How to Become a Bid Manager
What is a Bid Manager?
A Bid Manager writes proposal documents to other businesses, trying to win work for their own company.
They will either write a proposal based on an outline of what the customer has specified they want, or answer specific questions posed by the potential customer.
The Bid Manager's job is to sell their company to the potential customer in order to win the work.
A Bid Manager can make a huge difference to a company's revenue and is seen as a valuable asset in many industries. They are more common in the construction industry than any other.
What Does a Bid Manager Do?
A Bid Manager will receive a variety of documents from potential customers with the following abbreviations:
- PQQ - Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. This is the first stage of the tender process and narrows down potential suppliers or subcontractors for the customer.
- ITT - Invitation To Tender. This is the second stage of the tender process and should result in a final organisation being selected by the customer.
- BAFO - Best And Final Offer. Some customer's will add a final stage to the tender process to try to reduce the prices that you've submitted in the ITT stage.
- RFQ - Request for Quotation. Some customers just want a quotation without too much of the sales documentation you usually produce.
- RFP - Request for Proposal. This requires a quotation and the sales documentation you create to sell the company. You may be given an outline of what the customer wants to see or you will have free reign to produce a proposal that you think shows your company in its best light.
A Bid Manager will respond to these requests by ensuring they fully understand the customer's instructions and producing a document that will convince them to hire their company for the work.
To produce this documentation they will probably work with a number of stakeholders throughout the business, including the health and safety advisor, the commercial department (for pricing) and the operation department (to ascertain how the contract will be carried out).
The proposal document will usually have a deadline. Deadlines can be very short (I've had ones where they have had a 24 hour deadline) or they can be fairly long (around 6 weeks). Because of this you must be prepared to occasionally put in extra hours to meet these deadlines.
What Skills Do I Need to Be a Bid Manager?
One of the main skills needed, which many people lack, is excellent organisation. You can be juggling several tenders at the same time, with parts of them being completed by different people. You need to know how each tender is progressing and when their deadlines are. To do this, I use a bespoke spreadsheet where I can note whether I have allocated parts of the work to other stakeholders, the deadlines and the progress made.
Bid Managers must also have very good written communication skills. Trying to sell a company's products or services through words can be very difficult, and the customer will not want to spend hours and hours reading through a long document. You must be able to give the customer a clear picture of what you can do whilst still being concise. Some customers will set word limits that you must adhere to.
You must also have great attention to detail, noting their exact requirements, as you can be disqualified from the bidding process if you don't follow their instructions.
What is the Salary?
The salary of Bid Managers can vary widely and is dependent on experience and the industry you work in.
In the UK, the average salary is probably between £30k-£40k, but it is not uncommon to see positions advertised up to about £80k. With the higher salaries you are probably required to have specialist knowledge and qualifications of a particular sector and will take on more responsibility with a bid team to manage.
It is not common to work on a commission basis.
How Do I Get My First Role?
If your own company has a Bid Manager position, this would be the best introduction into the role if it becomes available, as you already know the company well enough to write about it.
However, this opportunity is unlikely to arise for many.
Offer to help the current Bid Manager out by answering any small questionnaires they may have. Answering these is a good insight into the sorts of questions they have to respond to in larger tenders.
Look for jobs with the words 'bid' or 'tender' in them, such as 'Bid Writer' or 'Tender Executive', where you will be part of a team assisting a Bid Manager and you can learn the role with a little less responsibility and be provided guidance from the Bid Manager.
Make sure you write a good cover letter for the job, selling yourself. If you can't sell yourself in a letter, how is the employer to know if you'd be able to sell their company?
I got into my first Bid Manager role when the company I worked at had a restructure and created a new Bid Manager role. I applied for the position and improved my salary when I accepted an offer. This was the opportunity that set me up for a career that I have now been in for just under five years. I have since increased my salary by over 60% from that initial job and my future prospects are a lot brighter than they were before.
I can genuinely say that I enjoy my job, and despite the frustrations with others not able to help you when you need them most, and the stress of meeting tight deadlines, it is rewarding when you know that something you've done has had a positive effect on the company you work for.