After spending the majority of my time over the past 10 years building relationships with clients, crafting compelling value propositions to secure new work, and coaching others to do the same, I am still amazed about how reactive the consulting and construction industry still is in this area.

Often corporate processes and flow charts highlight the importance of building client relationships and positioning early and not just reacting to tenders when they are received.  The Bid/No Bid or Go/No Go processes are there to follow and are often quite comprehensive.  But even when it is laid out in front of us, we still revert to type too often under stress or when we are busy.

How often do you hear others, or use yourself, lazy responses such, ‘it will just be selected on price’, ‘We didn’t expect the brief to come out that quickly’ or believing that what you want to do is what the client really needs as opposed to truly understanding their challenges and problems!

This reactive and lazy approach usually results in you responding to the written word in the brief and too often doesn’t articulate what the client really wants.  If that is the position you are in when tendering then I wouldn’t bother.  You are up against other teams that actually have done the hard work, have spent time with the client to understand their real issues and possibly what price point they are expecting.  Unless it is truly on price, and in this case you will have bid it lean and are at risk of losing money on it, you have next to no chance of winning.  What if you spent that time, quarantined it and went to see a number of clients to understand their needs?  A far better way to spend your time.  As an example, if you spent half or even a third of say the $10,000 you spent on a proposal, how many times could you see your clients, present back and test your views in advance of briefs being released or even better negotiate 1 on 1 because you are the only one who can truly service your clients needs? A heap!

Why doesn’t this happen though? Too lazy? To scared? Feel like you have to come back from a meeting to the office with a basket full of work every time?  Well it takes proactiveness, time, commitment and resolve.  If you are the one in the market that has this then you will be the most successful.  You will be sitting back in a year, two years, watching the competition eat itself alive with lowest price tenders.  You will have forged strong relationships with clients you want to work with and those that want to work with you.  The trust will be strong and you will really know what is on the clients mind.  You will be thinking about the client and making sure what you are offering is in their interests and ultimately yours.

The competition will still be using trite excuses and doing it tough.  I tell you who I would want to be working with!

We recently secured a long term commission with a government client.  There was an incumbent who had done a good job in the earlier phases, we weren’t the cheapest and weren’t local but we spent time really understanding the project, the client’s needs and how we would address them.  In a very simple proposal we were able to demonstrate a deep understanding of the issues that was only possible through the effort put in upstream of the bid being released.  My experience over 20 years has continued to show me that this is the only way to go.

I know it’s difficult to make the shift, it really needs leadership in the business to believe in this approach and see the benefit and importantly not waiver after the first, second or even subsequent result.

Once you have taken this step the rest will flow relatively easily.  You will be able to craft that value proposition as chances are the client has told you what it is.  You will know about opportunities and issues earlier than others providing you with the chance to respond and even showcase your expertise before the written brief is in the market.  You will be able to work with the clients you want to work with.

All in all a nice place to be, even in a tough market.

Are you prepared to take the leap of faith?  What is holding you back?