Tendering is now ubiquitous throughout government and private sectors, so if you are planning to grow a business, you might as well learn to get your tender process and responses right. Responding to Tenders won’t be good for every business, however if it works, you should be able to get a 25% – 50% win rate. I’ve written, contributed to and won tenders from thousands to multi-millions. These are really notes-to-self, but if you are out there planing to make a difference to the world, all power to you.
Goal 1 – Get onto the Shortlist
The main purpose of the Tender is to get you on the shortlist.
- This is critical to long-term success. Use maths. Create a spreadsheet with some basic metrics like expected profit, expected time & cost of tender, expected win chance and rank your opportunities. Be ruthless and drop the ones that don’t add up financially. If it is line ball, concentrate on growing your existing customers.
Build team and Provide Clarity
- Agree on roles of the team and be really clear around expectations, site visits, deadlines, review meetings, etc. Remember to add all the time consuming items like legal/management sign-off, technical checks, etc. Build the response draft and circulate it to the team so they can enter their components into it using track changes. Use a simple version numbering system where only one person changes the version but anyone can add initials. EG. TenderResponse_V2.0[Initials].doc
- Get all the facts on the table. Contact partners, build the pricing and resource models, address any weaknesses and brainstorm value adds. Tendering is competitive, and often it will come down to price unless there is are critical weaknesses in other proposals. The best is to meet the criteria exactly, cut out all fat and present the lowest price. Then, add options and recommendations. This allows the customer to decide if they really want lowest price or the best value package which may cost a little more.
Compile your Response
- Focus on your Executive Summary and make sure you completely check through the submission. Answer all sections. Aim to include additional information. Look for any opportunities to make the information easier to understand for the customer. Keep the body of the Tender short and simple. Save additional supporting information for the appendices.
- Be punctual with your submission. Submitting on time (say 1 hour early max) is better than early since you may get last minute information you want to incorporate and information will leek once the tender is submitted.
Goal 2 – Blitz the Interview
Usually the Interview will be comprised of meet and greet then your presentation then Q&A. The most dangerous part of the interview is the Q & A section.
Prepare for the interview (The Pitch)
- Guess all the questions they will have and cover them confidently in the presentation. This takes the edge out of the Q&A section and reduces the risk of you looking bad.
- Agree that only person is responsible for answering or allocating questions. This ensures that you look organized in front of the customer.
- Agree with your team to keep all answers short. If anyone needs more than 30 seconds to cover a single question, then they will look unprepared.
- Assume that in terms of weight, 25% will be allocated to your presentation component and 75% will be allocated to the Q&A component of the tender interview. Practice with feedback will help in both sections.
Take and Act on Feedback
Feedback along the way is invaluable, and often there will be an opportunity in the interview to make adjustments to your proposal. Take this chance and make the most of it.
Goal 3 – Improve
No matter the outcome of the Tender, attend a review with the customer an get their feedback. You will get some tips and you can then improve your next response. This can be hard to do, but it is invaluable to long term success.
Preliminary assessment of the Tender:
- What are the 1-3 most compelling outcomes the client needs from this piece of work?
- What will the impact be on their actual business once the work is completed?
- Be specific eg x% increased profit, access to new market sector xyz
- What key USPs of yours meet the key customer requirements
- What would be the most compelling visuals to explain key points?
- Can some points be explained with a visual?
- Is there a simple set of yes/no answers you can take off the table as points of discussion by providing a list
- EG Documents reviewed, section compliance list, other lists
- Can you add a relevant case study? – A great addition to a reverence.
- What points of contact do you have to build a relationship?
- Look for 7 contacts during the tender process. EG initial thank you, we have received it, submission of clarifying questions, site visit/briefing, card at briefing, thank you for briefing, thank you for any email, submission, interview coordination EG. resources available, confirmation 1 day prior to interview, etc.
Basic tender checklist
- Is the Executive Summary clear and concise? Does it contain the figures? Is your USP included?
- Are your USPs and customer results scattered through the tender document?
- Double check the tender requirements are met
- Does it tell a story? Eg.
- About your company –>
- The conditions and environment (Health, safety, quality)
- Your Program and Methodology (time frame, deadlines, etc)
- Your Capacity and capability (resourcing, experience, …)
- Compliance to SOW
- Pricing, Value for money, TCO, etc.
- Have you addressed any potential negatives – this is really important to get out of the way. They will ask anyway, so address it up front.
- Do you have diagrams and pictures
- Does your response give the customer an easy decision and certainty of a great result?
- Have you worded up your references?