Partnering: A key ingredient in bid success

In this era of frenmies, deciding whom you work with in a bid can be the make or break decision.

And to be on the winning side you must be vigilant about your and your partners’ standing - before, during, and after the bid. Here are learnings from a few real-world examples.

Bid-1: Before the bid

In a multi-solution greenfield project, a financial institution was intending to bring together customer acquisition and retention capabilities by implementing two critical solution components. Thus, the prime bidder had multiple OEM partners as a part of its bid. Most were technical leaders in their respective field. And as the technical evaluation went under way the OEM realized that while its technical ranking was without doubt an advantage, the client perception of the SI’s ability bringing it all together was a suspect. The SI’s track record with the bank was mixed and the client eventually gave their bid a lower rating. And obviously with it the OEM also faced the axe.

Only solution superiority is not sufficient to win a bid. The client is looking for a solution that is used by its employees and delivers a return. Therefore, it’s vital that the sales team should investigate every partners’ standing with the client before they decide to bid together.

Bid-2: During the bid

This was about a Rs 100 Cr ($ 15 mn) 5-year deal. It was originally a 3-way race but once the commercials were announced only 2 of the 3 vendors remained in contention moved ahead. It seemed that the 3rd bidder had not got its technical solution wrong and therefore the pricing was way above the market baseline.

But in reality, the 3rd contender had lost the race at the MEC (Minimum Eligibility Criterion) stage itself. A key partner of the third contender (with whom they had won 3 large deals in the recent years) could not clear the MEC criterion. Either lack of attention to detail or limited prior influencing or poor client interface. What- ever the reason, that itself was the blow which led contender-3 out of the race. Due to the absence of the partner, the client solution had to be re-configured leading to serious overhead in terms of implementation estimations and support.

Thus, the sales team not only needs to focus on the customer, it also needs to keep a vigilant eye throughout the bid process on how its preferred partners are faring with the end customer. And proactively make amends, as necessary.

Bid-3: After the bid

In one of the longest bids we have come across (the client took 5 years from EOI to RFP-decision!!), the decision was to be based on Reverse Auction. Now I’m not a big fan of RA but who can deny its benefit to the customers. So there we were - the OEMs - huddled along with our SI/prime bidder, all set for the action to begin. With bated breath but also equally anxious. The SI team was ready with their ammunition – pricing scenarios, decrement values, what have you. And as it happens with most RAs, things don’t really go as per plan. And at one point the SI leadership decided to take a forward call! It worked. We won!

But of course, the celebrations were muted coz all of us and especially the OEMs were worried - what now!? How will we reduce the prices further, what new justifications could be offered to ask for even deeper discounts? What if they were turned down?

We all parted ways genuinely worried. Two days later the SI shared the new price request and as you would have expected all hell went loose. The customer had given us finite time to revert with the updated break-up, and the asks were not normal. But the SI was persistent in making it happen. Their leadership engaged with the OEMs to convince them, cajole them on the need to do this. While not all discussions were smooth, it helped that the SI has won couple of deals earlier for the OEMs, their partnership was extending beyond India, and there was an overall let’s-do-it attitude amongst the team on the ground.

In the end the deal was sealed in time with all parties taking a reasonable but practical cut.

Thus, if you are working with long term commitment and have a good track record with your partner you can expect to get the unexpected done. Obviously, it requires an engagement at all the levels in the organization, mutual trust, a strong case, and outlook towards mutual growth.

What role can technology play in partner selection?

While the soft aspects of the deal cannot be ignored, its super vital to get your partner info handy – before, during, and after the bid. Examples:

• What is our win ratio with partner-A v/s partner-B? How does this vary based on territory or BU?

• What has been the pricing/discount trend with the key partners?

• What is partner-B’s revenue-share of my business and how it has trended over time?

• Where we have lost bids, which partner was featured most, amongst the won bids?

• What is partner market share?

• How has the technical solution/configuration of partner-A changed over similar (value, BU) bids across territories.

• Why did we not go with partner-B in a particular bid couple of years ago?

• Which partner has offered better business terms over the long run (3 yrs)?

If you can combine the soft and quantifiable deal-related aspects – before, during, and after the bid – you will stand a much better chance of winning. Even in these days of frenmies.

Comments and observations welcome at