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Bid process

Talking to clients part 1: Scoping calls

When you receive an RFP, and are deciding whether to pursue it (or indeed, deciding whether to continue your pursuit, as you should already have a fairly good idea by this point unless it’s a cold bid), how often do you undertake a scoping call with the client?

Many firms assume once an opportunity is issued, the client is off-limits – however this is not always the case. Some clients offer scoping calls as part of the procurement (group and individual), and even if they don’t expressly mention in the RFP documents, you can ask. Worse case, the client says no. Best case, you learn key intelligence and insight that may not have been included in the papers.

So you have the scoping call agreed and diarised – but who should attend, and what should you ask?

The scoping call should involve those who will be heavily involved in the bid production and sign off

Unless the client restricts attendees to one person, you should aim for your bid manager and bid lead (e.g. sponsor, whoever will sign off the submission) to attend as a minimum. You may also find it useful to invite key subject matter expert(s) if the opportunity is technical in nature. At the basic level – the scoping call should involve those who will be heavily involved in the bid production and sign off, so that they fully understand what the client wants, and so can ensure your submission is persuasive and is written to win.

Once your attendees are decided, you should gather scoping questions from the bid team – not just the attendees. It should go without saying that you should not ask anything that is already set out in the documentation, unless it is unclear. Scoping calls are the chance to discuss the client’s unwritten needs or issues, and can give you those golden nuggets of intelligence that other bidders may not have. They can help frame your bid themes and value propositions, and your questions could cross the client’s business/sector, culture and requirements, their position on fees, and the performance of their current providers (if applicable). Of course, there is no guarantee that a client will answer everything you ask, but examples of key questions include:

  • Are any changes planned for your business? What impact will they have?
  • What plans do you have to increase your competitive position?
  • What do you feel are the current issues facing your business?
  • How does this project/service fit into your overall business plans?
  • What, in your opinion, does added value look like? 
  • Who are your current service providers? Why did you choose them? What do they do well, or what would you like to see them do differently?
  • How important are the project/service costs/fees for you? Is there anything that has caused you a problem with fees or billing in the past?
  • What would we need to do to convince you that we are right for you?

Scoping calls can provide an opportunity for you to ‘get into the weeds’ of a tender and the client’s unspoken needs, potentially giving you competitive advantage – all within the procurement rules. As long as you plan properly ahead of time to make the most of the opportunity, what have you got to lose?

The second part of our ‘Talking to clients’ series next week will address presentations within the procurement process. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just about PowerPoint!

Categories
Bid process

The Psychology of Bids, Part Two

In part one of our blog last week, we examined how Belbin’s team roles model can help us look inwardly at our bid team. If Belbin provides an internal view, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help us look externally to the client to help us really understand what is important to them and how we pitch our response.

Carl Dickson of PropLibrary has previously translated Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to making better decisions in the bid process; but we’re looking here specifically from the perspective of the client’s requirements and how we meet them.

An External View: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (www.blogtrw.com)

In Maslow’s model, the needs at the lower end of the hierarchy must be satisfied before progressing to those higher up. The first four layers, grouped as basic and psychological needs, are classed as ‘deficiency’ or ‘d’ needs. The top level, self-actualisation / self-fulfilment needs, are ‘growth’ or ‘b’ needs. In basic, Psychology 101 terms, deficiency needs motivate us when they’re unmet, while growth needs come from a desire to grow, rather than being something you are actually missing.

In bid world, basic needs are those basic client requirements they must have you fulfil e.g., you hold x accreditation, can provide/already have a building to house the contact centre, or can demonstrate your commitment to health and safety. All the ‘things’ your client has to have to function.

The client is looking for how you’ll bring value to the relationship, and make a difference to its people

Psychological needs encompass how the client needs you to involve their staff and/or customers, to give them something they need. For example, your software will provide an online portal for customers to easily make contact and manage their account, you will demonstrate a commitment to training staff (particularly in customer service skills, which will again deliver a secondary benefit), or you’ll establish a reward and recognition structure. At these levels, the client is looking for how you’ll bring value to the relationship, and make a difference to its people (again, staff and customers).

For some bidding organisations, this may be where they stop on their journey up the pyramid. But what about what the client hasn’t verbalised/documented? What about those benefits you know your solution will provide to them and which no-one else can deliver?

Figure 2: How do you convey what you know the client needs when they haven’t said they need it?https://giphy.com/gifs/Friends-season-5-episode-111-the-one-where-everybody-finds-out-Vh3UM5CfE64AZgmJ6N

These are the growth needs, perhaps unwritten and unthought of, but which will deliver real value and prove to the evaluator why your solution is the only choice. Identify how your solution benefits the client at the start of the bid process, devise themes and messaging which can be played back to the client throughout your response.

Give them something different to think about. Something only you can deliver and which may be the difference between a shortlist and a win. Use psychology!

Categories
Bid process

When is Best Practice not best practice?

How many of us have, and use, Best Practice collateral, libraries or even standalone roles or departments? Some of the most commonly used Best Practice items are templates and checklists. These are great when you’re gathering or using standard information, but the moment you get into customer/client specifics, it’s a dangerous track to take and can actually lead to more work.

The handover from bid to delivery is a great example of this. While there may be a list of ‘usual’ steps to schedule or action, chances are not every client will need or do things in the same way. A previous firm called it the ‘100 day plan’, and key components included introduce the team, issue team chart, agree communication frequency/method, set up reporting, set up secure extranet etc.

At this level, a template/checklist works well. It can provide an aide memoire to the handover process, and can be shared across the organisation to ensure a new (or returning/refreshed) client is set up as per your protocols and learning.

However, what if we take it down a level. Would you set up a meeting agenda, or reporting template for example? This is where it becomes more of a ‘grey area’.

Take reporting. Most, if not every, client will require slightly different reporting based on their sector, product/service, organisation structure or even just personal preference. They may detail this as a standalone requirement during the bid process, or you may not know until you have that first meeting. It’s impossible to create a one-size-fits-all template in advance that would cater for every client.

Are you making a rod for your own back?

Of course, you could create a basic report template to include in the bid, or – to really wow them – a more detailed version you’ve delivered for another client. However, are you making a rod for your own back? What if the basic template is “fine, but we just need a few tweaks”, and those few tweaks take your IT/MI/Finance teams as long to process as starting from a blank page? What if the client was expecting, and perfectly happy with, a basic report – until they saw the all-singing all-dancing version? And what if you’d worked with the previous client to develop that report, so there is shared IP?

What is more important is that your organisation takes the learning from the bid process into those first telephone calls and kick-off workshops. You can show the client you’ve really listened and understood them, and want to work with them to shape your relationship. Use a checklist as a springboard for the basics, by all means; but listening, learning and collaborating should be the best practice, rather than Best Practice templates for templates sake.