Anyone who’s involved in the world of bids and tenders knows it can be a highly pressurised environment.
The stakes can be huge, particularly around ‘must-win’ opportunities and with a looming, and sometimes frankly unreasonable, deadline imposed by the customer there can often seem like an overwhelming amount of work to get done. Coupled with the fact that most of the people required to input into the response also have their own day jobs to fulfil (and targets to hit), it can quickly become a recipe for a succession of stressful days and late nights.
This really hit home recently after we spotted a (now deleted) post on LinkedIn from the CEO of a manufacturing business, proudly declaiming about how he and his team had spent the last month pulling all-nighters and living on takeaway food, in order to deliver a bid response on time.
Now, at a pinch, and if it was a business-transforming, once in a blue moon opportunity, this might be understandable, but it seemed like this was a regular habit for them and one that he revelled in. The most incredible part was that he was also trying to use this as a recruitment incentive! Essentially, “We do bidding really well but you’ll never see your friends and family again and you’ll probably die at your desk. Send me your CV if you’re interested.” No takers here, thanks very much.
This kind of macho, lunch is for wimps culture is surely several decades past its sell-by date.
Yes, there will naturally be times when the team has to pull together to put in longer hours than normal and go above and beyond in order to secure a big win. Supporting bids and tenders is our stock-in-trade at Sales Engine so we know this as well as anyone. But this should definitely be the exception rather than the norm. Regularly and consistently pushing your team to work ridiculous hours is a route to dissatisfaction, stress-related illness and a guaranteed way of burning them out. Creativity, critical thinking and ultimately employee loyalty will all suffer as a result and in the end, that will all come back to bite you.
As Matthew Walker notes in his international best seller Why We Sleep: “Under-slept employees are not, therefore, going to drive your business forward with productive innovation. Like a group of people riding stationary exercise bikes, everyone looks like they are pedaling, but the scenery never changes. The irony […] is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal.”
Not exactly the best environment to produce a creative, professional and high-quality bid response then.
More than a mindset though, what this kind of thing really points to is some fundamental problems with the way a business is operating and the way it plans (or fails to plan) its bidding strategy. If you’re not set up for success in the first place, with the right processes and crucially the right team then you’re always going to struggle and those long, late nights will always be a factor.
Sales Engine specialise in supporting businesses and public sector organisations with the development and delivery of critical bids and tenders. The customers that we work with are varied in terms of their team structure, their maturity and their capabilities when it comes to responding. At one end are highly experienced businesses who have their own internal bid managers and teams, with libraries of content, document templates and a well-worn process for delivery. And at the other end of the scale are organisations who are new to bidding and need their hand holding through the entire process.
The common thread running through these customers, and the reason they engage with us, is they have all recognised a gap in their resources and acknowledged the need for additional support and specialist skills in order to deliver the highest quality response possible. And no amount of squeezing their team to work until midnight and over the weekends is going to deliver the results they need.
We’re not suggesting that delivering winning bids should be a breeze – they’re often long, over-complicated projects which suck up lots of time and resource, and it’s a simple fact that people will need to ‘step up’ from time to time in order to get them over the line. But winning new customers at the expense of your employees’ health is not a strategy we believe in and judging by the stream of critical responses to that original LinkedIn post, a lot of you out there think the same way.