When you find yourself needing to retender for one of your contracts, there are a number of “do’s and don’ts” you should bear in mind. The retendering process can often be a very challenging situation, particularly if the contract you hold is coming to an end and it represents a large proportion of your existing business. The fear of losing can put you and your bid team under significant pressure, so here are our retendering guidelines on how to do everything you can to ensure the best outcome:
Do prepare in advance
As the current (incumbent) contract holder, you’ll know before anyone else when the contract is due to end, which gives you more time to prepare. Make sure you:
- Record all the successes you’ve had with the client, no matter how small (or big)
- Quantify the cost and time savings you’ve made
- Look at the SLAs and KPIs for the current contract. Hopefully you’ve been recording results against them, if not, start now. Consider the meetings and discussions you’ve had with the client, what were their concerns through the contract, and what did you do to alleviate them?
- Take a step back from the contract and try to see if any complacency has crept into the way you operate. If it has, address it – think about what you do for your other clients – can you duplicate the good stuff here? Make sure your service delivery is of high quality and your staff are aware the contract is up for re-tender soon
- Talk to the buyer. Ask if there is anything they would like to see from you now and in the future. Are there things you could implement as a trial run/pilot for free in the last few months of your contract, that when the time comes, could provide an extra boost to your upcoming retender?
Do demonstrate your understanding of the buyer/commissioning authority
Being the current contract holder gives you a major advantage over your competitors – your understanding of the buyer. Other tenderers only have the tender documentation and publicly available information to guide them, you have insider knowledge of the buyer’s processes, systems, pain points, day to day operations etc. Make sure you use this in your bid and really personalise your proposal. Another advantage is that there will be no mobilisation, implementation or transition period or costs as there will be no change to supplier – ensure you highlight this, even if it seems obvious.
Do check the tender documentation/requirements thoroughly
When the new tender is released, make sure you read the tender documentation and guidelines thoroughly. The buyer may include new requirements in their specifications above and beyond the service you are already providing – you will need to ensure your response addresses these. Check the pricing too – can you offer any reduction in price whilst still making a profit?
Don’t make assumptions
Just because you already hold the contract, it’s easy to make assumptions about the upcoming tender process and what the buyer wants. However, it is important not to assume:
- The buyer knows all about you
- The buyer doesn’t want to change
- It’s ‘in the bag’ because you’re doing a good job
Your contacts in the buyer’s organisation may not have much input into the tender process, particularly if it’s being run via a centralised procurement department (i.e. away from the actual department needing the service). The buyer will have an evaluation process to follow which needs to be fair to all tenderers, so you need to include all relevant information in your retender, even if you think the buyer already has that information. Likewise, if you feel you’ve been doing a good job, you need to quantify this in your bid so the buyer can clearly see the benefits you’ve brought them during the current contract term. Highlight any improvements you’ve made and where you’ve helped the client overcome significant challenges.
Don’t think it will be easier than winning a new contract
Again, because you hold the contract and won it the first time (or maybe even the second or third), it’s easy to underestimate what you might have to do in order to win it again. For example, do not underestimate:
- How complacency can set in without you realising, particularly if contracts have been extended and you’ve been providing the service for many years
- The buyer’s desire for change – perhaps they have a new board member, new procurement team, a new remit, new targets or have been talking to one or more of your competitors
- The amount of work you’ll need to do to submit a winning bid
You may have settled into a ‘business as usual’ routine in the contract, and not focused on new innovations or ideas recently. The contract may fall well and truly into your ‘comfort zone’ and is simply ticking along without much effort on your behalf. This may of course suit the buyer, but there may also be a desire in the buyer’s organisation to change – whether that be to save money, to increase ‘green’ credentials, or to focus more on social value; whatever that desire is, you need to make sure you address it in your response.
With the major advantage of you knowing the buyer, the opposite could be said of the buyer knowing you. They know how well you have delivered the current contract. When re-tendering, you can’t pretend to have delivered something you haven’t. Whilst you can’t assume they know all about you, at the same time you can’t claim to have introduced innovative ways of working or saved them money if you haven’t. However, there may still be ways of showing them that you have delivered things that they haven’t seen.
You should always use case studies/evidence in a bid; when re-tendering, at least some of those case studies should be for the buyer. You may think that the buyer doesn’t particularly want to hear about how their current contract holder has implemented some wonderful technology and/or processes at another client, but if it’s relevant to them and could help you win the contract, include it, and outline the ways in which it will help them specifically.
Don’t have all your eggs in one basket
Putting you and your business under excessive pressure to re-win a contract can be hazardous to health, as well as potentially affecting the quality of your tender. It is simply good business and good for mental health, to not have more than 20% of your turnover reliant on one customer. Most financial stability assessments (as part of a tender) would fail if the contract represented more than 50% of your turnover. The only way to avoid this pressure is to ensure you have a broad client base, such that if the worst happens and you do lose a contract, you have others in place to keep you occupied.