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
Bid process

Bidding as the incumbent

How do you bid in a re-tender if you’re the incumbent? Do you take it is a given that you’ll retain the contract, as your firm’s been successful with the client? Do you assume the client knows a defined amount about your firm, and focus on anything that is new or you haven’t previously offered them? Or do you treat it as a new bid for a new client, not missing a beat in terms of research, preparation and what you can offer?

According to the APMP’s Body of Knowledge (BOK) “Complacency is the number-one reason incumbent contractors lose”; so your answer should be the third option – but there is still more to it than this. The BOK sets out three phases to winning as the incumbent:

  • Performing to win. Making sure performance is on track, soliciting customer feedback, capturing metrics, and identifying trends
  • Preparing to win. Capturing rebid with the vigour of new business, shaping acquisition and solicitation, and preparing price-to-win and the solution from the ground up
  • Proposing to win. Writing a compelling proposal aligned to evaluation criteria, bidding to the solicitation (not what you know), and not assuming that the evaluator knows your performance history”

The first phase is vital. You should plan for your recompete in plenty of time; after all, you know how long the contract is for, whether any extension discussions have happened, and therefore should be able to anticipate when the client will issue the retender. While you should be gathering client feedback throughout the contract anyway – via client review meetings, informal feedback, reporting/MI, your own performance metrics etc – you should be collating and reviewing this information as a bid team at least three to six months before the retender is due.

Create a feedback loop with those on the front line with the client

You shouldn’t rely on just client feedback however. The second phase, preparing to win, needs the bid team to create a feedback loop with those on the front line with the client – your Account Managers, Project Managers, and Service Delivery Managers to name a few. They are the people who are best-placed to gather intelligence (capture management) on:

  • Were any issues raised by the client that you overcame?
  • Did you demonstrate an improvement in performance during the contract?
  • Did you bring any added value innovations and improvements as a result of the contract?
  • Is anything new or coming down the tracks that is of importance to your client?
  • Are any competitors are talking to them, and how your client views this competition?
  • Are there are likely to be any cost constraints – or indeed larger budgets (we can but dream!) – for the new RFP?

This is all key information you can use to your advantage when recompeting – assisting with the development of your win themes and value propositions, and your price-to-win model.

The third phase is where complacency could really come into play. As the BOK states “The old adage ‘proposals are scored, not read’ might very well apply here.” The danger with being the incumbent is that you assume you’ve carried out the contract well, the client is happy and there’s no reason for them to change supplier – so you don’t need to change things up too much. On the flip side, you could also know too much – and risk bidding for the current contract, not the retendered RFP. 

Do not assume that the procurement evaluators know your business at all, as they may be completely independent to the client service side. As with any bid, you should answer the questions as written – not how you think they should be answered based on your current relationship – and ensuring you can achieve the highest scores against the evaluation criteria. You must be compliant, regardless of how well the client knows you, and how well you’ve performed (or think you’ve performed!) You should also challenge your business. Don’t simply continue how you have been working– what can you do differently this time around? Always ensure you are offering the best solution to the client and their future needs.

Throughout these three phases, one factor is key – leverage what you know, but don’t rely on it or take it for granted. The client won’t.

Categories
Bid content

Using creative case studies and CVs for bids

What proportion of the bids you work on ask for the provision of case studies and/or team CVs? At the ITT/RFP stage, a conservative estimate might be at least 75%. And even if they’re not formally requested, are you missing a trick by not including case studies of your previous work and brief bios of your team in relevant answers?

Both are what the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) Body of Knowledge terms proof points: “Proof points are facts that provide verifiable evidence for your solution’s features and benefits. They support your company’s win themes and discriminators. Without proof points, proposal evaluators may question whether features are proven and benefits are achievable. Proof points make your proposal compelling to a customer.”

Put simply – the bid response showcases what you could do for the client – case studies and CVs prove it.

Keeping a log of the case studies, along with details of the last time you used them is a useful tool

Of course, for case studies, you should always ensure you request and receive your clients’ sign off to use their name and details of the contract in future bids. File them in your content library by sector, and/or using key word ‘tags’ that can be added to the document properties. The general rule of thumb – prompted by public sector bids which similar give this timeline – is that case studies used should be no older than three years, so their regular review is an important task. Keeping a log of the case studies (including whether you need to request permission each time, or you have a blanket ‘ok’ to use), along with details of the last time you used them is also a useful tool; especially if you are using the case study as a formal reference – after all, there could be a risk of annoyance to your client if they are asked for every bid you submit.

CVs for all team members should be filed in your content library with the bid/client and date in the file name. This will help you see at a glance which are the most recent and, more importantly, relevant for each team member as the CV should be tailored for the specific opportunity; particularly important if your organisation works across multiple sectors, common in professional services for example. Again, regularly review to ensure leavers are removed from the library.

But how do you make your case studies and CVs really stand out from the competition, even before the evaluator has read one word?

Do you now use a simple template to include in an Appendix, or a call out box in the main body of text? While the structure may of course be client-prescribed, a more recent – and more creative – approach we’ve seen is to use an infographic style presentation, either as a full case study, or as a lead in for more detailed text / client examples summarised in bullet points underneath.

Many people prefer, or more quickly process, images to words

Take a look at the basic examples for a client case study and team CV for a contact centre bid below. As an evaluator, would these capture your attention more than a full page of text? Do they bring the subject to life, and would they make for a more compelling or appealing response compared to bidders using text only?

Figure 1: Example of a client case study infographic
Figure 2: Example of a team member CV infographic

It’s often said that many people prefer, or more quickly process, images to words, so why not give your proof points the best possible start during the evaluation process? While these examples were produced quickly in Microsoft PowerPoint for the purpose of this blog, there are many free infographic templates available, or you may be lucky enough to have an in-house design team who can produce an all-singing all-dancing page spread.

It can be time-consuming to produce a case study or CV, but once you have built up your library, they can be quickly tailored to resonate with specific bid requirements or to show how you’ve previously, and successfully, handled any client pain points. And, for the right clients/opportunities, used creatively to illustrate your proof points.

The key with these, as with all things bids, is to file with relevance, review and update regularly and use with intent!