There is a growing realisation among procurement teams that large and complex projects depend on collaborative working. No single contractor is likely to have all of the skills, knowledge, experience or capacity to deliver the entire project. Collaboration between contractors and throughout supply chains is essential if you want the best outcomes in terms of value, quality and reduced lifecycle costs.
Recognising the value of collaboration, many key clients including Highways England and Network Rail are pioneering new approaches through frameworks and alliances. These offer contractors and supply chain partners a longer-term line of sight on future work in return for acting collaboratively in the best interests of the project and the client.
Collaborative working is seen as a vital enabling mechanism for the greater adoption of BIM and digital sharing of asset and project data. It also helps promote innovation through greater sharing of knowledge and ideas.
What Do Clients Expect?
I can’t think of any contractor that wouldn’t grab the opportunity of having greater security over future projects and revenue. The financial stability this brings makes it easier to plan strategic investments in recruitment, training and new technology. It also keeps shareholders happy.
In return for this security clients are looking for more than words, mission statements and promises. They want to see evidence of how you interact with other organisations and your supply chain. They want to see the collaborative behaviours in action, to know that the results are measurable and that you are striving continually to improve these even further.
Behavioural assessment is becoming a highly significant feature of the tendering process. It’s increasingly common and rigorous, and collaborative behaviour is one of the most important aspects that gets put under the microscope.
This isn’t an environment where you can fake it or ’wing it’ on the day. It might mean you have to take a cold hard look at how your organisation collaborates with partners and the freedom you give to people to share information and expertise. This in turn might mean that you have to fundamentally ‘shift’ the culture and how things get done within your organisation so that you can demonstrate that you truly behave collaboratively.
It certainly means you need to prepare. Having experience of typical questions and exercises, and a better understanding of how these are designed to expose positive and negative behaviours, will help your team respond appropriately. Impartial and informed feedback in a less pressurised or high-stakes environment is also valuable.
Preparing for behavioural assessments takes time and commitment, but if the prize on offer is greater confidence over future work it’s surely well worth putting in the effort.
When the next big RFQ arrives, how easy will your operation find it to respond? If you find it easy there could be two explanations: it could be that your level of competence has developed to the point where responding to tenders seems instinctive; or it could be that you don’t appreciate how much you don’t yet know and what you need to learn.
Your answer will depend on the capabilities your organisation has developed across each of the main elements of the tender process.
There are four stages to acquiring competence:
Understanding where your organisation sits on this four stage model for each element of the process is the first step to long-term improvement. In the short to mid term this understanding will help you identify the external support that will have the biggest impact on your chances of success.
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. You start out without much understanding of what you need to do. You can be shown or told about the importance of balance, how to steer and the link between speed and stability. But you can’t master it without trying to do it.
You might have stabiliser wheels or somebody holding the saddle while you gradually acquire the skills. Different people will acquire the skills at different rates and might need different approaches to build their confidence. Eventually, you can ride a bike without thinking too much about what you are doing.
You can make a similar analogy with driving. With experienced drivers much of what happens in the car is subconscious. You don’t think about how to change gear or even the precise mechanics of how to steer or change lane safely.
So it is with writing contract-winning bids, delivering exemplary presentations and excelling at behavioural workshops. All the theory in the world is of nothing until everybody gets it for themselves and moves from unconscious incompetence towards unconscious capability.
The journey calls for perseverance and resilience. Your guides must understand the theory of what you're striving to achieve but also be able to provide you with techniques and tools to help you ‘get it’ for yourself.
This is the approach that the Bid Coach team uses, whether that’s for bid writing, presentations skills, competitive dialogue or behavioural analysis. We help your team understand their capabilities and development needs. We then break the learning stages into practical chunks with a gradual building and reinforcement of skills and confidence. Eventually, we aim to make you experts, with the unconscious competence needed to instinctively do the right thing.
I’m sure we all know somebody who plays sport for fun and tries to improve their game with free online coaching resources. Every possible bit of advice you could ever need to improve your game can be found on YouTube.
So with all this free and knowledgeable advice, how come golfers everywhere are still slicing, pulling and shanking shots? Why are tennis players across the globe serving long and mishitting volleys into the net?
Talent, of course, is a factor. So is looking for shortcuts to performance improvement. A friend of mine watches golfing tips on YouTube after every bad round (believe me, that’s a lot of videos watched). “I think I’m probably getting too steep on my downswing,” or some such nugget is identified as the cause. Next round, no difference.
The problem with all this free online coaching is that it isn’t really coaching at all (and this is where it becomes relevant to the work we do to help companies win more bids).
What’s presented is a generalised view. Most golfers with a bad slice tend to do this… See how Federer hits a forehand passing shot...
Good coaches look at what you’re actually doing. They normally identify small changes to your natural style that will have the maximum impact on performance. They give you drills that you can practice to ingrain those changes. As a result you get real, measurable performance improvements.
And that’s pretty much how the Bid Coach team works.
With presentations we don’t aim to turn you into everyone’s idea of a charismatic presence. We look at your natural communication style and identify practical ways to make it more persuasive, while still being ‘you.’
With tender submissions we don’t aim to impose model answers to questions. What you submit has to be authentic and representative of your organisation. We’ll look at your draft response and suggest improvements: maybe use more active language, rearrange it slightly to cover the customer’s main issues first, add a couple of bits of key information so the customer can see that you really understand their objectives.
With competitive dialogue and behavioural assessments we provide an environment where we can observe how you handle the challenging situations these processes throw up. We then give targeted advice so you can focus on changes that will have a significant impact on performance.
We know that this approach works by analysing bid feedback from procurement teams. In the areas where we’ve worked with bidders they consistently outscore other areas of the bid and the competition.
It works because we follow the fundamental rules of good coaching: building on the strengths you already have and adding specific skills and techniques so you can see and experience the improvement. This gives you positive feedback and the confidence you need to go on improving.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.