After the tender
Regardless of whether you win or lose in the tender process, you can request a debrief from the buyer, even if you weren’t invited to do so.
The aim of the debrief is to learn, from the buyer’s viewpoint, where your solution can be improved and in doing so, provide greater clarity of your capabilities, credibility and value-add components so you can win more business through the tendering process.
The first area of discussion in a debrief might be the evaluation criteria and the weighting applied to each sector. You will identify sections where you may not have provided sufficient focus that was critical to the buyer.
It’s acceptable to ask who won and why they won. You can then compare your operation with the successful supplier and identify some of the differentiators.
Break down the details of the document and ask the supplier to identify key strengths and weaknesses evident in your proposal. Ask questions about how they assessed such things as your account management program, delivery schedule, implementation plan, pricing and industry experience. Their feedback will help in refining and improving your next tender.
Ask the buyer how they perceive your organisation overall and if they see any areas for improvement, particularly regarding your ability to service their future needs. Use this as a chance for promotion and relationship development.
Existing contract coming up for renewal
Prepare well in advance for when a contract comes up for renewal. Your buyer may be compelled to go through an RFx process, particularly in public sector organisations. In that case, try to work with them on how you can be best positioned to regain it. Try to get involved (or at least be consulted) on the RFP evaluation criteria and weightings. You will need to do this before the RFP is issued.
Existing contract – roll-over
If a contract doesn’t need to go RFx but can be rolled over, get proactive three to six months before the existing contract finishes. Find out:
- What are the learnings from the existing contract?
- How could the future change beyond the existing one?
- What are the priority improvements in scope and performance?
Keep your thinking and proposition fresh and new; don’t just present the same old thing. Be innovative and think laterally. If price is important, try to offer added-value services and broader scope. Really try to make it evident that you value them and will continue the excellent service already provided – and even do it better.
Leveraging your contract
You have an extremely valuable business-development asset: your current buyer base. Someone volunteering good news and favourable comment about your business is one of the strongest advertising mediums available – word of mouth. People have opinions, and a positive reference from an existing buyer is indisputable. New buyers always look for experience and a history of success, and your existing contracts and buyers are the strongest way to prove it.
To make the most of your current buyers, document your relevant experience and track record via Case Studies. These are a great way to demonstrate your capability and quality of performance and to help remind the buyer of the key things you do for them.
Pick three or four contracts you hold or have completed in recent times. Identify:
- The buyer
- Key buyer contact
- The scope of the contract
- What their issues were
- Why the buyer chose you for the contract
- What were the key milestones or deliverables/KPIs
- How did you deliver against those KPIs
- What were the challenges and how did you overcome them
- Any continuous improvement and innovation you have put in place to date
- Any added value you’ve brought to the buyer’s business.
You can use your case studies to enter annual industry awards and build relationships with new buyers.
References and Quotes
As you deliver your contracts, try to get quotes from senior buyer management. Good quotes in your tenders and other promotional material will help you significantly. A statement from a satisfied (named) customer has a lot of persuasive power.
While upper management may be willing to provide a reference, they may not know the detail of your services, so it doesn’t hurt to provide a summary to assist them in producing a reference or quote
Whether you won or lost the tender, the contract will be advertised at some stage.
We live in a dynamic world and it is important to keep moving forward. Keep striving to understand your buyers and their needs. Keep on top of your competition and continue to improve and refine your business offering.
Continue to build your visibility. Make sure you are on your buyer’s radar and keep actively searching for opportunities. Continue to focus on improving your tendering and presentation skills.
- Work collaboratively with your buyer on future direction and strategy within the contract. A useful approach is a six-monthly meeting that looks at the future as opposed to day-to-day operations. Consider what areas are in need of improvement and set some goals. Measure progress towards those goals.
- If variations to the contract occur, make them visible and discuss how to handle them. Try to turn them into opportunities, rather than problems. Sometimes you can charge an additional fee for these variations.
- Surveying your contacts at the buyer company can be useful to get a measure on the ‘health’ of the relationship.
The survey questions could include:
- Does your buyer like doing business with you?
- What is their biggest concern?
- How do they find the attitude of your people?
- Do they believe they are getting value from the contract?
- What else could you be doing to perform even better?
Repeat this same survey at regular intervals. Chart your improvement and identify areas that need attention. This material can be useful when you re-bid. Plus, the earlier a problem comes to light, the quicker it can be fixed. And, if the buyer fails to tell you about a problem when you’ve asked, they will find it harder to criticise you later.
- Remember: ‘eyes wide open’ at all times. Guard against complacency. Even if you think everything is going well, in most cases you can find something you could do better; make a point of finding out what it is.
You may decide you want seek professional help in growing your business. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise provides valuable support to businesses.