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?
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.