Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.


Start rebid planning early

 June 26, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month we’ve focused on how to make the most of your incumbency when rebid time comes around. Perhaps the biggest single idea is to start preparing early.

It’s an obvious step—and one most teams vow to take. But between the thrill of winning and the throes of mobilization, it’s easy to put it off.

To-do list for winning your next rebid

Start on day one of each new contract to:

  • Find out why you won: Ask for a detailed debrief on your winning proposal and aspects that most impressed your client—and then be sure to fulfill that promise in your offer.
  • Get regular, honest feedback: Set up systems to gather feedback from everyone affected by your solution. If you interact with large numbers of client employees or customers, develop regular surveys or other mechanisms so you can measure and react to satisfaction indicators.
  • Track performance: In addition to contracted metrics, develop and track KPIs for your performance on other issues important to your client. Many teams find themselves scrambling at rebid time to assemble facts that remind clients of the “above and beyond” efforts made on their behalf. Avoid that mistake by documenting both small wins and case studies of outstanding efforts (and investments) your team made to recover from unexpected events.
  • Brainstorm the future: Include an agenda item for future-looking discussions in your regular client meetings. Seek opportunities to collaborate on value propositions for needed improvements. Whether or not these become part of the rebid RFP, they will provide valuable context that lets you show deep understanding of your client’s strategic drivers—information no other bidder will have.

Document, document, document

Capture all the information you gather in a rebid file. To the extent possible, note client feedback and aspirations for the future in the exact words individuals use to express them. File everything in a location the rebid team will be able to access in three or five years.


Need help winning your rebid?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 




Highlight transition ease

 June 19, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month we’ve focused on winning rebids—including making your proposal future-oriented and using past performance to showcase your understanding and value. This week we’ll look at the transition.

Transitions always concern issuers. Even a well-run changeover usually involves some user inconvenience. Beyond inconvenience, there’s always the possibility of serious glitches—or that the new solution was misrepresented or misunderstood, resulting in re-contracting headaches.

You may be thinking: But we’re the incumbent provider. We won’t have to transition. Can’t we just say: “Not applicable?”

That’s not wise. Even if you foresee a nominal transition, respond to all the RFP questions in this section and identify key individuals assigned. Anything less could cost points.

Maximize your transition advantage

Use these four ideas to make the most of your transition advantage:

  • Develop a detailed plan with resources: To obtain the available points, identify all the actions involved and the individuals who will manage transition. Use trade-offs to justify your plan as the best option, cite your transition record and itemize benefits for the client.
  • Embrace improvement: Some incumbents avoid recommending changes because they fear jeopardizing the prospect of a pain-free transition. Instead, ensure your solution is the right one for the client, now and for the future—and only then—plan and resource the transition. Your transition will still be less risky and costly than your competitors’—and your solution will now be fully competitive.
  • Accelerate the schedule: Identify changes you can implement during the client’s anticipated mobilization period. Develop a transition schedule that delivers these improvements sooner than your competitors could possibly manage. If possible, quantify the benefits your customer will obtain from early completion.
  • Ghost your competitor’s transition plan: Build a transition plan as if you were new to this contract. Don’t exaggerate, but use your knowledge to develop a detailed process. Compare this, item by item, with your own plan. At a minimum, this will highlight your advantage in risk, time and cost. And, if one or more competitors offer less robust plans, their credibility will suffer in comparison with the detail you provide.

Get the points, get the cred

Under time pressure, it’s tempting as an incumbent to give the transition short shrift. Instead, treat it as you would any other section—and reap the benefits in evaluator points and credibility.

Next week: Getting started early


Need help writing responsive bids?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 




Stress capability in rebids

 June 12, 2018
by Paul Heron

Last week we discussed the need to make rebids future-focused. This week we’ll look at stressing your current contract experience and performance.

Mine your client experience for advantages

Of all RFP bidders, only you have detailed knowledge of the current contract metrics, investments, and issues and their resolution. Use this information to:

  • Show deep understanding: Bid evaluators often complain that proponents fail to show they understand the requirements and have tailored their solution accordingly. At every opportunity, reference details of the client’s configuration and practices. This familiarity will create a level of comfort your competitors can’t provide.
  • Demonstrate performance: Cite efficiency improvements you’ve made and how you successfully managed unexpected situations. If you experienced performance lapses, don’t ignore them and hope the client has forgotten (it’s unlikely). Instead, document the investments and other changes you made at your own expense to prevent a recurrence.
  • Justify escalators and extras: If your client experienced price increases during the existing contract, defuse negative feelings these might have caused. For example, cite increased service volumes at declining unit costs, and/or improved outputs (quality, client satisfaction).
  • Ghost competitors’ pricing: Often one or more competitors will underbid, based on incomplete understanding of the requirements. To defend, do two things. First, include and price only required items. Second, find ways to reinforce the complexity and effort required to perform to expectations, including ongoing training. Also, identify any trade-offs you made that could impact price, and explain why this was necessary to achieve required performance and/or maintainability.

Position yourself as low risk and innovative

Use the ideas in this and last week’s posts to present your offer as an ideal combination of fresh ideas, combined with low risk due to your proven ability to perform.

When citing your knowledge and performance under the current contract, choose your opportunities carefully to avoid coming across as preachy.

Next week: Take transition seriously


Need help writing more successful proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 




Focus rebids on the future

 June 5, 2018
by Paul Heron

Incumbents often underestimate the pitfalls they face when contracts expire. This month we’ll look at four must-do items that will help you win your rebids.

As the incumbent, your biggest risk is complacency. Your client likes you (or at least isn’t complaining), and your team is meeting its operational targets. So you should have a lock on the rebid, right?

Not so fast. Assuming your contract is attractive, other companies have been waiting for this opportunity. They’re wooing your client with exciting possibilities and probing for weaknesses in your performance.

And they may discover issues a conflict-averse client is reluctant to raise with you—especially if you don’t ask.

Describe an attractive future

Our first recommendation is to be future oriented. Every other proposal will stress improvements on the status quo. So, no matter how well you think you’re doing, you need to paint a future that's brighter than the present.

To accomplish this, take the following steps:

  • Meet with your client: Seek a meeting about your future together. Ask open-ended questions. For example: “What improvements would you like to see in the next contract period?” and “How will your business change in the next five years?” followed by “How can we help you respond to these changes?”
  • Leverage internal resources: Enlist your senior people to approach their client counterparts and have their own conversations. Separately, invite colleagues managing a similar contract to tour your operation. Ask them to be tough markers. What shortcomings would they pounce on if a competitor held the current contract?
  • Get fresh input: Your regular contacts may be unaware of (or unwilling to share) the information you need—so be sure to connect with a wider group at the client organization. Seek out likely bid evaluators, including the economic buyer, technical buyers and user buyers. If your team directly impacts large numbers of client personnel, get permission to survey them on their experience. Bonus: You may discover and be able to correct an issue that might otherwise tip a close decision.
  • Collaborate on value propositions: As an extension of the above, collaborate with your client on future improvements that align with its strategic direction. Use this post on value propositions as a guide. You can’t include out-of-scope investments your proposal—that risks losing on price—but thoughtful collaboration leading to operational improvements will enhance your perceived value and competitive position.

Document, document, document

Make detailed notes of every client interaction, including as many verbatim quotes as possible. Then you can reference specific meetings and cite client statements to support your proposal—demonstrating a level of client focus other bidders cannot match.

Bottom Line: Use your home field advantage

Take every opportunity to benefit from incumbency. Use your unique client access to create an insightful, forward-looking proposal.

Next week: Track your performance


Need help to improve your proposal strategy?

Contact Complex2Clear

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





Get our blog summary delivered to your inbox every month

How Added?:

Get future updates?:*
Privacy Policy: Complex2Clear will not use your name and contact information for any purpose other than to respond to your request and to advise you of important updates. We will not sell or give your information to any third party.

Top of page