Building trust through top class delivery and relationships should be the strongest card you have to play.
But the reality has to live up to the promises.
The role of the Operations team in laying the foundation for rebidding success is much more nuanced than just doing a good job. For convenience I’ll break it down into three aspects:
- Making the reality better than the promise
- Cultivating winning relationships
- Conspicuous added value
A better reality
When a client appoints a new supplier there’s always the question of whether the reality will match what has been promised in the bidding process. The first impressions created in the early weeks or even days can be what sticks in your client’s mind.
Contracts are always won on promises. And when we’re bidding for a new contract we always want to present the most positive image possible of our capabilities and what we are going to deliver.
There is a huge risk that ‘teething troubles’, ‘getting up to speed’ or whatever other euphemisms we want to use for things not being done properly will look even worse when compared to the ideal picture presented during the bidding process.
Once the Operations team has made sure that promises in the bid document are based on a recognisable reality, the priority is to plan how you are going to make the experience better than the promise. This means sorting out responsibilities and details in advance rather than waiting to see whether or not you’re successful.
When rebidding comes around, what do you want your client to be thinking: ‘Yeah, you said all that last time’, or ‘You said all that last time AND you actually delivered’?
It also helps to start compiling a bid file from day one of the new contract. Document every milestone that you hit or beat, keep records of successful delivery, and note where you have added value to the contract. This data will be invaluable when you need supporting evidence for rebidding.
In my view there’s a world of difference between a good working relationship and a winning relationship. A good working relationship is no more than what you would expect to develop if you do a competent job. If the ‘working relationship’ is your focus you are missing out on one of the biggest potential advantages that every incumbent supplier has.
A winning relationship has a deeper level of trust, confidence and openness. Key operational staff will be best placed to develop these relationships because of the day-to-day contact they have with the client. Also, the fact that you are not trying to sell to them should be an advantage.
There needs to be an understanding that relationship building is an essential part of the ’Operations’ job.
A winning relationship will help you with successful rebidding in the following ways:
- Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your original bid: which areas do you need to improve?
- Developing a more detailed appreciation of your client’s goals. This includes the personal goals and interests of decision makers.
- Developing KPIs that relate directly to important strategic goals.
- Identifying how you can add value over and above the contract deliverables.
- Understanding how your potential competitors are perceived.
Confidence and trust in the Operations team is often the biggest factor in successful rebidding and should be a major benefit for the incumbent. Make sure you make the most of it.
Winning relationships also extend beyond the people with immediate responsibility for your project. Aim to use your position to cultivate relationships with influencers at all levels and in different departments. With local authority contracts this would include elected members, portfolio holders and other stakeholders.
Conspicuous added value
Delivering over and above what was required is obviously something that clients appreciate. But sometimes it needs to be highlighted. Without shouting it from the rooftops, you could consider adding an ‘Additional Benefits’ section to your project reports. No point adding value if nobody knows you are doing it.
Positively looking for opportunities to add value is also crucial:
- Tell your client about ideas from work you are doing with other clients and see whether they could be applied to their business.
- Take the widest possible view of your client’s business – particularly those areas that relate to the projects you are working on. Could you work in a slightly different way to save costs or improve outputs in other areas?
- Help your client identify creative ways that they can achieve their strategic goals. Aim to become a valued partner rather than just another supplier.
- Use your expertise and detailed knowledge of the project to prioritise ideas so they represent the lowest cost / highest return options.
- Adopt a shared approach to quality metrics. Refine your approach so that KPIs measure what really matters to your client. This will also help you demonstrate where you are delivering value above and beyond the project deliverables.
Above all, when you are delivering a contract that you know is subject to periodic rebidding, make sure you recognise that the Operations team is an integral part of the rebidding team.
And plan for a rebidding process that starts from day one of the contract delivery.
The Bid Coach
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