Categories
Bid process

When is Best Practice not best practice?

How many of us have, and use, Best Practice collateral, libraries or even standalone roles or departments? Some of the most commonly used Best Practice items are templates and checklists. These are great when you’re gathering or using standard information, but the moment you get into customer/client specifics, it’s a dangerous track to take and can actually lead to more work.

The handover from bid to delivery is a great example of this. While there may be a list of ‘usual’ steps to schedule or action, chances are not every client will need or do things in the same way. A previous firm called it the ‘100 day plan’, and key components included introduce the team, issue team chart, agree communication frequency/method, set up reporting, set up secure extranet etc.

At this level, a template/checklist works well. It can provide an aide memoire to the handover process, and can be shared across the organisation to ensure a new (or returning/refreshed) client is set up as per your protocols and learning.

However, what if we take it down a level. Would you set up a meeting agenda, or reporting template for example? This is where it becomes more of a ‘grey area’.

Take reporting. Most, if not every, client will require slightly different reporting based on their sector, product/service, organisation structure or even just personal preference. They may detail this as a standalone requirement during the bid process, or you may not know until you have that first meeting. It’s impossible to create a one-size-fits-all template in advance that would cater for every client.

Are you making a rod for your own back?

Of course, you could create a basic report template to include in the bid, or – to really wow them – a more detailed version you’ve delivered for another client. However, are you making a rod for your own back? What if the basic template is “fine, but we just need a few tweaks”, and those few tweaks take your IT/MI/Finance teams as long to process as starting from a blank page? What if the client was expecting, and perfectly happy with, a basic report – until they saw the all-singing all-dancing version? And what if you’d worked with the previous client to develop that report, so there is shared IP?

What is more important is that your organisation takes the learning from the bid process into those first telephone calls and kick-off workshops. You can show the client you’ve really listened and understood them, and want to work with them to shape your relationship. Use a checklist as a springboard for the basics, by all means; but listening, learning and collaborating should be the best practice, rather than Best Practice templates for templates sake.

Categories
Bid process

The Great Exec Summary Debate

We ran a poll on LinkedIn this week asking at what point bid professionals write their Executive Summaries. The options were: before the RFP is released, after the RFP is released but prior to the bid kick off, when the bid draft is 90% or fully completed, or at another point (inviting comments). There were 127 votes, and the results made for interesting reading!

The majority (65%) said they write the Exec Summary when the bid draft is almost or fully complete. A combined 24% said it was either before or just after the RFP release – either way, before any “full on” bid work has commenced. For those respondents who said it was at another point (10%), some insightful comments were shared:

  • After bid launch, while the strategy is evolving.
  • Ideally during and after first draft is finished…[it] should be written by the person directly in contact with the customer.
  • Before, then again on receipt of tender and again at 90% / red review…you always discover something throughout the process.
  • Before the first technical review.
  • After the Pink Team review, when I have a full sense of all the challenges of the project.

Although almost two-thirds of respondents said they write the Exec Summary towards the end of the process, best practice is actually to write the Exec Summary before the RFP is released, or as early as possible in the bid planning stage. Does that surprise those of you who leave it until the end?

According to the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) “a draft executive summary should be developed early during the opportunity/capture planning phase. It provides a roadmap for the rest of the opportunity/capture plan.” The BOK suggests the Exec Summary should be drafted by (and owned throughout the process by) the Opportunity Manager*, since they are often closest to the customer – as suggested by one of the responses in our poll. It should be part of the ‘pack’ brought to bid decision gate reviews and the bid kick-off, and used to gain senior internal approval for the bid approach.

If you’re not prepared to write the executive summary early, you probably aren’t ready to bid and should consider a no-bid

APMP Body of Knowledge

The timing does make sense. Even at this early stage, you should already know the main benefits and USPs of your solution versus your competitors; and you should know the customer well enough to understand how your solution provides real benefit to them. Of course, there are always those ‘take a punt’ bids you may not have fully prepared for. There may be slight differences between customers in different sectors or those with truly specific requirements; but even then, you should understand your solution well enough to quickly document the benefits and value, and determine whether the opportunity is worth pursuing. The BOK goes further “If you’re not prepared to write the executive summary early, you probably aren’t ready to bid and should consider a no-bid.”

The Exec Summary should, as set out in the BOK and in some of our received comments, drive your bid response strategy, not simply summarise your offering. It should set out your understanding of the customer’s challenges (their “hot buttons”), and put forward your value proposition, key win themes and discriminators to convince the customer to choose you, showing how you’ll meet their challenges. It should demonstrate the benefits of choosing your solution, not the technical components of the solution itself.

[The Exec Summary] should be a concise, persuasive, compelling start to your bid submission

The Exec Summary should provide a baseline to help your bid team write the response, outlining the key messages and benefits to underpin your solution – ensuring even when different people write different sections, the same messaging is used. That means it should be a concise, persuasive, compelling start to your bid submission – clearly showing the customer evaluator why your solution is the best choice, providing benefits specific to their requirements.

That’s not to say you should write the Exec Summary at the start and forget about it. It should be reviewed when the RFP is issued to take account of any new client requirements, and throughout to ensure the right messages are being conveyed or to take account of any solution changes. As some of our poll respondents commented, you always discover something or learn more about the challenges through the bid process.

If you currently leave the Exec Summary until late in the process, try writing it early and see if the process, and submission, is improved. Or if you even continue to bid.

* In your organisation, the Opportunity Manager might be the Account Manager, Client Relationship Manager, Sales Lead or a BD/Bid Manager.

Categories
Bid content

The Redundant That

Word counts (and/or page counts) can be a nightmare when finalising a submission.

How often is SME content double the length you asked for? Is your red pen out, hyphenating/slashing everything you can, crossing out to achieve the magic number? Then the £64,000 question: does it still make sense? Is it still persuasive? Is your key messaging included? If compliant, you can use diagrams to replace words. Although appealing to visual evaluators, this may not help where you are page, not word-limited…

Not only does The Great Word Cut ensure you meet word count, it is best practice. The APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) publishes a plain language checklist – including “omit excess words”.

Did you know many commonly used words/phrases are superfluous? The most famous day-to-day example is, as Johnny Rose points out above, PIN number.

The BOK fixing redundant pairs tool shows the common culprits and best practice counterparts. My ‘favourite’ (i.e. biggest bugbear) are:

  • In order to / To
  • Due to the fact that / Because
  • For the purpose of / For
  • In a timely manner / On time
  • In many cases / Often
  • End result / Result
  • On a daily/weekly basis / Daily/Weekly

In addition, there are singular big winners – the redundant “that” and “had”. Consider the sentences below:

The team worked on a project that saved £50m / The team worked on a project saving £50m.

The team had worked on a project saving £50m / The team worked on a project saving £50m.

All options mean the same, right? “That” and “had” are the most redundant words used. 

You can support your SMEs to write more concisely. But the golden rule for final review is be ruthless. Delete what doesn’t add value. And delete the redundant that!

Footnote: this blog was drafted using the concise approach – undoubtedly, you’ll spot remaining redundant words!