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!

Bid process

Talking to clients part 3: Debriefs

How often do you request* a debrief with the client after the procurement process has concluded? Rarely or never? Always, but on losses only? Or do you request a debrief every time, whether you have won or lost the contract?

If your answer isn’t the last option, you could well be missing out on important feedback on your tender, your team, your pricing and your approach in general. Without understanding why you won or lost an opportunity, how will your submissions improve? It really is that old adage of the definition of madness being doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Client debriefs are a real opportunity (whether on the telephone, video conference, or even emailing tailored questions) to understand what you did well or where you need to improve. Many bidders only request a debrief on losses, but they are equally important where you have won; you cannot and should not assume the client liked everything about your submission.

So the client has agreed to your request, now what should you be asking? Clearly there will be specifics from your submission, but some ideas are:

  • What were you were looking for from the procurement process? Did it achieve what you wanted?
  • What was your perception of us prior to the procurement? Did this change during the process?
  • How did our submission measure up generally against the other submissions?
  • What did we do well? What could we have improved on?
  • Was there anything in other bidders’ submissions that you particularly liked?
  • Do you feel we demonstrated our experience in your sector/market clearly and effectively?
  • Do you feel that we [have] proposed the right core team for you?
  • How important was pricing in your final decision? How did our pricing compare to other bidders?
  • How did we do in the presentation stage? Do you feel we brought the right team to speak with you? Do you have any comments on any member of the team?
  • How did you make the decision? What was the process? Who was involved?
  • What did other bidders offer in terms of added value services, or meeting your unwritten needs?
  • [If a win] Do you have any concerns about our ability to implement, or our relationship with you going forward?
  • [If a loss] Are you happy for us to stay in contact with you in relation to relevant mailings and event invites?

But don’t let the debrief process end there. File and save the debrief notes, and start coding the responses (e.g. strong team, evidenced qualifications, good use of technology, poor recruitment processes, lack of innovation), chart them, track the themes and share across your organisation with the relevant people. This can provide vital information to your organisation on where you need to focus future strategy and investment, and what you need to focus on as you onboard if you were successful, or tackle for the next go around.

How can you move on and develop a stronger relationship if you don’t know what to address?

All feedback, positive or negative, will help shape not only your next submission (and hopefully improve your success rates!) but also the future of your organisation, and your relationship with the client – whether you won or lost on this occasion. How can you move on and develop a stronger relationship if you don’t know what to address? Learn lessons, improve and share knowledge.

*For the purpose of this blog, we’re talking about the bidder requesting a debrief, not whether the client then agrees to provide one, and not the generic feedback letter you receive upon contract award.