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!

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.