The London Committee of the PM Forum hosted an event on 11th November where Ellie Blenkinsop (The Client – Head of Bids at Savills) and Francesca Ayers (The Consultant – Get Serious), shared inspiring and practical insights from their ‘journey’ of transformational change in Savills’ bid processes.
They started by explaining that the transformational change – with careful stakeholder engagement and buy-in – in the bid process had repositioned the Bids team from reactive service providers to strategic advisers.
1. Identifying change
At the outset there were 25 people in the bids team who were collaborative and dynamic – tackling over 800 pitches a year valued at £50m although they were often regarded as a document creation centre.
The volume of work was unsustainable and there was burn-out in the team. Success was measured on a conversion rate basis rather than on the fees secured. After discussions with the interim leader they alerted the C-Suite Executive Board of the issues.
The context and politics were explored and there was a long consultation period (throughout the project which started in Autumn 2016 to the launch in January 2018). The internal audience was segmented (the presenters used a graphic of Roger’s Adoption Curve to explain this). Tuckman’s team and group development model (forming-tell, storming-focus, norming-coaching and performing-support) was used to tackle team performance, resistance and resilience issues.
There was a poll here of what delegates wanted to change: 40% perception of yourself/team, 35% how to develop strategic skills, 16% managing the C-Suite and 9% on technical skills.
2. Harnessing the power to change
The speakers indicated that they found this the most challenging aspect of the project. The team was working exceptionally long hours and there were high levels of staff burn-out. There was acceptance of the different capabilities and roles of bid co-ordinators and strategic advisers.
They generated data – the team completed time sheets – so that they could take control and prioritise the areas to change and create a plan with flex.
3. Implementing change
They revised the way in which opportunities were assessed – the go/no go criteria. Moving away from an arbitrary fee level to develop a system that considered strategic clients and work, brand, key clients and the bottom line.
They developed a tiered response both on how to respond to opportunities and the resources that were deployed for each tier.
This involved an intense consultative process over 18 months with 13 presentations to the Executive Board, 18 team presentations, roadshows at 23 offices and 79 one-to-one meetings. The consultation enabled real empathy to be developed with leaders who were concerned at the prospect of “turning off the tap” of support for some bids.
The project team devoted time to develop a suite of templates to help on smaller bids and a roadshow to provide training in the detail of how to use the templates and images. Catch-ups were diarised and efforts were made to match the appropriate person in the bid team with those who needed to discuss the changes. This was conducted in parallel with a focus on improving the mental health of the core bids team.
Connections with The Association of Record for Bid, Proposal, Business Development, Capture and Graphics Professionals were mentioned and liaison with those in the financial services sector who had undergone similar transformations.
Best practice was captured throughout the BD Lifecycle (Market identification, account planning, opportunity planning, proposal development, negotiation and delivery) and the overall bid process:
- Market segmentation
- Long-term positioning
- Opportunity assessment
- Proposal planning
- Proposal preparation
- Post-Submission Activities
There was an integrated internal communications campaign called “Winning Ways” to market the changes. This included engaging champions and providing tools (e.g. handbooks and guides), processes, templates and training to embed the changes.
Training was provided for directors, the sales team, NextGen newly-qualified surveyors, support teams and the bid team. Bid team training included strategic competencies including creative unblocking, resilience and persuasion.
Underperformance and non-conformance were addressed and there were five new hires into the team (and a further Public Sector Head of Bidding is currently being recruited).
4. Celebrating change
Significant time was dedicated to facilitating and coaching to help client-facing teams ask the right questions. Group administrators were given training and support to enable them to use the templates and tools so that the brand was protected even when bids were not centrally generated.
Dedicated knowledge managers helped to signpost resources and assist in quality control. The younger generation was involved early in the process through bid information being included in the induction process and trainee rotations including time in the business development team.
Savills also invested in new design capabilities and resources – which have subsequently won awards for design and creativity for projects such as innovative microsites and one-to-one marcoms campaigns.
The project resulted in many positive outcomes including staff turnover reductions, a happier team with less burnout and no complaints from the business.
The output of the bids team was transformed and remarkable results were achieved. Whilst most results remain confidential – the presenters shared that there had been a 198% uplift in the fees secured through 50% less bids being delivered centrally. A brilliant example of doing less to achieve more.
You can see a three minute extract of the talk on YouTube
Related blogs on bids, pitches and tenders
Pitching and Tenders – Nine top tips and client feedback – June 2019
Selling legal services with storytelling – September 2017
Book review – Strategic tendering for professional services by Matthew Fuller and Tim Nightingale – May 2017
Tips on preparing content and presenting well at competitive tenders – May 2017
Fabulous first meetings – 16 selling insights – March 2017
Selling – the vital role of research in pitching – October 2016
Do perfect pitches need proper processes – October 2015
Helping fee-earners prepare the perfect pitch – February 2013
Helping fee-earners develop the perfect pitch – November 2012