Business isn’t always ‘fair’ and we don’t always get what we might think our efforts and abilities deserve. Contracting for outsourced business can be an especially brutal process, with apparently small and sometimes unfathomable differences, or opinions of evaluators, making the difference between a large win and a total loss, seemingly irrelevant of the efforts (and costs) you have put in.

Nevertheless, one of the things we ask our incumbent clients when looking at their rebids is ‘Why do you deserve to keep this contract?’

To be fair, we don’t always ask in quite such a blunt way. But we think it is a valid question, and one that more incumbents should ask themselves.
Another question we ask, for similar reasons, is ‘What have you delivered on this contract that you are most proud of?’

The reason why we ask these questions is to get to the core of what the incumbent has done (during their contract to date, or in their rebid solution) that is really outstanding, different, or better than the competition might have achieved. To move beyond the compliance mind-set that can sometimes dominate contracts or rebids (or bids for that matter). But also to go beyond what can be a sometimes mechanical process of deciding strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in determining SWOTs, Most Important Requirements, win themes, differentiators and discriminators – although we do all those as well.

Asking an incumbent what they are most proud of, and why they deserve to win gets people thinking differently:
• It often focuses them on the one or two things that are actually most important about their delivery to date or their solution.
• It can reveal something about how the contract has been delivered that otherwise might not have been mentioned, or might have been lost in a list of things completed or achieved.
• Sometimes it can reveal what those being asked see as the most important aspects of the contract and how it has been delivered.
• It can also reveal the culture and thinking that has been applied to the contract.

Ideally we hear about how end users or the customer has been served particularly well, or perhaps something about staff performance or how they have been helped to develop. These not only reveal the focus of the management team, but will often act to uncover real examples or case studies of what has been achieved which can be used in the rebid submission.
If we hear about increased profitability or turnover, it can reveal something else about the view the contract team have had in running the contract and how they have thought and acted. If that has been the only focus then the incumbent may have a harder task to convince the customer they deserve to win (usually they will have picked up this as being the delivery priority during the contract and might not appreciate it).

Even so, looking at how profit and increased turnover was delivered will be useful in itself in understanding the contract. Profit is after all the point of business and of winning most contracts, so a proper focus on profit is right. It’s when that is the only thing which has been seen as important that you may find you have a tougher task in your rebid to convince the customer you deserve to win. And by prompting for what they are proud of in terms of customer delivery, staff can reveal a more balanced view of what has been achieved.

Warning bells can start to ring when your question gets no answer at all, and a blank or confused look. Sometimes it just takes a little time for the question to be processed and to get answers flowing. But if there is in fact nothing that has been done on the contract that those delivering it are proud of or think means they deserve to win, or there is nothing in the rebid solution that people can point to that stands out in the same way, then you might find you are going to find it difficult to win.

After all, if you can’t think of a real and compelling reason why you deserve to win, why would your customer think any differently?

So, the next time you are preparing for a rebid or looking at one of your existing contracts, as well as doing all the analysis that rightly goes into your preparations, you might want to ask the team and yourself the same questions we do:

Why do we deserve to keep this contract?

What are we really proud of on this contract / in our solution?