The year is 2015 and B2B incumbent suppliers still ignore the reality of their environment — that their customers will eventually rebid their contract .
This blindness has caused incumbent suppliers to wait for the RFP to be publicly released before truly beginning their rebid preparation.
They voluntarily give up their greatest sales advantage as incumbent — time; time for creative solution design that uses their deep customer insight to deliver high value.
Why do incumbents put themselves at the same level as their barbarian competitors? Why do they inevitably lose more contracts than they should on their way to eventual extinction?
Answering the “why” is easy. Incumbents believe 3 lies that cripple incumbent RFP responses:
- Lie #1) RFPs tell us how to win
- Lie #2) 11th-hour Superhero
- Lie #3) Price matters most
And actually, the “what” to do is easy too. Begin early, before the RFP is released.
Incumbents know when their current contract ends, and when their customer may want to start the bid process to cover that contract end date. Why wait?
Here is a suggested “what” to do path for starting early, which is typical for a good sized service contract.
9 – 12 Months Before Contract Ends
Begin Your Rebid Process
Create a Rebid Team and hold a launch meeting. Include your senior executives who have relationships with contacts high up in the customer’s food chain, as well as your account-based management.
Now is the time to secure exclusive engagements with consultants and subject matter experts. This will protect you from their working for your competitors on this specific contract rebid.
Gathering Rebid Info
Use your Rebid Team to begin gathering situational and strategic business info about your customer. This intel isn’t public knowledge yet but it is what drives your customer’s direction and future. Find it.
But make sure your investigations are low key and done by your current account personnel; those who have done it in the past. Don’t do anything that may appear sneaky or disreputable. It’s all about perception; not your’s but your customer’s.
What to find out? Things you should be seeking all along.
• How’s the customer’s overall business doing – up, down, flat, which direction?
• How does the outsourced service impact their overall business?
• What strategic initiatives are they starting, or stopping?
• Who are their potential decision makers? Their roles & influences?
• Who are your friends, evangelists, or enemies among decision makers?
• What business changes will affect your customer contact’s department?
• Who’s on the rise or fall within their business?
6 – 9 Months Before Contract Ends
Begin Your Analysis
Yes, begin the analysis now. You are analyzing the customer’s situation here and not an RFP that is four months away. Because RFPs never tell you what you need to know to win/retain the contract. But customer intel does.
Have your Rebid Team analyze your customer’s business, departmental status, Procurement’s role, decision makers, potential competitors, and your incumbent strengths and weaknesses.
Obviously this is not an every day occurrence. But commit to multiple meetings within the next 30-45 days to gain team consensus on the intel.
Document and share your findings to everyone on the Rebid Team. This becomes critical when the RFP is released and everyone on your team is running around in a panic. This document will ground and help regroup your Rebid Team’s focus on what’s important to the customer.
Outline Your Proposed Solution
With the analysis complete, now is the time to design a high-level solution. This design is not intended to be overly detailed but explicit enough to quickly flesh it out in the immediate run up to the RFP’s release.
What’s explicit enough? Bullet list of component parts, identify who on your team owns it, note associated costs if any, and list obstacles present or enablers needed.
In the design you can include new configurations of existing service components, or add innovations. For both of these you will need time to gather specifics and vet whether your ideas will work for your customer. And that’s why time is always of the essence.
3 – 6 Months Before Contract Ends
Get to Near-Finished Version of Proposal Narrative
With the high-level design finished, your technical proposal writer can get a near complete draft of your proposal narrative. This text will tie together your customer’s current situation and future vision to your proposed solution.
This period allows you and your Rebid Team to make the connections between service issues and their impact on your customer’s business. This is critical to creating a broader narrative that speaks to the multiple agendas of your decision makers.
It’s obvious the more you know and the earlier you know it, your solution and it’s description can be crafted into a powerful and compelling rebid narrative.
This narrative is a “near complete” version as there will likely be last minute insights that will tweak it slightly. But nothing major will shift this narrative from its core. Getting it to this state early provides the time necessary for those inevitable last minute tweaks.
Additionally, your Rebid Team can also be working on pricing strategies and incentives. Noodling through various iterations and offers to come up with something noticeable and acceptable, both within your firm and for your customer’s acceptance.
RFP Release 2 – 3 Months Before Contract Ends
Your customer’s RFP will likely be coming out at this point in time. And while your competitors are running around the country visiting various customer sites, you and your Rebid Team are working through the final stages of pricing, and the standard requirements of submitting your RFP responses.
Standard requirements include authorization letters, certifications, insurances, and all the standard responses that most RFPs include, such as company history, executive leadership, resources, etc.
Proposing an Integrated Customer Solution
And because you’ve already developed your high-level solution months earlier, your technical proposal writer can now write to individual RFP questions with responses that come from a cohesive, integrated solution.
This is in contrast to waiting for the RFP and having to pull the tired, same old responses from some other proposal.
Overcoming Technical Submittal Glitches
You will also have time to work through those last minute glitches that customer instructions bring to the actual submittal of documents, such as file sizes too large to email, customer’s broken spreadsheets, etc. Many customers will not extend their RFP timeline even if they’re the ones who caused the problem. Here again, time is on your side.
You Are Selected 30-days Before Contract Ends
Your customer awards you the contract and your firm can breathe a collective sigh of relief as jobs are kept, revenue and profit is retained, and your firm keeps a flagship account.
Your customer receives the reliability of service continuity plus any innovations or improvements you’ve added this time around.
Congratulations. And all because you had the foresight that dinosaurs lacked.
This article, “Dinosaur-Incumbents Still Roam the Earth” was originally published in LinkedIn.