“Early and ongoing client engagement is critical. Understanding client needs, drivers, and concerns informs your win strategy and win themes, which is integral to writing a compelling (winning) submission. Tenders themselves are the final step in securing work – we should already have a clear understanding of our client, the project environment, risks, and opportunities by the time the tender documents are released.”

Tell us a little about your journey leading you to Cardno now Stantec as the Business Development Manager – NSW/ACT/NZ

I have always loved reading and writing. Growing up in Queensland, I spent a lot of time outdoors – often up a tree with a book in hand.

I studied journalism and business at university, learning skills that have ended up feeding in well to Business Development and tendering. After university, I travelled Europe and moved to London where I began working for Arup as a Bid Coordinator. Little did I know that I would enjoy my job and the Engineering & Construction industry so much that my intended two-year London stint would continue for seven years.

I met my partner in London and we spent the final 18 months based in Luxembourg city. During this time, I flew in and out to the UK to continue my career with Arup. I was often located on weekdays in contractors’ offices all over the UK for major tenders. It was quite a dynamic and exciting period in my career.

My partner and I decided to embark on a new adventure in Australia and moved to Sydney in January 2020. The journey ultimately led me to Cardno now Stantec, where I'm thrilled to work alongside exceptional people and be involved in the exciting and positive years ahead.

What are three things you most enjoy about bid proposal work?

  • The camaraderie of a Bids & Proposals team – we're all in it together, working towards the same goal.
  • Turning complex information into plain and compelling English. 
  • I love a deadline-driven environment and can be competitive, so I find bidding fun.

What are the common misconceptions around what Bids & Proposals teams do?

There can be misconceptions that the team only provide services such as responding to basic company information, formatting, and compiling CVs. Business development and bidding have evolved a lot over the last ten years and are gradually being recognised as a critical business function.

My team adds a lot more value through robust go/no-go decisions, efficient bid processes, developing win strategies and value propositions, preparing compelling responses, writing, editing, aligning technical and commercial submissions, supporting interview preparation and client engagement.

What was the best advice you ever received for bid proposals?

  • The most important part of a bid is the preparation – if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.
  • We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen and learn from the people around you.

Bidding can be quite challenging; is there any project that comes to mind as the most challenging?

One specific experience comes to mind. We had seven tenders from the same client, all linked, and all due at the same time. Each tender was required to be submitted both as a hard copy and electronically. We ran a rigorous bid process, sticking to milestones and reviews and the submissions progressed well.

The experience became stressful when additional people, who hadn't been involved in the process previously, wanted to review the submissions at the last minute. This always has the potential to derail a submission and meant we lost a lot of time in the final days. To ensure we didn't miss the deadline, we spent the night before it was due, in the print room, pulling the hard copies together.

It was a great learning opportunity, and my planning process evolved accordingly to ensure we have confirmed buy-in from contributors and reviewers, and agreement on who the reviewers are, from the outset.

A lesson learned over time is that it's important to recognise when you reach the point of diminishing returns, such as when suggested edits aren’t adding significant value. At this point, call pens down and finalise the bid.

If you could choose only one positive bid story, which is the most notable?

We had a major tender for a tunnels and stations project worth an approximate $70 Million in fee income. In anticipation, we started planning our Win Strategy 18 months before the tender release.

Due to the size and high-profile nature of the project, we needed the team to provide depth of resources and capacity. We made a strategic decision not to partner with another Tier 1 firm - instead, we decided to lead with significant input from seven subcontractors. While this sounds logistically challenging, it resulted in a team with intricate and expert knowledge of the project as each of the sub-contractors had previously worked on elements of the project. Planning so far in advance allowed us to develop this teaming solution and allowed time to collaborate and become a cohesive, efficient, well-oiled machine before the tender was released.

The combined team were a delight to work with, and it was powerful to have a group of experienced professionals that constructively challenged each other to ultimately develop innovative technical solutions that saved significant time and money.

We successfully secured the contract and received outstanding feedback from the client. Even after the 18-month preparation period and the intensive 12-week tender, all parties got along and enjoyed working together.

Do you have any best-practice advice for those that use Bids & Proposals teams?

I find that people working in the Bids and Proposals space are naturally empathetic, helpful, and accommodating. We want to service every bid and help everyone, but we can only do so much.

I guess the message is: let us know as early as possible if you would like support, so we can plan, work efficiently, and provide the most valuable support.

What are your main goals and ambitions for the team looking ahead?

It's important to me that my team feel empowered and equipped with the best practices of bidding. Having this foundation in place creates a positive environment to strategically pursue and win great work for the business.
The business and our internal stakeholders reap the benefits of having a confident, enabled, and capable Bid team; they feel supported and engaged, knowing our clients will receive thorough, concise, and innovative solutions.

What are your top 5 tips for successful bid proposals?

  • Early and ongoing client engagement is critical. Understanding client needs, drivers, and concerns informs your win strategy and win themes, which is integral to writing a compelling (winning) submission. Tenders themselves are the final step in securing work – we should already have a clear understanding of our client, the project environment, risks, and opportunities by the time the tender documents are released.
  • Get buy-in from the bid team and agree on roles and responsibilities. Developing and delivering a bid can be a fun and smooth process when everyone is passionate about securing the work and dedicates enough time to contribute.
  • Take the time to set yourself up. Set milestones, schedule progress meetings and reviews, hold a kick-off meeting to ensure everyone understands what we need to achieve and by when.
  • Unrushed answer-planning will enable efficient bid development and produce a valuable product. Unpacking the reason behind a question helps to shape your response.
  • Communicate! Communication is integral to the success of a proposal as it facilitates engagement and flow of information and increases efficiency. It also makes bidding more fun!

Nyree Callaghan

Business Development Manager - NSW/ACT/NZ

Nyree.Callaghan@Cardno.com.au