Signs that you need to improve urgently
When your business is short of work itís in everyoneís interest to know and act if they value their jobs. The next sign of urgency is if you need to price-cut to win contracts. All stakeholders should be worried by price-cutting. Your entire production, supply and sales resources are there to take your product to market. If the market isnít keen on your offer then alarm bells should ring all over.
Perhaps you find there are fewer plum contracts out there to win. If so, itís time for all staff to get weaving on improvements. Finding fewer good contracts could mean you are missing some. When they slip through your net entirely, everyone should worry. Repairs are needed, and fast, before things get worse.
Take a careful look at the pecking order of firms in your type of business. Is your rank slipping? Are your competitors creeping up? Maybe they are surging up - in which case, sound the alarm!
The bigger your firm the more likely youíll find people deaf to alarm bells. Iíve seen two very big suppliers agreeing to poor promotion. If one pulled its socks up the other would have to stir itself to stay competitive.
Check sales goals
You should check whether any of your sales staff are not meeting goals. The fault could mean a key product, service, market sector or region is not living up to expectations. This is serious stuff. The weakness could prove chronic, and spread.
The best firms have set up a culture with zero tolerance of on-going weakness. This does not mean pointing the finger at weak people. Itís the weak tool and the weak process thatís the enemy. No one should fear trying to improve. Itís the people who donít try to improve that should be feared.
Itís a fact of life that there are clever people out there. Sooner or later they will work for your competitors. This means that the effectiveness of your tools and methods will decline over time. You must continuously seek to improve Ė even to retain your present status. To forge ahead, you must improve as a matter of urgency.
Push the red button if you find your sales productivity is not rising quite quickly. Your promotion productivity should be rising too. For example are your press articles, leaflets, ads and presentations all clearly better than competitorsí? Thereís an easy way to check on this. Find out who has the responsibility for managing improvement in promotion clearly defined in their job description. If the answer is no-one, itís time to call a meeting under urgency.
Who are the stakeholders affected if your tendering system is weak? There are shareholders, directors, managers, shop workers, office workers, trades people, subcontractors, principals, bankers and others. All suffer when a business declines. All should have your success at tendering explained to them as an urgent priority. It should not be hard to get their commitment.
Another big stakeholder in your tenders is the target customer. The commitment you want from the customer is to rank your bid at the top of the heap.
The customer has five hats
Think of the customer as having five hats. It could involve up to five people. The person wearing the CEO hat will look for evidence of your professionalism, reliability and success at similar contracts. He or she will want a clear, credible pricing structure. Be sure to provide it.
The person wearing the finance hat will look very closely at how well you seem to understand where costs can accrue and how well your system will control them. Cost over-runs are a plague on contract work. They cause tempers to fray, quality to drop and things to run late. Get commitment by offering deals that really impress the finance person.
Chances are that an engineer will check your bid. He or she will need confidence that you have up-to-date technology and really know how to use it. Prove without doubt that your service is turnkey, and your people are skilled and well managed.
Getting the vote of the person wearing the marketing hat means you must prove you can deliver on time. Quality must match the needs of his or her firm and its customers too. Show how your offer provides a strong competitive advantage which will help boost the buyerís business.
The fifth hat involves human resources. Show how your offer would likely be the first choice of the customerís staff who will work with its delivery and outcome. Tenders are not just about money and technology. They are about people. Remember the big new computer system that ended up being tossed out after winning a government contract? People couldnít live with it.
Bosses must improve too
When Iíve helped set up a culture for improvement, Iíve always found the bosses to instruct: ďOK - get on with itĒ. But when the facts are laid out we find it is the bosses who cause most of the faults by far, not the people under them. So my job includes getting the boss committed too, to promote, encourage, support, insist and improve.
Waste is something that should be stamped out smartly. Beware of the person who doesnít agree. Lost tenders are a costly waste of time and talent.
The old way where you just adapt the last tired methodology to the new bid really wonít do in todayís competitive world. If you really mean to win you must get your whole team to commit to a new culture as a matter of urgency.
Adapted from Tom Evison's book "Winning More Profitable Tenders", published 2007 (c) Tecads
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