I am a Director and lead Business Development for Kittle Group. I’ve had to speak to hundreds of potential clients over the last six years since I joined and thankfully have secured enough work for us to 10x our staff numbers.
So, what’s the main insight can I provide to organisations interested in winning public sector work?
Listen, as best you can.
Many organisations roll their eyes and tell themselves they’re too busy to read the bid collateral, but in bidding, reading is listening. Can you imagine cutting off a potential customer who was trying to tell you all about what they need and how you can help? It wouldn’t just be rude, it would be absurd to miss such an opportunity.
By listening to what buyers are telling you (i.e. reading the bid), you will:
- Understand if you are the right supplier
- Plan the best possible solution for the buyer
- Delight the buyer, by alleviating their unique concerns and exceeding their expectations.
So, what should you make sure you’re reading?
In a nutshell, you need to read everything you can about the procurement from the buyer. The ITT, the specification, the background, the website, the market engagement materials, the evaluation criteria, and anything and everything else. If you can, speak to the buyer. If they have published any procurement strategies on their website – read them. If they have company values on their website, understand them.
There’s an adage: “The man who doesn’t read has no advantage over the man who can’t read”.
You will have an advantage over other bidders simply by reading everything you can about what the buyer is telling you.
On the flip side, the more limited your understanding of what the buyer wants, the more limited your proposal.
Reading isn’t passive, and you need to be thinking about the following:
- Assessing the opportunity to understand whether you are the right supplier
- Understanding the buyer’s requirements to provide what they want
- Reading between the lines to pick up on subtleties that will help you delight the customer.
I go into these in more detail below.
Assessing the opportunity – understanding if you are the right supplier
I speak with many potential clients who have decided they want to bid for an opportunity, purely because the title of the bid sounds relevant to them. They haven’t opened the documents, they haven’t read the specification, and they haven’t seen the evaluation criteria.
This is like me joining a call with a prospective client and asking them: “so what are you looking for?” and the second they say: “we think we might need bid writing support”, I interrupt them and unleash a relentless monologue explaining our bid writing service. Needless to say, this is not the way to secure a new customer.
I wouldn’t be allowing myself to hear their specific requirements. I wouldn’t understand any detail, and so I wouldn’t be able to provide a good answer.
Perhaps most importantly, I wouldn’t even be sure if I could provide what the customer is looking for! Chasing work you cannot actually provide and wouldn’t be a good supplier for is a horrible business strategy. It wastes everybody’s time, damaging reputations and burning bridges along the way.
Understanding what the buyer wants, to satisfy their requirements
Imagine you go to a restaurant. You decide on the fish and chips, let the waiter know, and you look forward to your meal. Annoyingly though, when your food arrives, the waiter brings sausage and mash with gravy. You’re dumbfounded.
“Excuse me, I ordered the fish and chips”, you appeal to the server.
“Oh, I know, but the sausage and mash is better, so I brought that over instead” comes the reply.
How frustrating that would be? Even if the sausage and mash was incredible, it wouldn’t make up for the unwelcome, unsolicited change. You requested one dish, so why would the waiter assume they know best and give you something else?
This would never happen at a restaurant. And if it did, they would likely rapidly go out of business. But this does happen all the time in bidding and proposals. At Kittle Group we see many clients who have been taking this approach to bidding, and still scratch their heads as to why their win rates are low. Often, the answer is simple: they aren’t listening to the buyer, and they aren’t reading the procurement documents.
Even if you provide a fantastic solution, if it’s not fulfilling the buyer’s basic requirements, it won’t satisfy them. If they ask for fish and chips, then serve fish and chips.
Providing what is asked for will go a long way to helping your bid score well. Think of bid scores, and satisfying customer expectations, as a hierarchy of needs. You cannot score a 5/5 if you fail to meet the criteria for a 3/5, no matter how smart you think you are. You will not delight the customer, if you can’t first fulfil their basic needs.
Reading between the lines to delight the customer
Once you have assured the buyer that you’ve understood and fulfilled their requirements, you can begin to work on delighting them. This comes from exceeding expectations. I like to do this by alleviating their unique worries and exceeding their unique preferences.
That all sounds lovely, but what does it actually mean?
Buyers will vary in the detail they provide around their requirements, but I suggest you pay as close attention as you can to what they publish. Remember, everything you read that others do not, immediately gives you a competitive advantage.
Paying careful attention as you read will help you pick up on particular emphasis the buyer makes about certain topics or themes. I tell my Business Development staff to do this in sales calls. Clients use our service because they want bid writing support. Sure, but why do they want bid writing support in the first place? For some, writing bids is too stressful. For others, it is too difficult and they need expertise to help them win. For others still, they simply do not have the time. If I can pick up on why a potential client is interested in our service, I can explain what we do in a way that emphasises how we can benefit them specifically, by alleviating their worries and exceeding their aspirations for our partnership.
On a call, we do this by noticing the language a potential client uses; paying attention to subtle emphasis placed on particular themes or pain points, and understanding the nuances of their recounted previous experiences. With a bid, you can do the same thing by carefully asking yourself as you read the procurement documentation: “does anything about this language stand out?”
Procurement teams do not always equal the communications from the central marketing department or press releases, but the more you read up about the buyer, always keeping to the procurement documents as your foundation, the clearer the picture you will have of what the buyer wants to buy, what their concerns are, and what their expectations are.
To summarise my advice, do everything you can to understand what the buyer is looking for. Be honest with yourself about whether you can – and are willing to – provide the service. If so, first meet the buyer’s requirements (do not serve sausage and mash if they ask for fish and chips), and then delight them by showing them you have truly heard their concerns and their expectations.
If you do this, you will have a significant competitive advantage against the typical bidding organisation.
If you want to increase that bidding advantage, please get in contact via: Hello@kittle-group.com. We would love to support your organisation, just as we have supported dozens of others.