This post contains tactics for taking advantage of incumbency to develop client knowledge that can be used in the rebid.
Things you can do
Tailor discovery to your position as incumbent. Do as many of the following as apply to your business. Use these ideas as triggers for other steps you can take.
- Calendarize the contract term: Crazy as it sounds, contract renewal can sneak up on an incumbent—especially if business development resources are stretched. Create a set of milestones to serve as reminders to follow up on the ideas below and others.
- Recruit CSRs to provide client intel: Many companies have structured programs that use their frontline people to glean information from client interactions. If yours doesn’t, start. Interview CSRs regularly with questions designed to uncover, not just feedback, but client events and new issues that may impact your rebid.
- Gather wider input: Ask business developers to grow their contacts at the client organization, especially targeting likely bid evaluators. And don’t seek affirmation by asking, “Is everything OK?” Instead ask, “What improvements would you like to see in the next contract period?” and “How is your business changing in ways that will affect our relationship?” Open-ended questions such as these will produce actionable intelligence.
- Confirm your perceptions of client issues: It’s easy to assume you know what’s on the client’s mind. As in the above item, ask open-ended questions.
- Review costs and pricing: Price is always important in bid situations. Are there things you’re doing that they don’t need/want? Are you providing services beyond what the contract requires? Can you re-engineer existing services in ways that will drive down future costs?
- Offer strategic input: Arm your business developers with news of value, such as industry trends or enhanced offerings that customer contacts will value, and that will position your company as a strategic partner, rather than simply a vendor.
The goal and payoff
Acting on all of these ideas may be challenging or impossible in your situation. Pick those with the most attractive effort/reward ratio as a start. The goal is to start the rebid with a file of valuable strategy ideas, rather than scrambling just before or after the issue date.
Bid windows are never long enough. Building a client-focused strategy ahead is an excellent way to maximize the use of that precious time.