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The Catalysts is a series that showcases everyday value that professionals add to SAP at large.

Far from the glamour of boardroom discussions and the thrills of deal-clinching negotiations, a team of professionals’ huddle around their computers. Racing against time, they juggle multiple stakeholders and with composure, put together the myriad pieces of a puzzle that transforms into a deal-clinching response-to-proposal.

Integral for growth and new business, SAP’s proposal response activity requires robust knowledge of the business and a plethora of other tenets to aid our salesforce in presenting what would become a problem-solving proposition for the customer and a winning one for SAP.

As Director and Head of Bid Management, Subhankar Pattanayak and his team work to support the end-to-end deal cycle for SAP across ANZ and India. In this Q&A with Subhankar, I delve into the intricacies of his role and how it functions as a catalyst for SAP.

Q: Tell us a bit about your role.

Subhankar: I lead the bid management team, which works with the sales team to efficiently support the end-to-end deal process by creating customer-centric messages and best-in-class reference stories that showcase and position SAP as a strategic partner.

Throughout my 15-year SAP-career spanning stints at industry marketing and value engineering teams, my focus has constantly been developing business cases for the end customer. And my current role is a natural progression where my team and I focus on creating great content.

Q: How does your team add value to SAP?

Subhankar: We are the heart that pumps blood and oxygen to different body parts. We source content from various teams (e.g., Presales, Marketing, HR, etc.) and package it in a way that can be consumed with ease. We do the heavy lifting in the back end so the sales professionals can focus on solutioning the customer’s needs. Together, we show the best version of SAP to the world, regardless of solution or industry.

Q: What are your everyday challenges, and how do you overcome them?

Subhankar: I would instead rephrase everyday challenges as opportunities. There are times when we don’t have a ready answer to a customer’s question. These become opportunities, so we talk to the sales and presales teams, perhaps the marketing folks. We pick their brains, and with research, we develop a content repository that serves us well at the moment and in the future.

Also, sales cycles are becoming shorter, and deal volumes are increasing. This translates to faster turn-around time, so we’ll have to be on our toes all the time. So, the opportunity lies in exploring AI-enabled automation to help scale up.

Another opportunity lies in motivating my talented team to up their game every year, offer better services to our stakeholders and go to the next level.

Q: You’ve had a stellar SAP career. What have been your top-3 achievements thus far?

Subhankar: In 2011, I was the Program Manager for the ‘Value Lifecycle Manager’ tool. We had to work with a very short timeline and work towards launching it at Sapphire, replete with all the contents value statements. So, that was testing but fulfilling as everybody appreciated it, making it a key milestone in my SAP career.

In 2014-15, we had several SAP Industries’ social media channels. Still, there was an ask to bring them together under a single umbrella to amplify content regularly and measure success. I took up the challenge of setting up the social media practice, building a team and working with agencies to build the framework and measure success via the ‘share of voice’ analysis. The project was very well appreciated and was a key achievement for me.

Finally, in 2019 there was a time when the cost of creating content was high, and we resorted to automation and reduced the cost by 90%, which was a significant achievement.

Q: What is your advice to those interested in pursuing a pre-sales/ bid management career?

Subhankar: This role entails the tying of thread between different functions. So, the ability to network is a very crucial ingredient. Also, perseverance and a curious mind are vital as you must think on your feet and answer customers’ questions all the time.

Finally, the ability to constantly learn is a must. Sales cycles are becoming shorter, and some deliverables might require learning a new technology altogether. So, stay curious and be a lifelong learner, and you should make it.

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When not working with his team on deal pursuits, Subhankar interacts with students as an SAP University Alliance Partner and teaches Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Analytics. He tweets at @subhankarp and frequently writes Technology and Content blogs.

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