I have a client who bids out each project, despite the fact that we have a long-term relationship. What can I do?
Before you can take action, you need to determine why your client is bidding out every assignment and ignorning the long-term relationship that you have. Here are some possible reasons why this happens, with suggested solutions.
1. The client is a low-level buyer who is only concerned with costs not value or benefits. Higher-level executives focus on value and impact; lower-level executives are concerned with keeping to their budgets and spending as little as possible. Solution: Move up in the organization. Position yourself as a thought leader. Show how your service supports the agenda of higher level executives. Don’t accept projects with junior buyers.
2. You are operating in a market segment that has become commoditized. Solution: Differentiate your offering. Sell on value–on demonstrating revenue and profit impact. Build your brand so that you are not seen as just another provider. Cream-skim the most attractive opportunities while rejecting price-based bidding opportunities.
3. Your client does not trust you as much as you think they do. And so they keep bidding out work because they don’t believe they will get the best overall value from you. Solution: Re-examine your relationship. Look for opportunities to create more face time and build familiarity. Demontrate you are trustworthy by doing things that are patently in your client’s interest but not necessarily in your interest. Stay in touch in-between projects so you will be top-of-mind.
4. Your client is bidding everything out due to procurement rules. Solution: Learn to influence the RFPs so that they favor you and your firm. Talk to procurement and see if you can get some type of favored vendor status in exchange for concessions on your part. Build relationships with more senior buyers who are not as strictly bound by procurement regulations.
Finally, you may have a client–and these are in the minority–who just doesn’t value trusted relationships. Someone who cannot bring themselves to trust others, period. If this is the case, you have to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze. You may want to have a frank discussion with the client about how you like to do business, with the distinct possibility that you will no longer want to continue the relationship.