Pre-RFP/tender capture planning is now a common approach for winning new business. But what about planning for a rebid?
When you are the incumbent there can sometimes be too little focus on this early effort, perhaps on the assumption that you already have customer relationships, know what the customer wants, and they already know you: so less effort is required in preparation. The answer is to have a clear Recapture Plan, the equivalent – but different – process for rebids that the Capture plan is for new bids.
Why is a Recapture Plan different?
There are often different attitudes and assumptions at play when rebidding existing business compared to winning new business. These, as well as the fact you are already delivering the business, mean there are different approaches and different areas of emphasis that need to be used in a successful Recapture Plan. For example:
- As you are already delivering the business there can be an assumption you already know the customer. That isn’t always completely true. A Recapture Plan (and the Recapture Manager leading this effort) needs to overcome this assumption and focus on ‘getting to know the customer all over again.
- There can be a tendency to underplay changes in the customer requirements. The Rebid is the customer’s opportunity to make changes to the service they are receiving. The full impact of (and reasons for) these changes can be underestimated by incumbents, influenced by their existing delivery experience. The Recapture Plan has to focus on the changes and overcome any sense that they are minor and can be ignored.
- As you are already delivering the existing contract in a certain way (especially if you are doing so successfully against existing measures), there can be an in built inertia against looking afresh at what the best solution going forward might be. A Recapture Plan must ensure you look beyond your existing solution.
- Being the incumbent, the customer already has direct experience of your ability to deliver, and your approach to them and the contract. This usually gives you an advantage – but only if you can effectively exploit it. The Recapture Plan needs to analyse all the information gained over the period of the existing contract. Both about the customer, about the contract, and particularly about your own performance.
- If things have not gone well on the contract, or if the customer is looking for significant change in the new contract, the customer’s experience of your existing delivery can work against you in their perception of you. The Recapture Plan needs to identify these potentially damaging perceptions and overcome them.
- As the incumbent you have delivery team ‘on the ground’. The Recapture Plan must balance the experience and knowledge of the existing delivery team with the experience of bidding processes bought by a bid team, and the new and innovative ideas and challenges to assumptions that ‘outsiders’ to the delivery team can offer.
How do you put a Recapture Plan in place?
Get a clear starting date to the recapture effort by running a workshop or meeting where you get all the relevant stakeholders involved focusing on the rebid about 6 months prior to the official customer start of the bid process. Get people from the contract team, the bid team, other departments who will be heavily involved in the rebid effort and others such as Account Managers, Sales people etc if they are part of your structure to attend.
Focus the day on asking questions about the customer, the contract and the rebid to see what is already known, to uncover assumptions and, crucially to find out what you don’t know as a team about the rebid.
Exposing areas where the assembled team are unsure or things they don’t know can overcome any presumptions that all is well and little action is required (or required yet). By creating a set of actions you give yourself as the Recapture Manager a reason to drive effort by people and review progress.
Set out a clear calendar of actions and reviews for the Recapture Plan
Your initial review of the rebid above will have created a set of initial tasks, and some action and focus. However there is a danger that if you don’t keep momentum going that focus will drift. To maintain the initiative and keep a focus on the Recapture Plan, moving forward the actions needed to win make sure you put in place a calendar of actions and reviews to check progress and readiness.
Put your resources in place
Unless you are running a very small rebid, the job of the Recapture Manager is not to do all the work yourself. Instead it is to coordinate, manage and lead the activities of the team who are doing the work. As with a new bid, this is likely to comprise people for various departments as well as members of the bid team.
But with rebids you are also working with the operational team delivering the existing contract. They will have a vital part to play in the rebid. They form part of the team creating the new solution, and providing costings and materials for the written submission. But they will also, through their actions on the existing contract, influence your chances of winning.
Review your existing contract performance
Assuming the customer knows you and what you have done, and not spelling it out in the rebid is a common mistake for incumbents. But this performance is unlikely to be at your fingertips for immediate use when you need it.
To properly understand your performance you need time. That’s why you should start collating and analysing information about the existing contract as one of the first actions in your Recapture Plan
Broaden customer relationships and your understanding of the customer
A key aspect of a Capture Plan is building relationships with your new, potential customer and gaining an understanding of their needs. As we’ve said above, there is often a presumption in a rebid that you already have these relationships. But for the rebid, other people will become more involved – and have influence and potentially ultimate control of the key decisions. Typically these will not be people who get involved with day to day ongoing contract delivery –and therefore your team may not know them, or their priorities.
Just as with a Capture Plan, a key part of the Recapture Plan is to build relationships with these key decision makers and influencers. Relying just on your existing relationships could mean you miss out on vital information, and key opportunities to influence
Build a clear understanding of the customer’s strategic needs
As the incumbent you should have had more time and exposure to the customer to understand the customer’s priorities. But a key part of your Recapture effort should be to make sure you really do understand them properly. And understand how they relate to your contract – and how your contract can help the customer achieve these goals. Your experience over the contract will be part of that – but your Recapture effort needs to test, challenge and build on any existing knowledge and assumptions.
Focus on what is changing in your customer’s needs and the rebid
There is a tendency for incumbents to underestimate the amount of change there will be in the customer’s rebid. Make sure, from the start of the Recapture process that you are focusing on finding out what changes the customer has faced and will be facing, and what changes they are likely to be looking for in the next contract. Challenge internal assumptions and inertia early, even if it is uncomfortable and potentially creates angst and even resistance. Any angst now will be less than that felt if you lose due to not making the changes you needed to win.
Develop a new outline solution early and test it with the customer
As part of your Recapture Plan you should be putting together a new solution as early as you reasonably can as you collate the information on what your customer will be looking for in the next contract and what is available in the market.
But you also need to be creating a new solution that will challenge your existing assumptions from your existing contract delivery of what is right. This is a solution based only on the new needs you have found out the customer wants – with no reference to how you deliver at the moment.
Developing this solution from the ground up will give you a fresh insight into what might be possible. It will give you a basis on which to look at your existing delivery and challenge all aspects of it.
Creating your new outline solution early also gives you the opportunity to test it with your customer contacts, get their feedback and potentially modify it further.
Ideally your existing contract delivery will be perfect. Too often though there are either minor or underlying issues. It might seem too late to fix a problem in the last few months of what might have been a long contract. And it’s true that fixing the problem now is not as good as fixing it earlier (or not having it happen at all). But it is much better than leaving it, and saying the submission you will solve it in the next contract (or even ignoring it).
Get new information
Another issue you might identify in the early review of your contract and in the early part of the Recapture Planning effort is that you have missing information or data. One example is customer, particularly end user, feedback. Even if you only have time for one iteration of a survey, it is often worth doing one.
Test your new solution
If you have identified new ways of working as part of your new solution early enough, you might have time to test them in your existing operation. Some might argue that anything new should be held back until the rebid submission to prevent it getting included in the final customer specification for all to respond to, or leaked to competitors. But, this danger is often outweighed by the potential benefit you can gain from:
- Showing the customer you are capable of delivering something new.
- Testing the customer’s reaction to the new idea.
- Being able to show in your submission data about the benefits delivered.
- Gaining an understanding of the costs and details of how to deliver.
As the incumbent you should be have considerable advantages vs your competitors. Too many incumbents squander many of these advantages by failing to prepare early enough, with the right vigour, and with the right approach. By creating and implementing a Recapture Plan you should be able to make the most of your advantages and win more of your rebids.
– Nigel Thacker, Rebid Centre