How to prepare effectively to win your rebid (part 1)

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Having an effective rebid preparation process (we call it the Recapture Plan) is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you win your rebid. It means you have the time before the OJEU/ RFI is published to:

  • Gather the information about your existing contract and performance to use as evidence in your submission, and underpin your new solution
  • Fix any issues on the existing contract
  • Broaden or build better and wider relationships within your customer to gain information and support
  •  Gather intelligence to understand the changes that the customer is likely to be asking for in the rebid in terms of scope, specification, KPIs etc
  • Potentially influence these changes before the customer finalises their decisions
  • Put together an outline solution and costs
  • Put together the team for the rebid and give them the insight into the customer and contract they need to deliver a winning submission
Trying to complete these tasks when you are responding to the PQQ or ITT is much tougher:
  • You have much more limited time
  • The team are busy: focused on costing, writing and getting the submission completed
  • The customer is much less likely to make changes to the scope, spec etc they have now published
  • The customer will only respond formally through the correct channels to ensure a fair competition, and in public sector bids official questions get answers sent to all bidders
  •  If there are issues with contract delivery, you have much less time to fix them before the customer is evaluating your submission

So why do incumbents not use the months before the OJEU / RFI to prepare for the rebid? We hear any number of reasons, but often they fall into two general categories:
1.Reasons why the incumbent didn’t even try to prepare
2.Reasons why the incumbent tried, but failed to prepare properly

It is the second of these we want to cover in this series of four articles, because if the incumbent is at least making an effort to prepare, there is more likelihood they will be able to improve that effort through some simple actions. Persuading an incumbent that they need to prepare is a different argument.

Reasons why Rebid Preparations ‘fail’: 1

Limited engagement

Rebidding is a team effort. Not just by one team (e.g. the bid team), but by a range of departments across the business and the team delivering the contract itself. This is a real difference between bids and rebids. Of course on bids the bid team will need the support of Sales, Subject Matter Experts, finance, HR etc. But on rebids they also need to have real involvement from the contract delivery team. Often over a period of several months whilst that team is still busy delivering the existing contract.

A lack of engagement by other departments and the contract team in the 6 months or so prior to the rebid ‘starting’ is one of the common issues we see incumbent teams face. And one of the main reasons why rebid preparation often fails to deliver all the benefits it should. Rebid teams can improve engagement by:
•Senior sponsorship. Making the case for engagement on an ad hoc basis during the rebid preparation period is likely to be difficult. It is usually more effective to make your case earlier. Look ahead at your contract rebid timetable and see when your rebids are due, and get in front of your senior exec team (or get your boss to do so) where Operations sit together with Business Development and other departmental leads. Get your CEO or divisional MD or president on board by illustrating the upcoming risks of losing the rebid (or rebids), and putting forward a clear plan of what needs to be done to avoid or reduce that risk. Show you have a plan (more of this below) and show that it needs the engagement of all parts of the business to succeed. Getting senior sign off of your plan and commitment of engagement will give you the confidence to get departments involved and the ability to escalate issues if needed to managers who have made a commitment that their teams will support the rebid. And if there are objections or issues raised at this senior level to your plans, at least you still have time to respond to them and rework your plan.

Contract involvement. Get in touch early with the manager responsible for the contract being rebid – ideally a couple of months prior to your plan of action starting. Make sure they understand what needs to be done to win and your plan to help them succeed. If your business has lost previous rebids you might be able to show why and use this to advance your arguments, you could also point them to best practices in the marketplace to illustrate what can be and ‘should’ be done. Make sure they understand the level of involvement the rebid will require from themselves and their staff. That way they can plan ahead to be sure they are able to give that support without impacting on contract delivery. In the past we’ve seen middle managers from a contract seconded into a bid team for a few months work well – to create a closer relationship and enable stronger communication and understanding of the contract (and for the secondee how bids work). Getting involved in a monthly management meeting on the contract to show the managers within the contract what will be involved, and to put a face to and build a relationship with the people who will be involved – those on the contract and those in the bid team – has also worked.

Involving other departments. You will also need the input of other departments during the rebid preparation project. Sitting with them to give them early notice of this will also help. For example finance will most likely be the source of historical data about turnover, profit and other aspects of the contract history. HR will potentially be the source of the history and present state of staffing, staff turnover, salary costs and training history on the contract. And both are likely to be involved in helping design, cost and resource a new solution. Ensure these departments are prepared and ready to do the analysis needed to give you information when you need it as you prepare will help you later on. As you start your rebid preparations you are most likely to be looking for any information that could reveal a useful trend or deeper understanding of the contract. You might not know what you are looking for until you see it, so preparing people for this may give them some ideas which would help. As you build your solution and understand what the customer’s future needs are your enquiries are likely to be more targeted. Again, educating these other departments on how the process is likely to evolve will help them understand the context. And it will mean they are more likely to positively engage vs them just seeing an apparently random set of requests for information with short turnaround times. Which often happens if things are left too late!

Reasons why Rebid Preparations ‘fail’: 2

No clear start to the process

Some rebid preparation processes simply fail to gain any momentum. There is no clear plan of what needs to be done, little engagement and no sense of urgency. The actions being taken seem disconnected and can be almost invisible to many involved.

As a result, whilst some preparation might get done, when the rebid starts in earnest and the incumbent receives the ITT/ RFP they realise that there are a whole range of things that could have been done in the preceding months, but either weren’t started or weren’t completed. The team quickly comes to the realisation that they didn’t place enough priority to the rebid preparation. And the time when they thought they were getting ready has largely been wasted.

In contrast a strong rebid preparation effort is well communicated, has a set of clear actions, everyone knows it is running, know what the aims and expectations of the project are and what is expected of them. When the rebid itself starts, the incumbent team is ready.  They already have a costed solution for the new contract and clear win themes and propositions for why the customer should choose them. So they can focus on giving the best possible answers to the questions set and putting in the best price possible. Whilst some tweaks might be needed, the core of what needs to be done is already there so these tweaks can be easily accommodated.

The difference between these two scenarios is often having (or in the case of failure, not having) a clear start to the process.

Creating a clear start to the rebid preparation project (and treating it as a project) means everyone involved is aware that the project is happening. It creates momentum and sets out the actions that need to be completed, by whom and by when. One method we have used successfully many times is to start the project off with a Rebid Preparation Kick Off meeting. This one day meeting brings together those from the bid and sales team who will be involved in the rebid, plus the existing contract leads and any other departments involved in the delivery of the service. The meeting has three aims:
1.Inform everyone of what the rebid process will entail
2.Identify what is known and not known about the contract, customer and their rebid process
3.Set actions to be followed up and completed during the rebid preparation period.

The type of questions asked in the meeting to uncover what is already known and what needs to be done cover areas such as:
1.What has happened on the contract whilst we have been running it?

  • What has gone well
  • What has not gone well
  • What has changed
  • How are we performing now?

2.Who is the customer?

  • Who do we know (how well and what are their attitudes towards us)
  •  Who will be involved in the rebid from the customer organisation?
  •  What are their priorities for the future and the changes they want to see?
  • How can we build better relationships with them?

3.What is the customer’s timetable and process for the rebid?1.When will key decisions be made?

  •  What process are they likely to follow?
  •  How can we input into this?

4.What changes are likely to be made for the next contract?

  • What are the customer’s strategies and priorities?
  • What has happened on other bids in the customer?
  • What is changing in the industry?

5.Who are the likely competitors?

  • Who are they
  • What strengths do they have regarding this customer / contract?
  • What is their likely approach?

The answers to these, and other questions from the meeting – and particularly from areas you DON’T have answers for, will help set out the actions you need to take to prepare for the rebid.

Set these out in the meeting, allocating them to individuals to complete and setting out a timetable for completion.

These meetings are often a ‘wake up call’ for many people, especially those involved in the contract who either have not been focused on the rebid, don’t realise how close it really is, and perhaps didn’t have answers to some of the questions raised. It will create the involvement and engagement you need for focus and participation in your project. Setting out a clear action plan will also give solidity to the outcome of the meeting and help you follow up on the meeting.

Done well, this kick off meeting will be just the clear start you need for your rebid preparation and ensure you start with real momentum.

See how we can help you get the best possible start to your rebid preparations here