Now you’re ready to bid, use the ShineX Winning Masterplan™ to develop winning bids. It is a simple effective 10 step process, focusing on the crucial activities that make the winning difference in bidding.
The ShineX Winning Masterplan™ is a culmination of our learning over the last decade. It has been developed through an iterative process of creating, doing, failing, starting again, refining, testing, championing, and reviewing. The full masterplan can be downloaded here.
At ShineX, we do not undertake any bid without intelligence. In my experience it is the most valuable, non-negotiable part of bidding. You cannot create a win strategy without intelligence on a) the buyer, what they are buying and what is important to them – or their ‘buyer issues’ and b) how you stack up against the competition.
When we first meet new clients, they reassure us that “we have all of the intel we need”. This claim starts to unravel as soon as we start asking what they have and where they got it from. Solid intel turns out to be an unsubstantiated rumor or is so full of holes and speculation that no responsible person should let it anywhere near a bid. In this case no intel is better than bad intel.
One client, before they came to us, were given the wrong steer by a mid-ranking official within the buying organization that resulted in them bidding for four lots they wanted and two lots they didn’t want, and the latter were at a ridiculously low price. The thinking was that if we go cheap on the ones we don’t want we’ll rule ourselves out. Unsurprisingly, they won the two lots they didn’t want. This was entirely avoidable if they had verified their intel and used their own judgement.
Another issue we see in re-bids – bids where our client is the incumbent – is confirmation bias. Clients will have insider information but lack the objectivity or perspective to interpret it. This is not because they are incapable it’s simply a human tendency to hear what you want to hear.
The single biggest piece of advice I can offer on doing bid intel is to start it before the bid becomes a bid. Before the constraints of a legal procurement process closes down any chance of an open conversation with the buyer. This is where you need to leverage the interplay between your sales and bidding activities to get in front of the buyer at the earliest opportunity.
Intel on the Buyer
The deeper you understand the buyer, the better your chances of putting together a bid that exceeds their requirements and delivers a winning result. To do this, you need to understand and prioritize what’s important to the buyer or what we call the ‘buyer issues’ – this is what you build your win strategy on – being better than the competition at hitting the buyer issues. For example, this could be cost certainty, security, management team, or business continuity. You develop your buyer issues by finding out about their pain points – their worries, challenges, blockers or risks. What problem is this contract going to fix? What’s the backstory?
Here’s a great example of how finding out the back story can change the fate of a bidder. Our client, an intellectual property advisory service, had been retained by a major international food company for the last 28 years. Out of nowhere, their contract was going out to competition. Why? There had to be a story behind it. We did our intel and found out the new owners of the food company were concerned that a 28-year-old relationship with one city firm may not be value for money. To turn things around, the food company replaced the longstanding internal contract manager and brought in a replacement. This individual was under pressure to deliver an immediate impact and the first action she did was to retender the contract.
Our first action was to get our client to move from their current position of responding to a bid document to a position where they actually engaged with the buyer’s pain points. Could an incumbent really offer value for money? Would a new firm bring energy, innovation, new approaches and better value? It’s not easy to win a rebid. If you come up with great ideas in the submission, the buyer’s first question is why did you not do it before? We had to focus on the depth of understanding that the company had developed of the buyer over their 28-year relationship and the benefits of that continuity and the security that came with this. We helped our client capitalize on their knowledge of the buyer’s strategic priorities and operational needs to develop solutions which gave them a superior position over the competitors and won them the bid.
Buyer Intel - The Key Questions
- Who will be involved in evaluating the bid?
- What problems is this contract going to fix?
- What are they struggling with?
- Have they been working the competition?
- What’s important to each decision-maker?
- What is their buying history?
- Where has the scheme/project come from?
- What’s the decision-making process?
- How were the requirements created?
- Who’s making the final decision?
Intel on the Competition
How can you outdo your competitors if you don’t know what they are going to offer? Most bidders will do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on their competitors at pre-bid stage. We are not keen on SWOT, it has many limitations, the biggest is that you can’t prioritize the most important factors. Doing a comparative analysis between you and your competitors in each of the areas on the buyer issues is a more useful way of evaluating how you stack up against them. We’ve developed a simple comparative analysis tool which helps you to score and rank your position against the other bidders. It will give you a feel for which competitors you need to beat and where you should focus your energies. I would recommend doing the analysis with up to four of your serious competitors to not overcomplicate the task. You should rerun the analysis at regular checkpoints and every time you get hold of new intel on the opposition.
Once you’re in the bid competition, you need to do a detailed competitor profile for each. Your aim is to understand their offer. What relationships do they have with the buyer? What will they do to win this job? Look at their market position, capabilities, competencies, bid team, business health, recent wins, losses and acquisitions. Scan their press coverage and company publications. Are they aggressive on cost? Do they go over the top on innovation? Which technologies do they tend to use? Which suppliers have they aligned with? You need a hyper-awareness of your competitors’ moves. Then take the competitor profiles, pick the best attributes of all the competitors in the areas most important to the buyer and create the most formidable adversary you could possibly imagine and you pit yourself against that.
There’s a high probability one of your competitors will have the inside track with the buyer – either as the incumbent or some other shared history. You can do something about this if you find out early enough but you might just have to accept that you just won’t have the buyer’s ear on this one. On one bid for a housing development, we found out that the competition had been building a relationship with the customer for over a year, attending key meetings, investing in the area and getting close to the key decision-makers, showcasing what they had to offer.
Competitor Intel - The Key Questions
- What have they won/lost recently?
- Who do they usually team up/partner with?
- What are their vulnerabilities?
- Any recent developments e.g. new hires, acquisitions etc?
- What bidding strategies do they typically adopt?
- What could they have learnt from their recent win/loss?
- Do they have a relationship with the buyer?
- What are their unique selling points?
- What are their services/products?
- What is their ‘wow’ factor?
Focusing your Intel
“I want to know everthing about the buyer” - Hold on! This way lies trouble. Yes, we advocate a thorough approach to research but this is just madness. Not everything about the buyer is important, don’t waste time and effort on ‘nice to knows’, focus on the ‘need to knows’. Consolidate what you already know, identify areas or where your intel is weak and then put a plan together to prioritize filling in these gaps.
Getting your Information
The first step of developing intel is information gathering. Around 80% of the intel you will need is out there in the public domain, so there’s no need to stretch ethical boundaries. Of this, around 25% is online so don’t just rely on secondary sources do some ‘human collection’ too – make some calls and speak to people, you’ll be surprised what you can find out.
- Google of course – for context, background, big picture, visions, strategies, and biogs
- Customers themselves – every meeting, phone call and open day is a chance to get intel.
- Colleagues – it’s likely someone in your organization has worked for the competition or buyer.
- Your network – your mates, ex-colleagues, get on to your LinkedIn connections.
- Suppliers – they will have a good overview of your marketplace, having supplied many of your competitors.
- Conferences/trade shows – it’s a free for all, a vital source on your competitors (P.S. you don’t need to wear your badge).
- Industry experts/consultants – it’s a revolving door, experts like to talk about how much they know, and consultants are always on the lookout for the next commission.
Filtering through your information
You have to sift through all the information you have gathered to find the most useful gems. Your first pass check is “Can I afford to ignore it?” If you can’t, then ask yourself “So F****ing What?” to work out if the information is useful or peripheral. What does this mean? How will this influence the bid? This reflective process will probably help you to identify other illuminating avenues to pursue. Finally, how reliable is the information? Not all information is credible, an official press release is more trustworthy than an anonymous forum post. You have to rate the credibility of your sources, from low to high. Anything below high should be verified by at least two sources.
Turning information into intelligence
You now have your filtered information, it has gone through the “So F****ing What?” wringer, met the “cannot ignore” criteria and rated high on the credibility test. To turn it into actionable intelligence, you need to extract some conclusions from it that will get you to the point where you can put together a prioritized list of buyer issues at the win strategy workshop –which is explained in the following chapter.
Many bidders make the mistake of dropping their intel gathering once they have the bones of their win strategy. As you move through the bid stages, new info will come to light. If you’re not in front of this, you’ll be operating in ignorance. Keep on gathering intel, when new intel comes in check your buyer issues against it or rerun the competitor comparative analysis tool again. You might need to refine, tweak or even bin your strategy.
- Do not undertake any bid without intelligence, just don’t do it
- Start your intel before the bid becomes a bid, and before the formal procurement process shuts down your access to the buyer.
- Your intel needs to find out what’s important to the buyer or what we call the ‘buyer issues’ – this is what you build your win strategy on.
- Do a comparative analysis between you and your competitors to work out how you stack up against them.