Matching opportunities to your strengths

Why do many organisations repeatedly pursue contracts where they have little chance of success?

This is a subject which has fascinated me for many years. It is a phenomenon that shows no signs of running out of steam. There are numerous factors which may help to explain the reasons for it, most of them are self-inflicted.

In the first chapter of my recently published free paper ‘The 23 Biggest Mistakes That Bidders Make’ I tackle some of these, namely:

  • Unrealistic and over optimistic expectations of success where we convince ourselves that we are going to win
  • The absence of a business development system which obtains vital intelligence about the customer, the contract opportunity and the competition.
  • Lack of effort and/or skill in finding out and really understanding the customer’s needs and concerns leading to poor decision making when it comes to prioritizing which opportunities to pursue
  •  Ineffective bid-no bid processes and failing to select opportunities which provide the best chances of winning
  •  An unimaginative, one dimensional win strategy based on being the lowest price, technically compliant bid
  •  Not enough innovation and creativity applied in developing alternative solutions for customers which are relevant, beneficial, attractive and offer better value for money
  • An organizational culture which does not embrace transformational change and pays lip service to continuous improvement, combined with a lack of investment in developing core competences into a competitive advantage
  •  Insufficient effort made in differentiating the company from its competitors particularly using the skills , knowledge and experience of its people and team as a central theme
  • Either no attempt or a poor attempt at measuring and capturing meaningful performance data and details of benefits delivered to past customers and using this rich source of material as a means of really standing out from competitors

I think that sometimes we allow ourselves to become victims of our own well intentioned but ultimately destructive approach to business development and bidding. You know the scenario, we say to ourselves that “We have got to keep busy, react quickly, jump in and make things happen”.

Are we too busy and under too much pressure to take a little time out to reflect on the factors that really determine what makes us competitive and successful in winning contracts?

There are some organisations which I call the ‘Elite Bidders’ who do take the time to not only think about these factors but also more importantly create strategies and take actions to develop competitive advantages which they then align with the right customers and the right contract opportunities. It is no surprise that their win rates are extraordinary.

One of the first things I ask a new client when we meet is “What is your competitive advantage?” Most reply that they haven’t really thought about it. Others say that they don’t really have one and are much the same as everyone else but hope to be just a little better.

However, when I start probing I find that there are always a few hidden gems in every organisation many of which are just taken for granted and are not articulated to clients either in marketing material or in tenders and proposals. They are missing a trick here!

David Harrison

David Harrison set up HMC Consulting in 2003 following many years working for multi-national contractors in the Construction Industry, holding positions from commercial manager to senior vice president and running business units with annual sales ranging from £14M to £50M and developed a successful track record and a passion for growing businesses. Now he shares his experience and knowledge through speaking and consulting.

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