Why incumbents must bid like challengers

When you are the incumbent supplier, even when you have done great work all along, it is dangerous to assume that the evaluators know who you are, or that they will advocate on your behalf. Sometimes, they are under strict instructions not to.

For example, Richard is a partner in a professional services firm that operates in a very specialised market. Richard and I met socially, and when he heard about the work I do, he shared a wonderful success story. It turned out that just recently, one of the largest customers in Richard’s market (for whom his firm was one small supplier among many) had put its work out to tender. The customer wanted a single firm to manage all its work, including all its existing and new business.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Richard and his firm badly wanted to win. They devoted a team of eight senior people, including partners, to the bid for six weeks – the first time they had ever fielded such a large bid team. Richard and his team did not take the customer for granted. They thought hard about what they could offer and devised an innovative way to structure their service delivery model and their fees to offer value for money. Their bid was successful and they won all the business.

In the debriefing interview, Richard discovered that the buyer had made a very deliberate decision to not consider previous relationships and to award the work based solely on what was presented in the tender. This worked in Richard’s favour, while it left other, more complacent suppliers out in the cold.

Buyers expect a great deal from their incumbent suppliers. Don’t take them for granted, and expect to work even harder when you want to win again.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/