Mistake #6 - Not asking the right questions before the PQQ, ITT or RFP is issued
How much do those responsible for business development and capture know about the contracts they are pursuing? Not enough is the answer in the vast majority of cases. That's not being disrespectful to those who are working really hard to generate leads and bid opportunities, it is just that many fall into the trap of going for quantity rather than quality.
I know because I have made that mistake too. You are under pressure to justify your position and are paranoid about keeping the estimating, pricing or quotations team fed with a continuous flow of bids. The biggest fear for a business development manager is to have a team of estimators sat in the office doing the filing! Mind you, that is what they would be better off doing rather than bidding for contracts they can't win or can't make a profit on.
So business development managers are paranoid about generating quantity and for many the longer the list of bids the better as no one can say that you aren't doing your job… or can they? My advice is not to be a busy fool. Hold your nerve. Be more selective. Reduce the number of contracts you are pursuing and spend more time and effort on those so that you can dig deeper. If you have better intelligence than your competitors and an earlier and better understanding of the customer's needs then you have more time to develop innovative, creative and effective win strategies and it will improve your success rates.
Mistake #7 - Unstructured business development, "capture" and bid processes
It is a mistake if you don't have or are not following a structured process for identifying, qualifying and capturing opportunities to bid for contracts. A scattergun approach is ineffective and wasteful. You need to be really focused and realistic so that you invest your time and money on the opportunities where you have the best chance of winning and making a profit!
In Mistake #6, I recommended that business development managers should be selective and start working on opportunities that will generate the best results as early as possible. There is a lot of work to be done to build relationships and position your organization with the customer and to gather vital information about the customer, the opportunity, the procurement process and where possible the likely competition.
All of this information has three uses:
- It will help you to make good decisions on whether to commit further resource to continue pursuing the opportunity or switch to others that are more attractive.
- It will potentially provide you with a competitive advantage over your competitors.
- It will allow time for you to develop innovative win strategies.
Elite Bidders have bid-no bid procedures. Their win strategies are in place well before the bid arrives on their desks, they have built great relationships with the client and their advisors and they have thought carefully about what it will take to win a contract. They also plan the writing and production of their bid submissions thoroughly.
I have attended "kick-off" meetings for PQQs, tenders and proposals and noticed the following mistakes being made:
- Not enough time is allocated for the meeting; limiting it to a very quick allocation of tasks and little more.
- Participants are not available or not well enough prepared.
- Win strategies and win themes are not fully explored and often not even discussed.
- The team is not looking at the PQQ, ITT or RFP from the customer's perspective and is not spending the time to determine what it will take to score maximum points for each question or section.
- A content plan has not been prepared to guide bid writers and authors.
- A validation and review process is not discussed in detail. Usually just a date is agreed for the final review.
The consequences of these mistakes are that there is nothing in place to determine whether they will achieve maximum scores for what they have written. Thus, those who have been allocated the responsibility of writing answers to questions asked in the PQQ, ITT or RFP or writing about the solutions proposed to meet customer's requirements have nothing to guide them. Consequently, writers are left to their own devices and find it difficult to know what to write about and will waste time in the early stages trying to figure it out for themselves.
This can put deadlines in jeopardy and adversely affect the quality of what has been written. This is exacerbated where there are multiple bid writers and the quality of writing and content may be very patchy indeed. If the review meeting takes place only a couple of days before submission then there may be a lot of rewriting to do. This means that someone has to work through the night to rewrite the document and final printing and assembly is done at the very last minute and that is when errors occur.
Mistake #8 - Insufficient planning and preparation
When I was at school I was late for an English lesson. As a punishment the teacher made me write an essay with the title "Time waits for no man". As punishments go, this was one of the least painful, but the most effective in terms of shaping my future attitude. When evaluating PQQs there is always one organization that tries to submit their PQQ after the deadline. The person responsible claims to have seen the advert after everyone else, or is the victim of exceptional circumstances.
Do you know anyone like this? They are the ones who leave it to the last minute, who always blame others for their lateness and are always asking for an extension of time. Some will even resort to manipulating the truth and blaming the post or the customer for losing their submission! So, what does this say about the person and the company? Enough said.
The answer of course is to treat every PQQ, ITT or RFP as a mini-project. Start early, plan well; allow sufficient time for writing, editing, reviewing, rewriting, polishing and assembly of documents. Allocate tasks to those who have the capacity, knowledge, experience, skills and commitment to do the job well. Like projects, producing PQQs, tenders and proposals is a team effort and requires a bid manager with good leadership and project management skills.