In any competitive situation, whether it’s sport or business it’s impossible to succeed without these 3 factors: having the most effective team, playing to the rulebook and sticking to your agreed tactical approach. And this is never truer than when Competitive Dialogue is used in the bidding process.
Competitive Dialogue is a legally defined process used in complex tenders, particularly where some technical aspects of the project cannot be fully defined without the expert input of the potential bidders. Because the process falls within the EU Public Procurement Regulations the rules are very strict and have to be applied consistently and fairly. If you don’t understand them or try to work around them, you’ll find the commercial equivalent of Jonny Wilkinson ready to slot another 3 penalty points between your posts – every time. Arguing with the ref is also pointless; clients don’t make the rules - they just have to apply them, fairly and consistently.
If you receive an invitation to participate in dialogue (ITPD) you will be told what the process is and what the contracting authority is looking to establish at each stage. Make sure that you fully understand these ‘rules’ and that you have planned how you will work within them to present and emphasize your most persuasive arguments and your competitive advantages. There is no opportunity to do this outside of the process. So if you haven’t planned how you can get your message across within the rules, you simply won’t have another chance.
Pick the Right Team
When it comes to selecting the team to be involved in Competitive Dialogue remember this: a collection of star players doesn’t usually make an effective team. And individuals with a big ego who like to show off often prevent the rest of the team from making an effective contribution.
The client’s team will come from many business functions and may have different members at different stages. Each will have their own area of interest and each will have critical points where they need to have confidence in your solution. A range of personalities and a range of interests will be involved in the decision and a diverse bid team will have the best chance of establishing the all-important rapport with the full range individuals in the client team.
And never forget that dialogue means a two way conversation. Active listening skills are vital and you need to allow the client every opportunity to tell you what you need to know.
Get Your Tactics Right
A sound tactical approach means that everyone in the team has a clearly defined role and knows what is expected of them. Collectively you must plan how you will work together to answer all of the client’s questions and reinforce the unique value of your solution. Coming out of a meeting and saying “I thought you were going to cover that” is a sure sign that you’re on the road to disappointment. All team members must understand their role and have an opportunity to make a contribution.
Here’s where coaching can really pay off. Some of the people who need to be involved may not be used to presenting or participating in such formal discussions; much better if they can practise and hone their skills in front of a friendly crowd before entering the arena. Try out different scenarios and try to have somebody impartial around who can give you an honest appraisal of how persuasive your arguments are and how convincing people are being when they make their input.
Keep the Full Squad Engaged
At different stages you might have different people in the team. And some of the team will be working in the background rather than attending the dialogue meetings. The importance of giving the support team as much feedback as possible can’t be overstressed. Keep detailed notes from meetings and be meticulous about recording agreed actions. Once Competitive Dialogue starts the pace can be frantic so without exemplary record keeping and communication things are likely to get missed.
The Game Stops When the Whistle Goes
Competitive Dialogue meetings will have a defined focus and a fixed timespan. Planning and focus are critical. Spend time waffling on about things that are not important for that stage of the process and there’s every chance that you’ll end up at the end of the meeting with a list of important things you didn’t get time to say. Too bad – there’s no ‘Fergie Time’ in Competitive Dialogue.
A typical example would be wasting time talking about costs and prices at the Outline Solution stage. At this point the client is only interested in establishing your technical competence and your understanding of their needs. Be clear that this is the point of this stage of the process and focus on satisfying these points. Anything else will be disregarded, even if it is relevant to a later stage of the process.
Competitive Dialogue is here to stay. And awarding authorities are becoming stricter about how they apply the process. Knowing how to play the game to win will be essential for businesses who want to win complex public sector contracts.
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach.
Winning business through bids and tenders is more competitive than ever. Coaching will give your team the edge and win you more business.
Contact: Hugh@thebidcoach.co.uk visit our websitewww.thebidcoach.co.uk or call (01963) 240555
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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.