What does positive Sentiment mean for winning work?

AECOM’s regular Sentiment survey results event is always fascinating: but what does the latest survey mean for companies looking to win work through tender?

At a time when the media is filled with doom and gloom stories of impending economic downslides - even the ‘R’ word - the headline statement from the latest survey of infrastructure and building investors and constructors was much more positive, according to AECOM’s NZ Managing Director, Craig Davidson:

“Renewed optimism in the infrastructure and building market, particularly Auckland” he said, citing a marked rebound in optimism since last year due to higher levels of certainty stemming from the government’s May announcement of a $6.1 billion project pipeline, the creation of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga, possibly the Construction Accord – but definitely the certainty created by a pipeline of work.

With key infrastructure sectors of roading, 3 waters and land development powering the confidence lift, certainty was the key theme that emerged for this listener: specifically, certainty of pipeline, oversight, supply, and relationship.

Top challenges in the construction world? Skills and materials shortages is by far the biggest one out there, followed by the old chestnuts of volatility, trust, funding and procurement, said Davidson.

Graham Darlow, former Chief Executive of Fletcher Construction, emphasised current procurement challenges by saying that the race to bottom is all about procurers being ‘penny-wise, pound-stupid’. “There will always be people in our councils and procuring organisations who will only ever go for lowest price tenders,” he said. “While this attitude is in place, things will never change. When you pick the lowest-priced tender, how can you expect a great outcome? Fools.”

He cited Waterview as a great example of selecting construction partners based on capability, saying that the ten-year operation phase built into the contract has led to procurement and construction decisions being made on a much longer-term basis.

So at a time when longer-term certainty and a more visible pipeline of work is driving sentiment upwards, and there is a desire out there for greater trust and attributes focused more on capability than price, what should companies looking to win work through tender be doing?

1. Build relationships, understanding and trust outside tender processes

Get ahead. Improve your understanding your current/intended client’s current themes, objectives and requirements.

Be honest - ask yourself: How well do you really know what they want to achieve, and how what you do can play a meaningful part in achieving it?

A beer with your client every now and then is always helpful, as might be your regular golf/fishing/trips to the rugby etc, but are you asking them key questions – and capturing the answers - outside of these environments? Ask questions like:

  • What are you working to achieve right now?
  • What is your organisational vision and strategy – is it changing?
  • Are we offering all the services you need?
  • Where are we doing less well for you?
  • What issues are causing you problems?
  • How can we improve what we do for you?

It can help to have an independent person go into your client company to carry out a perception audit and ask them these questions. The honesty and transparency this enables can help to build trust, and enable you to make changes to what you do and how you do it before the next tender round comes up.

2. Shape your positioning          

If you know what your client wants, with the accuracy born from a detailed perception audit, you can then educate the market and position yourselves correctly by:

  • Making necessary changes in your business to correct the things that you might be getting wrong - are the right people in the right roles, for example?
  • Digging up your USP in each sector you operate
  • Putting in place initiatives to drive outcomes that align with your client’s objectives
  • Celebrating your successes in doing so – ensuring your client can see this is happening; through events, newsletters, and your regular communications programme.

3. Think longer term

Lift your clients’ desire to want you to win the next tender before any formal process even gets underway. By demonstrating the right behaviours in your business before, during and after contract wins you will demonstrate your values consistently. And, by planning far enough ahead to target the contracts you want to win - with sufficient time to be able to showcase your attributes – you will:

  • Help your client to focus on the value you offer rather than the price you will charge
  • Have a much stronger chance to shape the landscape of the next RFP
  • Better express the answer to ‘Why Use Us?’ in ROI / RFP responses.

In an era when we are seeing price weightings reduce in RFPs (and in one notable case, disappear altogether from RFP evaluation) these three things can help position you for long term success, drive more certainty for your business, and lift your own sentiment.


If you would like any help in carrying out an independent client perception audit, creating a sensible communications strategy that showcases your attributes, and/or help in planning for and executing a tendering / RFP strategy, please contact george@theclaritybusiness.co.nz.


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