A CEO, CMO and CFO walk into a bar… and calculate the cost of bid management on a cocktail napkin: £50,000 average cost per major bid, multiplied by a typical 20% win rate, equals £150,000 cost on average to win a single major bid—above the investment in Sales. Many respond by economizing with bid resource, ultimately constricting growth. Experience suggests a more pragmatic way to improve bid results and grow revenue: Assess how your process works today, then redesign your bid management model to eliminate key points of failure.
What to look for? From painful experience, here are the 5 key reasons you're losing major bids:
You don’t read the tender.
This one was a heart-breaker. We’d obsessively analysed complex design requirements, deadlines, competitors and awards criteria to devise a brilliant solution. In the final hours before the online submission was due, we discovered that what we’d brushed over as a simple if tedious format was literally impossible to submit with our creative pricing scheme. Despite a superior solution, we were ultimately disqualified.
You only read the tender.
A 200M USD ‘win’ had been stalled short of signature for many weeks, due to non-negotiable high-risk service terms in the RFP. In a last-ditch effort to salvage the deal, we met the client directly, and asked them to draw a picture of exactly what they wanted. Turns out, we’d been reading the RFP as if it was written in our language. The client, however, had used identical words to describe an entirely different concept. Score the win, although the communication failure caused us to miss key quarterly targets.
You can’t say no.
We know we need to rigorously qualify opportunities, but in practice this can be a difficult balancing act. Even with clear prioritization of growth targets and a VP title to boot, I was still pulled off track on occasion by impassioned pleas or the loudest ‘squeaky wheel’, or guilty of using meager pipelines as an excuse to green-light unlikely but high revenue bids. Which left me overcommitted and under-resourced when better-qualified opportunities came knocking.
You can’t let go.
I vividly recall another bid, qualified at >80% win probability. The client absolutely loved us, even designed the RFP specs around us—a slam-dunk! In hindsight, we failed to consider the impact of an acquisition that occurred during the long tender process, involving a similar business unit with a too-similar solution already installed. With a huge team of experts going full tilt through the 9-month process, we sapped investment from other promising opportunities—then were left empty-handed.
It’s all about you.
Of course we’re deeply committed to our clients’ success. Why can’t they see that in our bids? Crucially, we tend to know a great deal more about ourselves than we do about them. In my very first bid, I devoted hours to accurately describing our capabilities, specs, pricing and delivery in flawless detail. Finding nothing to demonstrate that we understood their most critical goals, or how to help achieve them, the client took a pass. The earliest lesson, and still the most challenging to get right.