I had an interesting meeting the other day with a potential client who made a comment about their success rate in bidding without really thinking about what they were saying and that got me thinking…
You see, this is not the first time people have proudly told me how many bids they are winning without really being aware of the importance or indeed the content of their statement.
For instance, I recall being told by a major, bluechip company that they won around 1 in 4 of every tender they pitched for, which they said was their industry average. When said like that it sounds OK but when you change it around and say that they actually lost 75% of every tender they bid then surely the senior management must question what is going on for them to lose so many. When you think in this way you have to ask “how much money have I wasted on the bids I’ve lost”…“how will this affect the long term stability of my business…” and, “…how can we get better?”
Too often people accept their ‘sector norm’ without questioning whether it makes good business sense. It’s this blind acceptance that this level of performance is enough and that nothing can be done to improve it because these are the sector norms and life must always be like this that I fiercely challenge in my work! If this was always the case then business would stagnate and no matter what you do you will only ever be able to perform within the prescribed performance criteria of your sector norm…which of course is nonsense!
Now the potential client I was speaking with wanted some additional support for their bid team but didn’t want to change the methods they had spent time developing because, I was told “…they are working fine, we just want someone to help implement the strategy now…”
I eagerly said, “…that’s great news, so how many bids are you winning?” But the news wasn’t so great and I was told that they won around 37% of all medium sized bids and 21% of larger ones. Sounds good…until I said that in fact they were losing 2/3rds of the medium bids and 4/5ths of the larger ones. My clients face dropped and we now have some interesting work to do to make changes that will have a big effect on their future.
Why am I telling you this? Because if you are finding that your win rate is lower than you would like irrespective of your industry norms, then now is the time to make those important changes.
The best way to start is to record your current bid success rate and rank this against your competitors so you have a benchmark to work from. As you progress you will be able to check any changes in your performance against your benchmark and adjust your methods to suit.
Next, you will need to analyse some of your previous bids to understand where you scored lowest and indeed, highest so you know what worked well and what didn’t. Don’t be tempted to rely on the feedback from your assessors as this doesn’t necessarily get to the root of the issue. Its better to get impartial advice at this stage so use an external advisor to undertake a detailed appraisal of your bids and get honest comments on what was good and what was bad.
I’m not talking about making wholesale changes to your methods but aggregating marginal gains in particular key areas. You may recall the British Cycling Team’s performance director Dave Braillesford saying during the 2012 Olympics that if you broke down everything you could think of that went into riding a bike and then improved it by 1% you would get a significant increase to performance when you put it all together.
Just think what this could mean to your business when you apply this thinking to your bid processes and if you don’t believe me just calculate what 1% means in terms of income to you…then look at 2%, 5% and more because you can set the target you want to achieve and work through your plan to achieve it.
You will now know how you are performing and where you can draw on the best examples of your bidding success and where you need to make improvements for future bids. It is now important to share this with your bid team and senior managers so they know what needs to be done, the timescales for implementing change and how performance will be measured.