Categories
Bid process

Kickoff or kick out?

When do you hold the bid kickoff? Is it one of the first things you do when the bid lands? Or do you only hold this meeting when the bid decision gate has been passed, and you know whether you should be submitting a response?

Jack Grealish lining up for some kickoff / free kick magic https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/aston-villas-jack-grealish-shines-18059041

I have worked in organisations where as soon as an opportunity comes in, a kick off call or meeting is convened. No evaluation has taken place, and the kickoff is treated partly as that discussion.

By the time you have the kickoff, the opportunity should have been fully qualified with three key questions addressed – is the opportunity real, can we win it, and do we want to?* But, like where I previously worked, how many times is the kickoff used to have those discussions – when it’s already too late? If you haven’t already held the bid decision call/meeting, once the team is engaged on a kickoff it can feel like a runaway train that you have no way of catching to bring the team back to properly debate whether we should be bidding in the first place.

The APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) outlines two major pitfalls around the kickoff – and in my experience, the first point is where the damage most often occurs:

  • Confusing the kickoff meeting with the initial planning meeting: The kickoff meeting should not be confused with the initial planning meeting. An initial planning meeting should be an internal meeting with core team members immediately after the RFP is released. The outcomes and directions of this initial planning meeting are the inputs to the kickoff meeting.
  • Not allowing sufficient time to plan a kickoff: Considerable time needs to be spent preparing for the kickoff. Having a kickoff meeting as quickly as possible after the release of the catalyst documents can set the team up for failure if key information and guidance is missing. Take the time to prepare and plan. Ensure that all fundamental documents are in place prior to the kickoff meeting.”

The kickoff should also happen later in the process than you may probably expect. According to the BOK: “Kickoff meetings are not executed immediately upon RFP receipt. Resist the urge to have a kickoff meeting as soon as you receive the bid request… Instead, schedule kickoff meetings about 15 percent into the response timeframe.” 15 percent. That means if you have a three-week turnaround, the kickoff meeting should not happen prior to day three. Obviously, shorter timeframes mean it can still feel as though the call is happening “as soon as” the bid lands – but you still should have evaluated and made a qualified decision to bid prior to this meeting.

So you now know you shouldn’t hold it immediately, but when you do, how long should the kickoff be? This will depend on the opportunity and submission requirements, but the BOK suggests you set aside up to four hours. How often do you do that? Or do you just have a quick half hour? This is another reason, in my experience, why the kickoff and bid/no bid meetings get confused.

The kickoff should be a key activity along the bid timeline – it takes time and preparation, both for the bid manager, and the bid team. At the point of holding a kickoff meeting, as the bid manager you should have reviewed the client papers so that you can provide an overview of the requirements and timetable, the longer-term programme, and answer any questions the team has. You should look to agree win themes, your value proposition, and relevant team and experience. At a more granular level, the kickoff should also be used to agree and assign tasks/actions, confirm the timetable and agree logistics, and confirm any early clarifications you may have for the client. The BOK has a useful checklist, but even a simple list of tasks can be used as your agenda to ensure you cover everything.

So if you are one of those organisations that holds kickoffs immediately, think of it as a kickoff from a free kick when the game is already in play.

*For more detail, see our blog on the importance of bid decision process from last year.

Categories
Procurement

Is bid compliance a code, or guidelines?

Does your bid lead/sponsor struggle to understand the concept of compliancy in the bid submission? No matter how many times you say “we have to answer the questions we’re asked”, “we have to answer in the order they’ve been asked” or “they’ve asked for five examples and we only have one”, do they still believe it will be ok since the client knows you, or they’ll take your other answers into account?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had these conversations; usually, but not always, with people who aren’t involved in a bid process very often. But the first rule of bids is a compliant submission – you could write the best submission in the world, with the best value price, but if you haven’t adhered to the client’s rules they cannot award you the contract within procurement rules. You risk disqualification, and damaging your reputation for future work. If they do choose to award, they risk your competition challenging the decision (which we wrote about a few weeks ago).

Yet some bid teams still want to bend the rules.

According to the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK): “A compliant proposal meets the customer’s requirements and submittal instructions, answers the customer’s questions, and addresses specifications to the letter—nothing more, nothing less.” The BOK also sets out the following as just a few examples of compliance:

  • “Structuring your proposal per the customer’s instructions
  • Remaining within the page limits [how many times have you asked teams to stick to a page limit, to have their content returned at twice that?!]
  • Adhering to formatting guidelines, such as font size, style, and margin size
  • Meeting each and every RFP requirement and the submission instructions”

The compliance matrix can be a bid manager’s best friend in these situations – demonstrating how closely you meet the client’s requirements, right through to acting as your checklist for submission. Software suppliers are often asked to provide such a matrix as standard as part of their submission, so the client can see how their requirements will be met by each product, but it is just as important for any bid even as an internal tool. You should complete a compliance matrix before you start writing, by listing out every client requirement – whether a housekeeping requirement (e.g. five pages maximum), or a solution requirement (e.g. the supplier should provide x). Against each requirement, you should mark how closely your solution matches the requirement; this can be as simple as compliant, partially compliant or non-compliant.

Compliance alone rarely means you win a competition – responsiveness should mean you work to meet and exceed the customer requirements – but compliance alone can mean you lose. Is it worth the extra page you were explicitly not asked for, or bidding when you know you don’t have the number of experience examples to answer the question? And, as the BOK says, if there are many areas where your solution is non-compliant or only partially compliant, you should seriously question why the opportunity is being pursued.

Categories
Bid process

The intriguing case of the case study

How often are you asked to include case studies and experience examples in bids? The likelihood is that we’re asked for some variation of such experience in almost every bid. They are important pieces of the bid response puzzle because, as the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says:

“You wouldn’t put much trust in a surgeon who had never performed the operation you needed, nor one who had made multiple attempts and failed at each. Similarly, customers prefer organizations that can demonstrate both experience that is relevant to the management and technical work they need done (relevant experience) and a track record of success (past performance).”

APMP Body of Knowledge

In last year’s blog, we talked about the different ways in which you can effectively file such experience – within dedicated subject folders, or perhaps using defined file name and/or tag words in a larger database. But how do you create your past performance library in the first place? And more importantly, how do you keep it up to date and add new or differently focused examples, so you aren’t having to scramble for the most relevant example at the last minute?



Andy Dwyer’s approach to work – no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing it really well
https://www.pinterest.ch/pin/299911656422358652/

We all know those public sector bids that ask for contract examples within the last three years, and that really is best practice. Does a case study or experience example from 10 years ago hold the same weight?

Of course, the easiest way is to copy down any case studies and examples used after each bid – easy, but not always quick! If you have them saved already, you will need to check if you’d made any updates and if so, save this new version down. At one organisation, we saved different versions of the same client / case study in one document, but with headings so you knew what was slightly different in each. For example, anonymised, short-form, long-form, employment-focused, real estate focused and so on. It probably won’t come as a surprise that this was the organisation from our previous blog where we used tags in the file names!

But again, this assumes we already have the case studies and examples written – what if you are starting from scratch? Focusing specifically on the more detailed case studies now, rather than the few-line experience examples, my best practice brain means I am a big fan of the humble template. Not only will this give helpful prompts those drafting the case study, it will (usually!) ensure you have covered all the various options clients will ask for – although bear in mind you may still need to tailor headings and content to be compliant with the client’s requirements. Key headings/information may include:

  • Client name
  • Contract/project title/description, location, dates, and value
  • Client contact name, title, telephone number and email (you may also want to note whether you have ongoing permission to use this contact and case study, or whether you need to request permission each time)
  • Brief summary of the contract/project
  • Your role
  • Challenges / issues encountered
  • Results e.g. was the aim of the project to improve performance, and over the course of the project, your role achieved an uplift in customer satisfaction of 20 percentage points?
  • Quantifiable benefits achieved for the client
  • Awards/nominations related to the work
  • Client testimonials

So now we know what to include, but when do you draft or request new case studies? To try and get ahead of the game, why not implement a process whereby each time a project or contract completes, the responsible project manager or account manager completes the case study template as part of the close-out? Or for longer, strategic contracts which may be in place for several years, you could include this activity as part of the client annual review process, meaning it is guaranteed to be updated annually (as a minimum).

Obviously even with the best intentions, we cannot cover off all clients’ scopes and requirements and so we often end up creating new case studies (or amending existing ones) during the bid. If that is the case, provide the template and supporting guidance to the person (or people) with responsibility for drafting, and set a deadline that is both realistic for them to revert by, but also allows enough time for review, potential redraft/amends ahead of the bid final review.

Either way, preparation will save you a considerable amount of time the next time you’re asked for a similar case study.

Categories
Procurement

To challenge or not to challenge?

We’ve all been there. We worked really hard on a bid; the team put everything into it and we had a really strong and compelling submission. But then we lose – either to an incumbent, someone we’ve never heard of before, or someone who we know doesn’t have certain USPs we do. Or the worst outcome, simply on commercials (and doesn’t that just make you feel as a Bid Manager that you could have written anything, it was just coming down to the price?)

I’ve also been on the other side of the scenario, when my firm had our contract award challenged. The client found in our favour with the challenge, but they launched a full investigation into the procurement process which took several weeks. The investigation found the evaluation criteria was open to interpretation, and it was announced the procurement would be re-run on that basis. It was devastating at the time, particularly as the scope of requirements was changed in the re-run, and our USP from the first procurement was no longer relevant; second time around, we lost to the incumbent.

But in which scenarios would – or should – you challenge a procurement decision? Would you challenge on the basis that you strongly believed your responses deserved higher scores? Or maybe because the evaluation criteria weren’t clear, clarifications hadn’t particularly clarified the situation, and feedback suggests other bidders had interpreted things differently? That you don’t believe the winning bidder could possibly offer the service for the price quoted? Or a combination of all of these?

You should not challenge from a position of ‘sour grapes’ that you lost, as this could damage any existing and/or future relationship with the awarding authority/client. What if something changes in the intervening years between this award and the next procurement? There may be different management (on both sides) and/or different requirements, and you would want to bid after all? Will the client have a long memory, and you’re discounted before they’ve even read a word? One organisation I worked at decided “well we may as well challenge, we won’t be working with them again after this!” We did have grounds for a challenge, points were awarded for the presentation stage which hadn’t previously been disclosed, and the feedback given was highly subjective. Our challenge was rejected, and then six years later, the re-tender was published; I included our previous challenge as a factor for consideration in our bid evaluation matrix.

If you are considering challenging a procurement decision, there are some excellent online resources available, although from my previous life I would recommend the Mills & Reeve Procurement Portal. Its ‘challenging a decision’ section explains you must be sure the scores and feedback give sufficient weight to your challenge. You will then need to send a formal letter to the awarding authority, within the stated standstill period (that’s what it’s there for!), which should include:

  • Any concerns you have about scores;
  • Queries about the reasons given for a mark or the adequacy of the information given;
  • Asking for the standstill period to be extended; and
  • Asking for documents such as the evaluation notes of individual evaluators, notes of evaluation meetings particularly moderation meetings, and the report required under Regulation 84.

From there, it depends on the response of the awarding authority and, if they reject your challenge, whether you want to pursue. If the latter, you should seek legal advice before taking any further action, as there is a formal legal route which involves court ordered suspension; so you need to be completely sure you have a case to challenge before going down this complicated, expensive and potentially damaging route.

Having been on both sides, I would urge anyone to think carefully before pursuing a challenge – on the basis that there is unequivocal proof that something is not right with the scoring and/or feedback, and it is not just a defensive move. It is a tough journey for everyone involved and can damage client relationships – and your future bidding potential – moving forward.

Categories
Personal development

Bids at Downton Abbey

Lockdown 3.0 has again meant binge watching, and some comfort viewing was required. For this, I’ve returned to the simpler times of Downton Abbey. Clearly the time in isolation is taking its toll, as on this re-watch I’ve started to think about the characters taking their rightful places in a bid team (and as we know procurement was well under way by this point, there could well be a lost episode where the Crawleys bid to supply the village’s meat…) But who is who?

Firstly, the bid manager. Practical, organised, logical, promoting the ‘correct’ way of doing things. And above all, can be commanding when required, keeping everyone on the right track. It can only be Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham – especially with innate Bid Manager traits and values like this:

The wisdom of Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
https://giphy.com/

So, if the great Violet is our bid manager, who is the sponsor? Who makes the decisions and drives everyone to achieve the common goal? Step forward Lady Mary; she’s intelligent, forceful and was born to lead. She is the person with ultimate sign off on the bid, and the organisation’s strategic decision.

While Lady Mary is our sponsor, she will delegate where needed to the appropriate bid lead; the one who knows the client better, is loyal to their needs and ensures the bid submission meets those needs. This is the role of Lord Grantham – he takes responsibility, both internally for his team and externally for his client.

Creating the content takes a hard-working, loyal bid writer. Lady Edith isn’t interested in leading the group, but she is driven and wants to progress; she takes ownership of her career and future development, while avoiding the main conflicts within the bid process.

A bid team often needs to rely on subject matter experts. Those who hold wide knowledge and experience, and bring forward ideas for the bid. Tom Branson, and Matthew and Isobel Crawley are the problem solvers of the bid team – they are logical, driven and results-focused, analysing the correct approach in each case. They are loyal to the team’s success.

The bid support function underpins the team, carrying out even the smallest tasks to ensure it operates effectively and harmoniously. Supporting the team on a day-to-day level are Lady Grantham and Lady Sybil. They feel great responsibility for the bid team – they are kind, always encouraging, and putting the team’s needs before their own. They are the heart of the team.

When it comes to the presentation, you need those bid team members who are outgoing and used to being the centre of attention; the performers. Build the presentation team around Lady Rose and Henry Talbot and you won’t go far wrong! They’ll adapt to any last-minute changes during practice, and will also keep everyone’s spirits up during the most stressful times.

This is your primary bid team, the ‘upstairs’ characters of Downton Abbey – but you could easily build a second bid team with the ‘downstairs’ characters. And after all, how often is an organisation multi-tasking on opportunities? If this happens, you can turn to Carson to be your bid manager, supported by Mrs Hughes as your sponsor and Mr Bates as the bid lead on this second opportunity. Anna is your bid writer, working closely with your SMEs O’Brien and Jimmy (although you may need to keep them under control). Bid support – and most importantly, food – will be provided by Mrs Patmore and Daisy, and you can always bring Ethel back into temporary employ for the presentation alongside Thomas Barrow.   

So, when that second bid comes in, know that you can rely on the ‘secondary’ team. For as Lord Grantham himself said to their Bid Manager “You managed splendidly…please thank the staff for saving the day”.

Categories
Procurement

Behind the paywall

Your organisation is looking to implement its first formal bid management software/tool; you may have heard of a few by name, but you want to know which are the best for your needs and to make sure you don’t have to swap to something else in a year’s time if the supplier goes out of business. Or, are you a researcher, analysing the vendor market in bid management software?

What would be the first thing you would do? Googling* “best bid management software” or “bid management software trends” would probably be high up the list, right? However, have you tried that lately? 

Across the first few pages, amongst some named software websites, many results are variations on the theme of “Top 10 bid management systems” – but when you click through, the results are hidden in a report behind a paywall.

You can see the chapter list and request a free sample, of course, but they are usually redacted versions of the first few pages.

Why is that? 

For many people, having to pay to see a report – without even knowing if it will be of use – could be wasted budget. They’ll keep searching for free information, the report provider loses the fee, and a potential shout-out. 

And for those trying to determine what software to procure, they will likely go back to the named results, even if it takes longer. Surely the more people who can view the report, the more business could be generated for those suppliers? 

So why hide behind a third-party report? Who really benefits, other than the report producer when people do pay?

*Other search engines are available!

Categories
Personal development

You’re a Bid Manager, Harry

What if those were some of Hagrid’s first words to the famous Harry Potter, rather than “you’re a wizard”? What if Hogwarts was a school of bid management mastery*, not witchcraft and wizardry?

The four Hogwarts houses have their own characteristics and traits by which students are sorted, but what type of bid team would that make them?

Gryffindor

Characteristics: Values courage, bravery, nerve, and chivalry. Can be arrogant and conceited…

Bid team style: They believe they are the best; are well thought of in the market and amongst their competitors. They will pitch for the hard to win clients, trying to unseat long-term incumbents. May take each bid to the wire at submission time – but will do so with true team camaraderie. Will always be proud of the submission they have put in. 

Ravenclaw

Characteristics: Values intelligence, learning, wisdom and wit. Can be egocentric and snobbish…

Bid team style: They will focus on where they can add value and do something different for the client, offering something no supplier has before. Their bids are usually technical and detailed in nature, often using quotes and imagery to convey wit and/or individuality, but can come across superior at times. 

Hufflepuff

Characteristics: Values hard work, patience, justice, and loyalty. Can be stagnant and lazy…

Bid team style: They value long-standing client relationships and put time and resource into bidding for retenders or different service lines for their clients. Often just bid for anything though, taking the easy route. The team takes care of each other, regularly holding team-building events and bringing in cakes and biscuits as the deadline approaches!

And finally, Slytherin

Characteristics: Values ambition, cunning, leadership, and resourcefulness; will do anything to get their way.

Bid team style: Like Gryffindor, they will bid for the hard to win clients. But rather than rely on talent and market opinion, they will use every method at their disposal to find an ‘in’ with the client – including poaching staff from their competitors. Also aren’t above offering a bribe. Once at presentation stage, their charisma works well for them and is often where they win the pitch. 

I’ve never knowingly worked in a Slytherin team I think! Can I take a bit of Gryffindor and a bit of Ravenclaw?! Now class, Winloadsia Bidiosa!

*Would anyone attend?! That’s probably a thought for another blog…

Categories
Bid process

Internal debriefs

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the value of carrying out client debriefs whether you win or lose a tender. But that is only half of the debrief story. How often do you review the bid process with the bid team who went through it? 

Whether your organisation has multiple service areas and the bid team changes every time, or only one line of business and the same team on each bid – there will still be learnings, and opportunities to improve your processes and win rate. As the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says, “from the internal lessons-learned debriefing, you can learn: how efficiently you operated [and] the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal process”. 

The internal debrief should be conducted as soon as possible after the bid has been submitted

According to the BOK, your process should be to conduct an internal review, develop your internal lessons learned, carry out the external client debrief, and then combine all feedback to develop and implement your improvement plans. While you will need to wait until the client award decision for an external debrief, the internal debrief should be conducted as soon as possible after the bid has been submitted – firstly so the process is fresh in the team’s minds, but also so the team is not clouded (negatively or positively!) by the award decision. 

The focus of the internal review should be positive – rather than ripping apart what went wrong. That is not to say you don’t discuss what didn’t work, but you should approach it from a positive and constructive slant. The session should include all key team members who were involved in the bid, such as technical/solution leads, operational leads, pricing, graphics/design etc. The BOK sets out some of the key areas to think about with the internal team:

  • How effective were our opportunity/capture planning and proposal management processes?
  • Did we get senior managers involved at appropriate points?
  • How do we rate the proposal for compliance, responsiveness, persuasiveness, and clarity?
  • Did we budget correctly for the proposal development efforts (resources, time, and money)?
  • Were the needed decision points properly scheduled and presented to senior management for bid/no-bid decisions?
  • Were the appropriate reviews done? Did they provide significant improvements to the final bid? What could be improved?
  • How well did the team(s) work together?

Consider using a structured feedback form to keep the session to a rough agenda, and to help later in coding/categorising the feedback received. You could also share this ahead of the meeting, so team members have an opportunity to reflect beforehand. When running the feedback session, the leader should encourage feedback to be shared constructively and focus on the bid, not the people involved. 

After the meeting, document lessons and summarise recommendations for improvements, combining them with client feedback into an organisational improvement plan which is communicated to the key stakeholders for action. As the BOK says, “lessons collected are not lessons learned”.

So next time you submit a bid, don’t fall into the trip of thinking the only valid feedback is from the client – your team members can provide equally valuable learnings!

Categories
Bid process

The power of CRM

Building on our ‘Talking to Clients’ series over the past four weeks, my focus is now turning to how you store, analyse and use the client intelligence and insight you gather to support your business development and bidding opportunities. 

Imagine your most important client has predominantly worked with one account manager in your organisation since they joined. They’ve shared hundreds of telephone and email conversations, account management meetings and even partaken of the odd rugby match spectating together. Then the account manager leaves your organisation. If you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, all that client knowledge leaves with them. 

David Rose, with a lot of information to process https://media4.giphy.com/media/RfkkfkWXq8laiWatVI/giphy.gif?cid=4d1e4f298gojaik3cn39fvg1cu0iipa3hzfjrvrya95g7mjm&rid=giphy.gif

I’ve been a big believer in the power of using CRM to manage client knowledge for many years and was lucky enough to implement Salesforce as our weapon of choice at a previous employer. But CRM can come in many different shapes and sizes to suit your size, needs – and of course your budget; from Salesforce or Zendesk, to budget or free systems such as Hubspot or Insightly*, or even as simple as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or shared folder on your network or in Microsoft Teams. What matters most is not the system you use, but what you record and how you use it to develop the client relationship. Anyone in your organisation should be able to pick up the reins in working with a client – or when it comes to bids and proposals time – and should be able to access the same intelligence and insight as anyone else. 

Recently, a white paper** on this subject was shared with me by a colleague. While the focus is on how consulting firms should use CRM, its learnings are no less useful across all industries; whoever, and wherever, your clients are. As it says:

“A firm’s employees and client networks may be spread around the globe, but they need to collectively work toward a common goal…CRM offers an integrated and comprehensive view of each client relationship, from previous and current engagements to project management, market insight, available resources, and billing.”

Every piece of client information – emails, notes from telephone calls, meeting minutes, press releases, newsletters opened, events attended, bids and proposals submitted, contract renewal dates– should be saved into whatever you use as a CRM tool. This is the basis of your “common goal” of developing client relationships and winning more business. It is not enough, however, to merely save the information and do nothing with it. It must become intelligence. My article on WinningTheBusiness.com last year spoke of how bid tools, including CRM, are only valuable when the right resources are invested, and the right information is put into them. For CRM to be effective for your client relationships, you must engage all stakeholders and users and bring them along on the journey. This message is also evident in the white paper’s ‘five best practices for fully leveraging CRM’:

  • Approach CRM as part of a strategic vision
  • Engage and align leadership
  • Focus on people, not just IT
  • Keep it simple
  • Drive impact

Encourage this sharing of knowledge through defined processes for gathering and saving insight to your system – make it simply part of the day job. Look for trends within and across clients, markets and industries, that you can take externally to your client or internally to your business development teams to encourage the as-yet unseen opportunity. The CRM tool should be the first port of call when a tender is released – what do we already know about this client, who do we know there, what have we discussed or shared with them, what feedback did we receive the last time we pitched, what is happening with other clients in their sector? The client ‘life’ should be in your CRM tool. In short, the white paper states:

“CRM builds personalized experiences, which can greatly enhance relationships and drive growth…[CRM] also enables full visibility over client relationships, which leads to informed decision making.”

It was with this full visibility of client relationships in mind that one contributor’s words jumped out of the white paper as the crux of CRM:

“Understanding those relationships is like piecing together a massive box of jumbled-up Lego [pieces] and then building something unexpected and beautiful” (Vicki Boaden, global Salesforce success lead at PwC).

If the right knowledge is being shared and analysed, who knows what new opportunities could be uncovered. And who doesn’t love playing with Lego?

* Other CRM platforms are available!

**Published by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Salesforce (I promise I am not on commission)

Categories
Bid process

Talking to clients part 4: Client engagement

Whether you have won a new client through a competitive procurement or informal approach, or have a 20-year relationship, client engagement throughout the full lifecycle is vital to maintain and build on that relationship with further business wins. As the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says, “Effectively executing on a contract is the best way to position for future business with an account or client organization. Apply account management techniques, such as regular customer contact, product demonstrations and upgrades, social marketing, and participation in relevant industry and trade events. These activities demonstrate an ongoing interest in the customer’s business and success and help position your organization for future opportunities.”

Johnny Rose’s customer engagement philosophy involved well-known social media site Tweeters https://giphy.com/gifs/schittscreek-schittscreek-pop-poptv-comedy-tv-funny-eugenelevy-danlevy-l0IyhuGIkIfxfLL0I

If you are not already carrying out account management activities with your clients, consider what you are missing out on – both in terms of nurturing a strong relationship, but also in your preparations for the next tender with them. As the BOK states “In a tough competitive market, retaining the business you have is just as difficult as winning new business”.

Your account management team could include project managers, account managers, business development managers, and even service delivery managers and front-line staff. They have daily access to your client and can seek out and gather the vital intelligence to not only improve your current performance, but also identify improvements and innovations for the next contract. You could instigate ad hoc ‘water cooler’ conversations with client representatives to discuss any frustrations, or share/discuss knowledge pieces via e-letters and social media, you can invite them to events, and engage right through to formal performance reporting, client review meetings and satisfaction surveys.

Even if you don’t have a formal function, send somebody to talk to the client.

In last year’s blog about bidding as the incumbent, we shared that complacency is the biggest reason for loss. You should put in as much effort on a tender whether you are bidding to a new client or a current client. Alongside your usual account management activities, if you have a formal client engagement function, start them talking to your client for at least six months before a planned retender. Even if you don’t have a formal function, send somebody to talk to the client. The purpose is to give the client someone more independent than their day-to-day contact, so they can be open on issues or ‘wishlist’ items, or simply bring a new way of looking of things from the client’s perspective. Feed all gathered intelligence into your bid planning, content planning and of course the final submission to show that you are listening to your client. And like the advice for interviewing for an internal position, assume the interviewer (or in our case, client) knows nothing about you. Tell them too much, rather than not enough.

Use every opportunity to learn what they think about you, what you do well, and how you can improve.

Last week’s blog talked about learning from a client debrief, win or lose. Again, the same applies for new clients or an established client in this scenario. Where you win a retender, never assume just because you have worked with the client before, you know what they are thinking, that they thought everything was fine in your submission and, it follows, your relationship. Use every opportunity to learn what they think about you, what you do well, and how you can improve.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes; would you award more work to the supplier who is consistently talking to you, investing their time, holding review meetings, sharing knowledge and interesting articles/blogs/press releases, and seeking to make improvements and add value at every stage – or the supplier that does a good job, but who you only hear from at contract renewal time?

Don’t just think won and done; client engagement should be an ongoing process – it is called an engagement ring after all!