Well sir, I wouldn’t start from here!
We have been preparing for a half-day seminar on bidding for competitive tenders and how to win the business. And that prompted us to look at our caseload of bid-writing and bid management projects, to glean some top tips. And it shouldn’t have surprised us that the actual bid-writing was the least of the challenges.
Sure, it’s always a scramble to get the bid done and submitted by the deadline. And honing a proposal so that it says exactly what you want it to convey to the customer, within a tightly limited word count, is not easy.
But the real learning from our review was this: it is usually too late to start when the tender arrives.
Most companies do not spend enough time and effort getting to know the customer and their needs. Obtaining and collating this market intelligence might sound like a lot of work, but it is vital that you understand what it will take to win the business. That means knowing who the incumbent supplier is and how you compare to their offering. You also need to have a good idea who else is likely to be bidding. A benchmarking exercise against these competitors will give you valuable intelligence to steer your bid – pricing, key messages etc.
Having this information will also enable you to develop a business case and risk analysis on which to base the ‘bid-no bid’ decision at an early enough stage to save you investing unnecessary time and money chasing a tender you cannot win.
Getting to know the customer should mean that you will have used the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and strengths and your cultural ‘fit’ with them, so that they recognise your organisation’s name and the values it represents when your bid arrives. It will also help you identify the ‘win themes’ – the key messages and benefits that need to get written into the opening statement of your proposal and which will mean the difference between your winning and losing the tender.
Do you have up-to-date policies, procedures, certificates, relevant case studies etc. ready to support your bid? Too often, work on bringing these ‘back office’ processes up to scratch is left until the tender is received and you are required to provide the evidence.
It is worth having a structured bid process that is understood by all who have to contribute to it. That ensures that you are all working to a plan and that everyone is clear about what is expected of them, and by when. Too often, companies have fallen at the first hurdle in a 2-stage tendering exercise because they failed to include everything that was asked for – which a simple compliance check would have spotted, for example.
So the message is loud and clear: prepare, prepare, prepare. It is usually too late to start when the tender arrives.
Or as the Irishman put it, when asked by a tourist for directions to Dublin: ‘Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’.
Peter Duschinsky and Steve Rowland have worked together over the two years to help clients across all sectors to manage, write and submit formal bids for tender from £30,000 to £60m. The seminar, held at the City Business Library, was a ‘sell-out’, with more delegates than chairs. A repeat event is planned for January 2014.
For further information on Bid/Tender Responses please visit our Bid/Tender Responses page
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