Category Archives: new business tendering / pitching

Why do so many professionals struggle to build their practices?

I met with a lawyer last week who has a wealth of experience in his field, yet is struggling to build a practice.

It’s an issue many professionals face.

He explained that he’s been for coffees/lunch with everyone in his network and assumed the work would follow.

How to improve your lead conversion over a coffee

Fair assumption, right? I mean these are people who already know him.

Unfortunately not.

For starters, I bet they’re propositioned on a fairly regular basis by lawyers who want their work.

Secondly, they may have every intention of giving him work, but they just don’t have any currently.

Whatever the case, this lawyer was feeling despondent and unsure about what to do next.

Have you ever had a similar experience?

If you’re in a similar situation here are some practical steps you can take:

It makes total sense to start with your existing network. However, it’s important to get your approach right. Think about it from your contact’s perspective – which of the following would you prefer?

“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would love to work with you. Do you have any work for me?”


“Hi Jane. It’s great to see you. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last caught up. As you know I’ve started my own practice helping companies with X issues and would really like to find out from you what I need to do to position myself within your industry. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

It could be that I’m British, but the first approach would make me feel uncomfortable, whereas the second wouldn’t – plus I’d be happy to provide some insights and to help the other person.

So, the first step is to plan.

The plan

What’s the outcome you want from the meeting? Getting new work is probably a tad optimistic for a first meeting but gathering information in order to develop an offering for the person you’re meeting, or to get an introduction to the person’s colleague isn’t.  A good outcome will involve a next step – an opportunity to progress things. It will help to avoid pleasant, but ultimately pointless, meetings.

Once you know your goal, write down between 3-5 questions you want to ask the other person.

The meeting 

The second step is to set up the meeting. Let your contact know why you want to meet e.g. “I’m looking to put together an offering for the construction industry and would really value your input. Do you have half an hour in the next few weeks for a coffee?”

When you get to the meeting, restate the purpose and then ask the questions you’ve planned to get the other person talking. You should be doing most of the listening. At the end, get their buy-in to the next step e.g.” I’m going to put together the offering over the next week. Would you mind if I run it by you once I’ve done so?”

Always ask who else you should be meeting with/speaking to. If they mention people you don’t know, ask if they’d be prepared to introduce you and what you can do to make that process easy for them.

The follow up

After the meeting, follow up with a good summary of your discussion and possibly send the person something related to your conversation if appropriate.

The key thing now is to work on the next step. However, you’ll also want to ensure you’re top of mind with the other person both in the interim and over the long term. This is where social networks and traditional marketing come into play.

  • Connect/follow the person on social networks on which they’re active.
  • Develop a content plan (if you haven’t already done so) and then create and curate content relevant to them. Share this directly with them (if appropriate) as well as via relevant social networks, your website, newsletter etc.
  • Invite them to any events/functions you’re hosting that might interest them.
  • Introduce them to others in your network who they would benefit from meeting.
  • Engage with, and share, content they share.

Look to get as many positive touch points with them as possible. This will help keep you top of mind so that, should they have a need, or be asked to recommend someone to a contact, they’re likely to think of you.

There is no silver-bullet, but by adopting a carefully considered and integrated approach, you can really stand out from your competitors. Which is exactly what you need to do if you want to win more of your ideal work.

Your thoughts?  How do you make the most of your coffee meetings with old contacts? 

Case study: using video marketing successfully

by Kirsten Hodgson

Sue Viskovic runs Elixir Consulting, a business coaching firm for financial advisers.

The nature of her business means that clients have to open up and really talk about their businesses to benefit from her team’s help. Elixir has a good brand and is well known in the Australian market. However, before choosing to work with a prospective coach financial advisers really need to know that they can trust the person and have the confidence that he or she isn’t going to change things against their will.

It’s easy to break down these barriers in a face-to-face meeting, but how can you seek to demonstrate your trustworthiness and beliefs before you’ve met someone?

Sue and her team turned to video.

Because their strategies and tactics need to work for individual business owners the team realised they could only use video to share concepts and examples of what’s worked for others.

What did they do?

Sue has tried a few ways to capture video and has learnt heaps from the process.

“At one extreme we got a professional firm to do everything and at the other I’ve recorded video interviews with clients over Skype.” 

The first set of videos Sue had recorded were profile videos of the team. She got an external producer to do this and then sat off screen and asked her colleagues questions so they’d appear more natural on camera.

“I don’t like scripts. If someone is relaxed then it looks good but if they’re over-thinking it can have a negative impact. I advise people to plan roughly what they want to say and then just talk.”

Sue and her team then helped with the editing process because they know their clients and can immediately see what the powerful bits are. They reviewed the footage and told the editor the bits they wanted to use.

Now all Elixir consultants have their own camera, tripod and lapel mic. so they can record their own pieces. They send in their raw footage for a video editor to edit (Sue found someone on Elance and has worked with him for a while now. She advises others to look at the person’s credentials and ensure they have positive recommendations from others prior to hiring them).

The consultants are aware of the location they’re using and ensure there are no shadows, and that there is something of interest in the background. For example, some videos are shots of someone on a couch with a view of the landscape behind.

Sue is shortly launching Elixir TV, a more human version of their blog. Each clip is 3-4 minutes duration and provides either a tip or story to help people in their business.

She wanted an intro footage Elixir could use on every clip, with a music track. After narrowing it down to two music pieces, Sue asked her contacts on LinkedIn to vote for their favourite. She used to find an appropriate stock video to use as background to the intro segment and looked on and to source the music.

“You pay for the music once and then you can keep on using it without having to pay again.” 

How is Elixir using video?

In addition to Elixir TV, the team are planning to record webinars they run and to break these down into short segments they can post.

Following a consulting session with a client, a consultant might put together a short video after covering an ‘ah-ha’ moment the client had or giving them some tips for overcoming an issue they had. They’d then send the video to the client a few days after the session to prompt them to take action and to remind them they’re there to help. Client feedback on these is really positive.

The team also record videos to send when submitting proposals. This allows them to explain why they have included certain things e.g. ‘The reason X is in the proposal is you said Y was important to you.’ Obviously, in this scenario, it’s important that no-one else can see the video. Sue and her team use to store videos because it allows you to keep videos private and to set passwords where desired. It also has great tracking features allowing you to see how many people opened each video and how much of it they watched.

What didn’t work so well? 

Sue says, Long videos don’t work well - I fell into the trap of producing 9 minute videos because I couldn’t decide which content to leave out. Now I keep videos to a couple of minutes. If there is a lot of good content, we put the videos up as a series.”

She also wanted to ensure that when someone clicks on a video on the Elixir website, it doesn’t take them off to YouTube where they might get distracted. That’s where comes in. It allows users to view a video within your website, and enables more control. It also has great analytics features that allow you to see how many times the video has been viewed, how much of it is viewed, right down to the countries the viewers are located in, what sites they arrived from, and what device they viewed it on.

Youtube can be a good option if you want your videos to be found by people searching on your topic. If you do want to put something up on YouTube, Sue advises unticking the box  to automatically allow the video flicking over to suggested sites at the end. While you can’t stop the suggestions on the right hand side from coming up you can prevent those at the end – and there’s good reason why you might want to. At the end of one of Elixir’s videos YouTube suggested viewers might want to watch a clip of two nuns in bras!

Another suggestion is to get clever with your tagging. If you put up a series of videos with the same/similar tags, you can ensure that your stuff comes up in suggested views on the right hand side.

Another great piece of advice from Sue: Be aware of your surroundings. We shot a video by the beach and in the 15 minutes we were there the wind had got up. I knew it was messing with my hair but it didn’t even occur to me that it was also messing with the sound as it hit the microphone a couple of times and we didn’t realise until afterwards. Had we checked things we would have realised this and could have turned in the other direction to stop it happening.”

What would you do differently if you were starting again now?

“I’d do more research and not be afraid to project manage videos myself. If you do decide to get videos done professionally, get the company you use to give you the raw footage so that you can use your knowledge of your clients to work out the ‘gems’ you want to keep.”

Sue has found a recent graduate who charges $350 for half a day’s work in Perth who she uses to record some videos. She’s also found a video editor she really likes in the USA via Elance so gets him to edit all internally produced videos.

Knowing little about video (I’ve self recorded a couple of pretty poor quality ones), I got so much from my chat with Sue. Her tips should give even the most video-phobic (is that a word?) of people the  confidence to put something together.

Sue’s tips:

1.Choose your format to suit your purpose. Do you need all the bells and whistles? Be mindful of the message you’re sending – it may be professional but does it also make you look too expensive?

2. If you use a professional team ask for the raw footage. You know what will be of most benefit to your clients so let the video team know the snippets they should include in the final version.

3. Give it a go. Don’t be afraid. If you can’t get good footage then don’t put the video up. It will reflect badly on you.

4. Sit to the side of the camera and ask your colleague questions so it appears more of a natural conversation.

5. Be aware of the background and any noises that may interfere with your recording.

6. Get someone else to check your footage as you can get too close to it.

7. If you’ve self-recorded, get a professional to edit your video. Elance is a good place to find people. Make sure the person you choose has some good recommendations from others.

8. Think about the different ways in which video can support your business e.g. updates on topical issues, to support new business proposals, as a summary of coaching sessions etc.

Have you used video successfully in your firm? What other tips would you share? 

Photo courtesy Paul at

How can professional services firms use social media to increase their tender success rate?

by Kirsten Hodgson

More often than not, professional services firms know when an organisation will be going out to tender, well before the tendering organisation issues the RFP or EOI.

They may have told you.

They re-tender every two to three years.

Or, there’ve been reports they’re looking to rationalise their spend, initiate a project etc.

Professional services firms spend a lot of time and money evaluating whether or not to pitch for work and, if so, compiling their proposal.

The enlightened ones even look for ways to tip the level playing field in their favour before the tender’s been put out.

This is where social media can really help.

How can leveraging social media help professional services firms to increase their tender success rate?

Looking at who’s on social media platforms within the target organisation will help you to identify the likely decision makers, influencers, veto-holders and gatekeepers.

You can use this information to compile your Who knows Who matrix.

You can then ensure members of your team connect with as many of these people as possible – be it by inviting them to connect on LinkedIn, by joining the same groups or communities on LinkedIn or Google+, by following them on Twitter, or friending them on Facebook (if appropriate).

You’ll likely be thinking about the key issues and considerations for the target organisation – be it in relation to a particular project they’re putting out to tender, or more broadly in the case of a panel tender.

Once you have a list, you can develop content that will be both of interest, and relevant, to the target organisation. This will help to position you as ‘experts’ in your area and/or their industry sector.

As well as sharing this content strategically via traditional means such as a news alert, and on your website you can also share it via social networks.

Those connected to the decision makers, influencers, gatekeepers and veto-holders can share this content via their personal feeds such as their LinkedIn updates, their Twitter account, their Facebook page or their Google+ account.

In addition, you could post it in relevant group or community discussions on LinkedIn and Google+, and put it on your company page, firm Twitter feed, Facebook page etc. In this way, you’re softly positioning your firm well before the RFP’s been issued and are ensuring that, should someone from the target organisation check you out, they’re likely to see this content.

When compiling your RFP response, you can point to the central repository for this content, be it your website, your blog or You Tube.

In some cases, firms may want to take it one step further and tailor specific professionals’ online profiles for a particular opportunity. This would involve a bit of work but, where an opportunity is of strategic importance to a firm, it may pay to ensure that profiles highlight those areas of key interest to the target client shortly before and during the pitch process. Profiles can easily be changed back afterwards.

Do any firms do this already?

I’ve anecdotally heard of a firm in the US that strategically places content on LinkedIn prior to RFPs being issued. They’re looking to position themselves in the tendering organisation’s eyes early. I think that’s a really smart approach.

I’m not aware of other firms doing this at this stage, but would love to hear of more examples if you’re aware of any.

Your 6-step approach to leveraging social media for RFP success

1. Use features such as LinkedIn’s Advanced Search to identify who, within the tendering organisation, is likely to be involved or have some input into the evaluation process.

2. Identify the key issues and considerations for the tendering organisation using your usual processes such as coffees/meetings with the client, strategy sessions with the client, client interviews, secondee interviews etc. and develop a content plan for the months leading up to the pitch. This can be as simple as a calendar setting out what you will be compiling when. Actively hunt out relevant third party content too, and build this into your plan. 

3. Develop/source the appropriate content.

4. Share this via social networks  - e.g.

  • directly with specific contacts (if and when appropriate), via a professional’s personal LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts if he/she is directly connected with, or followed by, one or more of those who will be involved in the decision making process.
  • within LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. 
  • on your website, your firm’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and LinkedIn company page
When doing so, don’t forget to ask a question to encourage discussion and debate. 
5. Stay actively involved in any discussion threads around the content you’ve shared. 
6. Refer to your repository of content, where appropriate, in your RFP response.
Do you know of any firms already doing this?
How else could professional services firms leverage social media to increase their RFP success rate?


Follow-up: the missing link in professional services business development?

by Kirsten Hodgson

Image courtesy Simon Howden

How many times have you had a great meeting with a prospect, sent them a follow-up proposal and wondered what became of it? 

I'm as guilty as the next person. Often I'll follow up once or twice and leave a message if I can't get hold of the person and then simply…

…give up. Just like that. I write it off and tell myself they would have called if they were interested. 

And that might be the case. But do I know that for sure? 

No. And that's the problem.

It might be uncomfortable to be a squeaky wheel but you've put in the effort to get this far so it's vital to follow up until you get a definitive yes/no answer. 

There are a whole host of reasons why people don't get back to you: 

  • They get busy. 
  • They need to talk to someone else internally. 
  • Something more urgent crops up and your project becomes lower priority. 
  • Their decision-making process is notoriously s l o w. 
  • They need to do some work at their end and haven't got around to it. 

Perhaps you can help your contact along by offering to present to their key stakeholders to overcome any objections and to get them on board. 

Or you may just need patience and persistence. 

And a diary note about when to follow up. 

Following-up until you know what decision the prospect has made could make a huge difference to the number of opportunities you turn into work. Even if they have decided not to go with you, you then have the opportunity to understand why and to modify future approaches accordingly. 

Have you ever thought an opportunity had died only for it to spring back to life? 

What other tips would you share? 


The professional services selling myth

by Kirsten Hodgson

I've worked with a number of lawyers and other professionals who are petrified that, in order to build their businesses, they are going to have to convince people to hire them by pitching to them. They're understandably nervous and the idea of 'selling' doesn't sit well with them – they're in their roles because they enjoy their profession and helping people. They've been sucked into the professional services selling myth.

While there are aggressive rainmakers out there who do focus on themselves and their needs, this approach doesn't fit everyone's personality. The good news is that there is another way: focus on the other person and their needs.

Larry Bodine alluded to this in a recent blog post: 5 marketing tips to make it rain in 2012. In it he said to stop pitching to people because nobody likes it and to start asking questions. He's totally right. Asking intelligent questions is one of the best things you can do in a new business meeting. That's because:

  • how can you let people know how you can help them unless you know what their specific needs are?
  • And, how can you know what their specific needs are unless you ask questions to uncover these?

How should you approach each new business meeting? 

Before each new business meeting:

  1. Research the person/people you are meeting and the company – look at their website, do a google search, check their social media profiles, look at their annual report
  2. Find out the other person's objective for the meeting by asking 'What would you like to get out of this meeting?' or 'What would make this a good meeting for you?' or 'If there was only one thing you could get from this meeting, what would you want it to be?' If you have called the meeting, you may be better asking this at the start of the meeting itself.
  3. Write down the other person's objective for the meeting – once you've done so, jot down how you can meet their objective
  4. Write down your objective/desired outcome for the meeting - ensure it's SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). For example, it may be to get a meeting with the CEO in the next 2 weeks, to gain agreement to run a workshop within the next month or to be able to put together a written/verbal proposal based on that client's needs by X date.
  5. Write down at least 3 questions you would like to ask the other person/people – what do you need to know in order to move to the next step? When in the meeting, the key is that you listen to the other person's responses and don't leap in as soon as you hear an issue they have that you can help with. You want to find out about the various issues they have and then uncover which are most important to the client. The danger with jumping in is that you focus on an issue that actually isn't that far up the client's priority list. A really great model to follow in new business meetings is the SPIN selling model, the brainchild of Neil Rackham – I like the way the questions move from general to more specific and that they seek to create a need. It's a logical process that's easy to follow.

At the end of the meeting, discuss the next step with the prospective client. Get their agreement both on what action will be taken, who will take it and when it will be complete. For example, you may say 'It was great to find out about the issues you're facing over the next year. You mentioned that X and Y are really critical and these are things with which we can assist. Would it be of value if we were to put together a short proposal setting out our understanding of your needs, how we could help and the associated costs?' If the client agrees let them know when they can expect to receive your proposal and stick to the deadline you agree – better still, deliver it early.

If they don't agree, find out what they suggest happens next and, again, agree a timeframe.

What other tips would you share to help other professionals get more from new business meetings? 

Do you agree with my tips above? Why/why not? 

6 ways to use Infographics in Professional Services Marketing

If you're anything like me then you're a sucker for a good Infographic. There's nothing like being able to absorb information visually, in a way that's easy (and quick) to understand. 

Gareth Case, a marketing professional in the UK, shared his CV with a LinkedIn group, which he's produced as an Infographic and it got me thinking, how can law firms, accounting firms, and engineering firms use Infographics in their businesses? 

I can see Infographics being useful to share the following information:  

  1. Business plans (including industry, client and practice group plans) – wouldn't it be great to be able to put your plans up on the wall for all to see (and understand)? Imagine how much more traction you would get and how many more people in your firm would think about you if an opportunity arose when they were talking to their clients. Infographics would be a great way to share this information across the firm in an appealing way. 
  2. How to guides or updates about the impact of legislative or other changes – again, a departure from the norm and an easy way for your audience to understand the key messages. 
  3. Vision and values - rather than just having a list of values and your vision written on a piece of paper somewhere, put these into an Infographic. This would be great to display prominently, give to new staff and would support other methods you're using (such as names of your meeting rooms, words on your walls etc). 
  4. Credential statements – I would love to put together a credential statement as an Infometric as it would force brevity and ensure the key messages come through clearly. 
  5. Professional bios - much as Gareth Case has done. These would be great on a website and, providing the info can be easily tailored, would be good to include in CVs to go into tenders and proposals. 
  6. Policies and procedures – imagine starting a new job and not having to wade through a mass of policy/procedures info. If you want people to understand and follow these, they need to be simple anyway, so why not make your policies/procedures visually appealing too? 
  7. Graduate/other recruitment info – Infographics could tie in nicely with other components of a campaign and could be used to communicate key messages. 

The possibilities are endless. I look forward to the day when I walk into a professional services firm's reception area and see some relevant Infographics on the wall. 

How else do you think firms could use Infographics? 

Have you seen any good examples of Infographics being used by law firms, accounting firms and engineering firms? 

18 ways for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to credentialise themselves

Why do professionals need to credentialise themselves?

Clients have a choice – they get to decide who they engage on particular projects, matters, cases or deals and who they spend their money with. According to research conducted by BTI Consulting in 2009 into the top ways clients select lawyers, personal recommendations are key followed by online searches (I assume this would be similar for selecting other professional advisers).

I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive but think it likely that, if someone recommends a professional to a prospective client, the prospective client is then likely to do a web search on that person prior to contacting him/her (although there will undoubtedly be lots of instances of people finding professional advisers online).

If a professional has sought to credentialise himself/herself then evidence of this will appear online – both on the person’s website, via their social media profiles, blog or third party sites (such as journals/newspapers/conference organisers). This all helps prospective clients to choose to do business with someone – it makes them feel good about their decision.

How can advisers credentialise themselves?

  1. Produce case studies outlining the client’s problem, what you did, and the results you achieved
  2. Obtain client testimonials talking about the benefits you delivered
  3. Speak at, and attend, relevant conferences/seminars and follow up!
  4. Run seminars at a client’s premises
  5. Run webinars and record them for attendees and those who couldn’t make it to view later
  6. Sell in article ideas to relevant publications
  7. Get to know relevant journalists and position yourself as a commentator
  8. Set up a blog and post regularly – if you hate writing consider a video or audio blog
  9. Produce guides, tips, or how-to’s and share these with your target audience(s)
  10. Host roundtables on topical issues
  11. Bring together clients with mutual interests and facilitate discussion
  12. Produce thought-leadership pieces
  13. Produce video-alerts or news-alerts on topical issues and the key things your clients need to consider
  14. Author an eBook or other book
  15. Initiate and comment on discussions on social media networks and on blogs
  16. Re-tweet or share good articles/blogs written by others that will be of interest to your target audience
  17. Ask and answer questions on social media networks
  18. Seek to demonstrate your expertise and capabilities through your bio – both hard copy and online

While this seems like a long list of ‘things to do’, we recommend selecting one or two subjects or topics and leveraging your interest and knowledge to credentialise yourself using the various channels (e.g. conferences, seminars, blogs etc). This will help you to build profile in a specific market or grow your standing as someone with particular expertise.

What other ways do you think professionals can/should evidence their abilities? 

Positioning your firm to win tenders before they come out

This is the second in a three part series about helping your firm increase its tender success rate. Last time we looked at how to evaluate tender opportunities. This time we cover what you can do to identify opportunities and position your firm before an RFP is released.

How do you know if a client will be putting work out to tender?

  • If you are on an existing panel, make sure you have diarised when the panel arrangements will come up for review. Ensure everyone who works with the client knows. Using your intranet and/or client management space are great ways to do this.
  • Talk to major corporate targets / government departments that either have panel arrangements, which you are not part of, or that have no formal arrangements, about how they procure legal services. Find out their future plans and what you would need to do to position yourselves to win their work in a particular area.
  • Understand any thresholds or practices around tendering regimes that your targets/clients have (e.g. has to go to tender over a certain dollar threshold). Talk to them about what projects they have coming up, and what their objectives are.

What questions should you ask?

Irrespective of whether you are, or aren’t,  a current provider, you should ask the same basic questions:

  • What is the person, his/her team and the wider organisation looking for in a service provider?
  • What is important to them? (from both a personal and company perspective)
  • What are the decision making criteria likely to be?
  • Who will be making the decision? And who will be influencing it?

And, if you are known to them:

  • What you do well and what you could improve?

Or, if you aren’t a current provider:

  • What are their perceptions of your firm, experience and people?
  • What do their existing providers do well and what could they improve?

You should never assume you know why an organisation is going to tender. You should also keep in mind that what they tell you may only be a part of the story. Depending on how strong your relationship is, how well you know the organisation and how probing your questions, you may come away with more or less of the full picture.

How do you position your individuals/firm prior to RFPs being released?

  • Having asked the questions, you need to respond. Work out what is important to the target/client and think about how you can demonstrate your expertise.
  • Develop a plan! What work do you want, who will you target, what are the issues in their industry, how will you position yourselves and how will you get to know the key people within the target organisation?
  • Make sure you demonstrate your expertise online and offline, thinking about the media the client uses/interacts with – for example placing relevant articles/thought leadership pieces in trade journals and newspapers, asking and answering questions and commenting on appropriate discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups (i.e. those to which the client belongs), Tweeting useful articles/other content both that others and you have generated, commenting on the client’s blog posts (if and when opportunities arise) and posting relevant content on your blog and website.

What else would you recommend firms do to increase their likelihood of winning RFPs?

How do you position your firm to win tenders before they have come in the door?

Does your firm properly evaluate tender opportunities?

It seems as though tenders arrive at firms’ doors in waves. It is not unusual for there to be 10 or more tenders, pitches or proposals being developed at any one time in some firms. This stretches resources and can result in less rigorous processes when it comes to assessing whether the firm is well placed to pitch, and in delivering the tender.

There are three stages which, if followed, will  increase the percentage of tenders you win:

  1. before the tender is released
  2. when the tender arrives at the firm and
  3. writing the tender.

We are going to start with the middle part – what to do when a tender arrives at the firm. In future blogs we’ll look at what you can do prior to a tender being released, and tips for developing the most compelling tender response.

The purpose of this discussion is to help you apply some rigour to the process, rather than simply reacting to every opportunity that arises. Before you even start writing the first word of an RFP response, be honest and rate your chances.

Should we submit a tender response?

This can be a highly pressured time and decisions need to be rational and have some level of objectivity to them.

We recommend having a preselected team who makes the decision, for example a CEO or Managing Partner, plus a practice area or industry sector leader. The team who make recommendations should be wider than this and include the partner who is responsible for the client / sector / main area of work, and a senior marketing or BD member.

Often, the best way to assess whether or not your firm should tender for a particular piece of work is setting up a system that enables you to rank each opportunity on a scale of 1 to 5. You can then decide what total makes a ‘definite yes’, ‘definite no’ or requires more consideration or conditions for tender. Some areas that you should always consider in deciding whether to submit a tender are:

  • how well do we know the key players – those who will be making (or influencing) the decision?
  • how do they perceive us as a firm?
  • how well do they know our expertise in the relevant area?
  • how well-resourced are we to do the work?
  • how well do we compare to our competitors (according to the target or others in the same industry)?

In addition, other things to consider include:

  • did we know the tender was coming? This can help answer some of the questions about how well you have positioned yourselves to be in the running for serious consideration.
  • is the tender a serious process? Some organisations have a built-in process whereby they must tender for service providers on a predetermined basis. This may mean there is little internal desire to change, but they must ‘go through the motions’ and are almost certainly going to reappoint the incumbent. If you are the incumbent you must take the process seriously.
  • have we worked with them before? If not, how do they know you? Have they seen your work? If you have worked with them before, how do they perceive you? Have you conducted any client or project reviews?
  • are we conflicted? You also need to understand what the organisation”s sensitivities to conflicts are.

There are always those tenders where it is important simply to be seen to tender. There may be influential people at the target who are important to your firm, or it is a small market and you need to tender for this particular role.

Whatever the reason you tender, make sure you have a process which ensures you are using your valuable internal resources wisely.

What other criteria do you use in deciding whether to tender?

How well do you think most firms approach this?

How often is it a case of he/she who shouts loudest gets the support?