Win rate is a simple but effective way to measure the success of sales or procurement over a period of time. It’s a bit like ROI in that the number of completed sales is measured against the total number of sales opportunities. Ideally, you want your sales to exceed sales opportunities. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world but there are strategies that can boost your win rate. One of these is early engagement. Early engagement is also a simple concept, but it can have a significant impact on procurement, including public sector procurement.
How does early engagement increase win rate? We’re going to explore the matter, especially against the background of a procurement framework.
Why is Win Rate Important?
Win rate does much more than measure sales. It provides vital information that can help businesses improve operations and even help with future planning. Delving deeply into win rate can reveal a lot about which products, works, or services are the most popular, and which marketing and sales techniques are the most successful. Discarding poorly performing products and techniques enables businesses to devote more time to product/service development and targeted marketing strategies. Win rate analysis also plays an important role in assuring existing stakeholders and potential investors that their trust is well placed. Proof of financial growth – sustained and sustainable growth – engenders brand confidence and draws investors like a magnet.
What is Early Engagement?
Early engagement or early market engagement (EME) is when buyers start getting to know suppliers before the official procurement process. It’s like testing the water before diving in. Buyers can gauge suppliers’ suitability but suppliers also get to suss out buyers to see if a business relationship will work. Buyers get more out of early engagement than familiarity with suppliers. For instance, after engaging with several suppliers, buyers might find that they need to adjust their criteria because their current expectations aren’t realistic as far as staff requirements are concerned.
The earlier the early engagement the better. This gives a greater number of suppliers the chance to throw their hats in the ring, which makes the competition interesting. Stiff competition can lead to innovative developments that enhance the products and services available. Early engagement also inspires collaboration between buyers and suppliers and perhaps even among suppliers themselves, allowing them to pool skills and talents to provide a more comprehensive package.
What is a Procurement Framework?
In procurement, a framework “encloses” a certain number of approved suppliers to meet buyers’ needs. A framework is convenient not just because it ring-fences relevant suppliers, but also because it includes agreed-upon terms and conditions and legal stipulations.
The size of a framework depends on the size of the project. A large project (perhaps with a regional objective) may only need one or two bidders. Framework procurements for smaller projects might include a couple of hundred bidders. Contracts within public sector procurement frameworks can be as short as one year and as long as four years, after which buyers have to put the contract up for tender again. The idea is to open up opportunities for new suppliers. By and large, government procurement framework contracts are awarded similarly to traditional tender processes. The selected suppliers bid to win contracts. Proposals must include proof of capability, capacity, quality, and social value. Large and/or complex contracts might have additional selection processes, for example, eAuctions.
Early Engagement and Win Rate in Frameworks
A factor that can be considered advantageous is the limited number of suppliers in a framework. Buyers don’t have to waste time and energy engaging suppliers who don’t tick all the boxes and suppliers can opt out of contracts that aren’t a good fit for their solutions.
Furthermore, because early engagement gives buyers and suppliers the chance to get to know one another better, they can identify which partnerships have the potential to be the most fruitful. Parties that work well together, with healthy communication and mutual respect are more likely to succeed than acrimonious business relationships. The resulting positive win rate can inspire even more productive collaboration and innovation, which increases the win rate again. It’s the kind of supply chain cycle businesses want to keep going for as long as possible.
Another benefit of early engagement in frameworks is the opportunity to network with a variety of suppliers and buyers. This won’t guarantee successful tenders but it’s always helpful to have allies in procurement who can give advice or serve as informal consultants on certain points. Putting your brand front and centre will attract a lot of interest, so you need to showcase it in the best light possible. This can grow brand awareness within the framework and when you prove your positive win rate through case studies, you have a more than even chance of impressing procurement managers. Bear in mind that public sector procurement is transparent and that fortune favours businesses that embrace the principles of honesty, accountability, and integrity. All of which do wonders for brand trust.
Early Engagement Marketing Strategies
Early engagement may be a “feeling out” process, but you still need a well-developed marketing strategy that specifically targets the contract and buyer concerned. The more channels you use the more compelling your strategy. For example:
Email marketing is a fantastic technique that delivers outstanding ROI. There are many tools and software packages that can create highly personalised campaigns, perfect for lead generation and goal conversions. Email content must be engaging, compelling, and sufficiently intriguing for buyers or suppliers to want to meet you and discuss ideas. This is where a framework can be really useful because you have a list of contacts that share professional interests or goals.
The chances of your emails being opened, read, and saved are pretty good – better than casting a wider net certainly.
Webinars are great for building your brand and establishing yourself as an industry leader. However, in an EME context, you don’t need to deliver a white paper to impress viewers. A bite-sized video that targets the nature of the project is sufficient. It is very important to remember that production value still matters. You don’t need to hire sound and light technicians, but you need a script, a setting, and a high-quality video recorder. You are, for all intents and purposes, the face of your brand and you need to make a good impression. Know your audience and dress appropriately. In some instances, this might require a business suit and in others, a smart pair of jeans and button shirt.
There are times when you just can’t beat human contact, or the chance to make a personal connection. This isn’t the time for a gala event. You don’t need a champagne fountain and ice swan. You do need a comfortable venue, good (snack) food, and a selection of beverages catering to everyone from teetotallers to coffee addicts.
You also need some promotional material that promotes your suitability for the contract concerned, for example, a couple of banner displays, a slideshow/presentation that repeats on a screen, or a goodie bag. Goodie bags are always popular. People love getting free stuff, so load the goodie bag with branded items – diaries, pens, note pads, chocolates, packets of nuts – whatever suits your brand, your target audience, and, of course, your budget.
Putting it all Together
Whether you’re a buyer or supplier, early engagement can be a game-changer for your business. But, you need a plan or strategy if you want to make the most of the opportunity. The thing is, you already have your hands full perfecting your business offering, preparing your proposal, or finalising the contract for the market. You might not have the time or resources to dedicate to an early marketing engagement strategy.
Rather than trying to divide your attention, consider engaging a marketing company that specialises in UK public sector procurement frameworks. They know precisely how to tailor their approaches to various types of projects and different frameworks to increase the win rate for everyone concerned.
Find out more about how webinars, email marketing, and events can help you increase your presence – and your reputation – in the procurement market by contacting Cadence Marketing. Arrange a free consultation where you can get answers to all your questions about procurement frameworks in the UK and kick-start your career in public sector procurement.