Categories
Bid process

The power of CRM

Building on our ‘Talking to Clients’ series over the past four weeks, my focus is now turning to how you store, analyse and use the client intelligence and insight you gather to support your business development and bidding opportunities. 

Imagine your most important client has predominantly worked with one account manager in your organisation since they joined. They’ve shared hundreds of telephone and email conversations, account management meetings and even partaken of the odd rugby match spectating together. Then the account manager leaves your organisation. If you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, all that client knowledge leaves with them. 

David Rose, with a lot of information to process https://media4.giphy.com/media/RfkkfkWXq8laiWatVI/giphy.gif?cid=4d1e4f298gojaik3cn39fvg1cu0iipa3hzfjrvrya95g7mjm&rid=giphy.gif

I’ve been a big believer in the power of using CRM to manage client knowledge for many years and was lucky enough to implement Salesforce as our weapon of choice at a previous employer. But CRM can come in many different shapes and sizes to suit your size, needs – and of course your budget; from Salesforce or Zendesk, to budget or free systems such as Hubspot or Insightly*, or even as simple as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or shared folder on your network or in Microsoft Teams. What matters most is not the system you use, but what you record and how you use it to develop the client relationship. Anyone in your organisation should be able to pick up the reins in working with a client – or when it comes to bids and proposals time – and should be able to access the same intelligence and insight as anyone else. 

Recently, a white paper** on this subject was shared with me by a colleague. While the focus is on how consulting firms should use CRM, its learnings are no less useful across all industries; whoever, and wherever, your clients are. As it says:

“A firm’s employees and client networks may be spread around the globe, but they need to collectively work toward a common goal…CRM offers an integrated and comprehensive view of each client relationship, from previous and current engagements to project management, market insight, available resources, and billing.”

Every piece of client information – emails, notes from telephone calls, meeting minutes, press releases, newsletters opened, events attended, bids and proposals submitted, contract renewal dates– should be saved into whatever you use as a CRM tool. This is the basis of your “common goal” of developing client relationships and winning more business. It is not enough, however, to merely save the information and do nothing with it. It must become intelligence. My article on WinningTheBusiness.com last year spoke of how bid tools, including CRM, are only valuable when the right resources are invested, and the right information is put into them. For CRM to be effective for your client relationships, you must engage all stakeholders and users and bring them along on the journey. This message is also evident in the white paper’s ‘five best practices for fully leveraging CRM’:

  • Approach CRM as part of a strategic vision
  • Engage and align leadership
  • Focus on people, not just IT
  • Keep it simple
  • Drive impact

Encourage this sharing of knowledge through defined processes for gathering and saving insight to your system – make it simply part of the day job. Look for trends within and across clients, markets and industries, that you can take externally to your client or internally to your business development teams to encourage the as-yet unseen opportunity. The CRM tool should be the first port of call when a tender is released – what do we already know about this client, who do we know there, what have we discussed or shared with them, what feedback did we receive the last time we pitched, what is happening with other clients in their sector? The client ‘life’ should be in your CRM tool. In short, the white paper states:

“CRM builds personalized experiences, which can greatly enhance relationships and drive growth…[CRM] also enables full visibility over client relationships, which leads to informed decision making.”

It was with this full visibility of client relationships in mind that one contributor’s words jumped out of the white paper as the crux of CRM:

“Understanding those relationships is like piecing together a massive box of jumbled-up Lego [pieces] and then building something unexpected and beautiful” (Vicki Boaden, global Salesforce success lead at PwC).

If the right knowledge is being shared and analysed, who knows what new opportunities could be uncovered. And who doesn’t love playing with Lego?

* Other CRM platforms are available!

**Published by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Salesforce (I promise I am not on commission)

Categories
Personal development

Onboarding in the Bid Industry

The volume of positions advertised at present, coupled with the number of people seeking or saying they are starting a new position, got me thinking about how important on boarding is in bid world, where we’re expected to have all-round oversight and knowledge. Bid writers and bid managers need a solid grounding in what they will be trying to ‘sell’ to clients, and how they get stakeholder engagement to support that in a new organisation.

This is not intended as gospel for every new starter or organisation, but in my experience, the most important facets of onboarding for bid professionals are:

  • Understanding the firm’s bid process/framework
  • Gaining knowledge about the firm’s products and services
  • Knowing the right people to go to

Understanding the firm’s bid process/framework

Whether they will be working within or managing the organisation’s bid framework, understanding that process is vital. Some of the core questions to understand include: What is the qualification criteria? Who is involved in the decision gates, kick off meetings, review and sign off? Where are case studies, CVs and previous content stored? How is the content library (if one exists!) structured? Who is responsible for commercial models and contract reviews? How do we track upcoming and in-progress opportunities? What reporting do we produce?

At a more granular level, if there is a team of bid writers and/or bid managers (perhaps also with bid co-ordinators/assistants at larger organisations): How is work assigned (e.g. by sector, product, seniority, capacity)? Who is responsible for which aspects of the process and the bid itself? Is there a peer review process in place?

Gaining knowledge about the firm’s products and services

It’s my belief that a bid writer/manager shouldn’t need to rely 100% on their operational and technical teams for subject matter expertise. With a grounding of understanding in the products and services your company offers, you should be able to draft anywhere from 50% to 75% (conservative guess!) of the more specific/technical sections of a bid, and then go to the experts to fill the gaps or double check against the client requirements. After all, writing for bids is not their day job.

This initial knowledge gathering can take many forms, from reading up on the company website and/or brochures, to listening in on sales/customer service calls or even going out on the road with field representatives, or even sitting in on other staff training sessions. If technology if part of your organisation’s offering, new starter bid professionals could also be provided with access to test systems – further helping their understanding of how a system works in practice, and allowing for walk-throughs when the client requirements come in.

Of course, at present onboarding may be remote – but that’s not to say the new starter shouldn’t have much the same experience as though they are there in person. Video conferences and calls can easily take the place of meetings, online courses to support the new systems rather than face-to-face training, and VOIP/video would allow people to listen in to calls or be virtually ‘on the road’ if that’s required as part of the process.

Knowing the right people to go to

When working on a bid, it is vital you know who to ask about various aspects of the bid response or to get those nuggets of gold to add – especially when you’re up against tight deadlines. While some of this will come naturally from initial knowledge sharing sessions, you may also have a distinct session on who is involved / for what expertise, or just hear about people in passing.

Collating a subject matter expert matrix can be useful when it comes back to remembering who you spoke to about what – their role, areas of expertise, email and telephone numbers (as well as any site or working hours information).

The role of the bid team is not only to win new business, but also to make the lives of the operational teams easier – so it is in their long-term benefit to support onboarding. Above all, if in doubt, ask!