Develop an interview guide
For each category (responsiveness, process, etc.) described in last week’s post—and any others you’ve added—draft open-ended questions that invite a candid assessment of your performance. For example: Instead of asking “Did SellerCo show it understood your requirements?” ask, “Compared to other respondents, how well did SellerCo demonstrate it understood your requirements?” The first version asks for a yes or no response, while the second invites the interviewee to provide a ranking and allows for a follow up question, such as, “What did higher-ranked respondents do to earn additional evaluation points?”
Limit your questions to four per area, to allow time for follow-up questions as above. Including too many questions results in rushed, perfunctory interviews. What you want is a thoughtful exchange that produces deeper insights.
Circulate the guide and get buy-in from your bid team and management.
Conduct internal and external interviews
- Internal interviews: Internal interviews provide insights that make the prospect interview(s) more productive. They also indicate how accurately your team assesses its client relationship and understands the client’s needs. Interview the proposal manager and relationship manager and document their responses to each of your questions. They won’t have the same information as the prospect (see below)—but will provide an internal baseline for comparison.
- Prospect interview(s): Make appointments with the bid issuer’s decision-maker(s). Request a number and time to call and provide an estimate of the time required. We’ve found a reasonable duration is 45-60 minutes. Emphasize that this is business improvement exercise—not a sales call or an effort to revisit the bid decision. Most issuers recognize they have a responsibility—and that it’s in their interests—to help vendors improve. If a prospect flat-out refuses your win-loss interview requests, consider whether it’s worth continuing to bid.
Note: Some issuers have their own disclosure process. If it doesn’t address your information needs, request a separate interview to gather missing information.
Remain neutral, capture quotes
When conducting external interviews, speak in a neutral tone and refer to your company by name, rather than using “we,” “us” and “our.” This matter-of-fact approach will put interviewees at ease and produce better quality information.
Capture responses as much as possible in the interviewee’s own words. Using direct quotes in your report will give it much more impact and credibility among your company’s leadership.
Consider using a third party
Companies with high bid volumes often use third parties, such as Complex2Clear, to conduct and report on win-loss interviews. A third-party interviewer removes any decision-maker reluctance to be candid. Internally, using an unbiased outside contractor may give the results more credibility.