Clear thinking

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Taboo subject: Service issues

 August 7, 2018
by Paul Heron

Most proposal blogs—here and elsewhere—focus on what teams already strive to do, such as comply, show understanding, write clearly, use visuals to convey key messages, etc.

This month’s posts take a slightly different angle, addressing topics teams might consciously avoid—let’s call them taboos.

Taboos are areas proposal teams are tempted to leave unaddressed. The four most common are service issues, risk, competitors, and pricing. It’s easy to view these as potentially harmful to your chances (service issues), or too hard to address successfully.

We’ll start with service issues.

Why incumbents should address service issues

It’s tempting to ignore service issues when preparing a rebid. After all, the argument goes, why bring up a negative? In fact, there are two good reasons to step up:

  • The client hasn’t forgotten: Clients have long memories for persistent service issues and brief but significant lapses. Glossing over these, or ignoring them completely in a rebid, risks offending those affected. Decision makers may believe you don’t recall the issue and/or don’t understand its seriousness.
  • Your competition knows: In any large rebid situation, non-incumbent business developers have been hovering—sometimes for years—waiting for their chance. You can be sure your strongest competitors are well acquainted with any weaknesses you’ve displayed and will emphasize their ability to outperform in exactly those areas where you’re vulnerable.

How to address service issues in rebids

Assuming you have a solution, we recommend addressing any service issues head-on. Tailor your approach to the status of the issue:

  • If the issue has been successfully addressed, detail your resolution process, any investments you made, and the result. Stress (if true) that your team moved quickly to accept responsibility, identify root causes, and design and implement a solution—while proactively communicating progress.
  • If the issue is ongoing (a less ideal situation), use your incumbent knowledge to set out a well-designed resolution plan. Detail the exact steps you’ll take to improve service and the schedule. Name the individuals who will lead the improvement initiative, be clear about their time commitments, and provide an expected completion date.

Leverage your incumbency

Customers are well aware of the stress, costs and risks of a transition, and would rather stick with an incumbent than switch. Most contracts lost at rebid go to a low-ball bid, with the winner often later regretting the resulting losses.

Few customers will write off an otherwise competent and trustworthy vendor over a service issue that has been corrected, or for which a satisfactory solution has been proposed. Don’t make the mistake of appearing indifferent or failing to mount a defence against competitors’ attacks.

Next week: Talking about risk


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Photo credit

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






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