Most businesses need to gain new contracts to grow and this typically means that they have to respond to a formal RFP (Request for Proposal). I am not talking about a quotation here where a price and delivery is given for a stock or standardised item, I am talking about a bespoke complex delivery often to a new customer.
An RFP is delivered
In many instances the RFP comes into the commercial department and the first decision is “do we bid?” most businesses have a formalised gate for this taking in factors such as:
- The strategic importance to the business (does it fit)?
- The ability of the business to delivery the project, experience and adequate resources (can we do it?)
- The ability of the business to make a profit after all risks are considered and managed (can we profit from it?)
- The ability of the new project to adversely affect the business if it runs into problems (whats the reputational exposure?)
Let us assume that the bid/no bid decision is made and that the business gives authority to bid. GREAT NEWS.
Typically the scenario that follows is:
- By now some time has been lost and the submission deadline has moved closer
- The right resources can’t be freed up because they are working on existing BAU (business as usual) work which of course cannot be put at risk.
- The most appropriate person to manage the bid has other commitments, on holiday, off sick, doing something considered more important
- The 2nd or 3rd choice for bid manager is allocated, by the way they know they were not 1st choice
- The Bid Manager is not given full authority to make things happen (at least not initially)
- The Bid Manager struggles to pull a team together and to get contributions
- The Bid Team work long hours and weekends and really pull a rabbit out of the hat.
- The Management Team hold a review to make sure that the content is correct commercially and isn’t putting the company at risk
- Review comments are incorporated, the proposal goes to print then packing and is then delivered to the client.
- Everyone involved is congratulated on all their hard work, panic over everyone has a metaphorical cigarette
- Then everyone waits because the decision is now out of their hands, its now just a probability of winning P(Win)
Should something so fundamentally important as the acquisition of new business be handled in this way?
What can we do to maximise P(Win)?
Here are 10 key things that will make a difference.
- Maximise the time, make the bid/no bid decision promptly by having clean efficient processes to make this decision
- Since winning business is core business it is as important to have a team of Bid Managers as it is Project Managers for delivery
- Preparing a bid should be done with the customer in mind, if he has prescribed templates and guidance read it and use it
- Think about you competitors, how will they respond, take the time to ghost their responses
- Think about what differentiates your bid, even if the format is very prescriptive it will not be down to price alone
- Leverage collateral from previous bids, build up a library and maintain it.
- Make your diagrams count, don’t include things that require knowledge outside your bid to understand and make them readable.
- Get your win themes consistent and make sure these can be picked up in all sections because your bid will be evaluated by separate teams for each area
- Concentrate on presentation, even if the format is prescribed for ease of evaluation, make your bid compelling with a subliminal message of “trust us we will deliver”
- Consider getting an external company of bid professionals in to help, after all if your bid investment can be made more likely to win by getting external help why wouldn’t you do it?
“If a things worth doing its worth doing well!”
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