Let’s Have a Crack at This One…

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CLIENT: “Hi Pippa, here are the documents to a really interesting opportunity we would like to have a go at.”

PIPPA: “That does look like a good opportunity. What do you know about the client? Who else is going for it?”

CLIENT: “We haven’t worked for them before*. Didn’t realise the tender was coming out to be honest. Not sure who else is going for it.”

PIPPA: “Um, OK. When is it due in?”

CLIENT: “Week Friday”


True story.

And happens more often than I would like.

(*rolls eyes*)

Anyway, no point in getting annoyed. We need to assess the situation. If they really want it and think they can deliver it, what should we do to ensure a winning response to the submission requirements?

In an ideal scenario, I would be handed a customer-focussed Capture Plan including Competitor Analysis, Customer Hot Buttons, Win Strategy and so on. I would be engaged well before the tender documents were released, to prepare solutions and gather evidence. We would be ready to run with it when the opportunity landed.**

However, the most usual situation is that my clients (before I spend time working with them, obviously!) will not have done the capture planning they should have been doing, so I need to play catch up. PDQ.

Firstly, I take a deep breath, regroup and remind myself what it is I need to know. I then carry out retrospective activities, exert patience and ensure my clients learn lessons for next time.

Getting capture done quickly usually requires the right people to be in the room (or on the call). If you can get the MD in on those discussions, you get brownie points. The first question I ask them to think about is “Why do you want to win this?” I then walk them through an extremely shortened version of the capture process, resulting in a bid/no bid decision:

The Opportunity

  • What is the opportunity?
  • What does the customer want?
  • Do you have an existing relationship with the customer? If not, why not?
  • What evidence do you have of delivering similar contracts?
  • What does the bidding process entail?

Your Company

  • Do you have the resource to bid for the opportunity?
  • Do you have the resource to deliver the contract?
  • Are there any other tenders due in that would be more important than this one?
  • Is there anything in the contract pipeline that would take precedence?

Your Competitors

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What do you do that they don’t?
  • What do they do that is brilliant?
  • What do they do that the customer probably hates?

The Win Strategy

  •  How will you win this?
  • Complete a simple strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis.
  • Bid/No Bid decision (although this is late, it is important for them to realise how important it is to make an informed decision).

I take notes manually with a pen. On paper. Madness in today’s technological world you may say. But there is a reason. I don’t use a laptop because I like to read through my notes later as I make sense of them and type them up – it embeds the knowledge in my head and focusses my mind on the task in hand.

(Incidentally, if you need a starting point; the APMP’s Body of Knowledge has some great free templates for members, including a Competitor Comparison matrix, Capture (Opportunity) Plan template and a SWOT strategy sheet.***)

Ideally, at the end of this session, everyone should have a good idea of what the opportunity is, what the customer wants and who their competitors are. They will also understand whether they can deliver a winning submission, whether they can deliver the contract, and what the strategy going forward is.

At this point, I need to be cracking on with writing the submission for them, so everything else is done in tandem, e.g. evidence gathering, Executive Summary, etc.

Of course, it is part of my job as a consultant to train my clients in getting it right. I help them to develop appropriate processes to create a visible pipeline and a proper bid/no bid procedure. I help them to work out how to target customers and contracts easily, so they can get to know their customer and capitalise on relationships.

It is up to them to implement the right processes so that my job is made a little easier next time, resulting in their businesses being successful. Some of them are doing very well. Others? No comment!

The journey continues…

*I have some clients who want to go for opportunities in sectors they haven’t even delivered before. Yep. No evidence whatsoever. Still, I like a challenge…

**Surprisingly, this did happen with a client once without my prompting – I actually staggered backwards a little bit.

***I’m sure there are some other good tools out there too.

This article was written by Pippa Birch.

Pippa has been a Bid Writer for over fifteen years, working as an employee for major companies within the Highways and Civil Engineering Sector for the first ten. She started freelancing in 2012 which led her to write for companies across a variety of sectors (construction, facilities management, custody and forensics).

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