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3 tips on how to win bids before receiving the tender documents

By keeping a bid library and learning from your mistakes
By Theny Monteith on 10 December 2020

Ok, so technically you can’t actually win the bid before you have fully understood the requirements and completed a response but…. There are so many things you can do to prepare in advance, that will save time when you are under pressure to complete your bid response by the deadline.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Benjamin Franklin

Too many companies wait for PQQ and tender documents to be released before doing any bid preparation work. To get ahead your competition, it is important to prepare as much information as is possibly feasible and practical in advance. This leaves more time to concentrate on the final bespoke submission documents and helps to reduce overall stress levels.

This tried and tested approach ensures that your organisation has the very best possible chance of successfully submitting on time and winning the bid!

How can you prepare your bid when you don’t know what the client wants?

Knowing what type of tenders you are likely to bid for allows you to prepare by reviewing similar previous tenders, or even tenders from areas outside of your target region. Many will request similar information in certain sectors, particularly when asking for core company details.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do you have a document library where you store and version control information, or do you waste time searching over and over again and constantly ‘reinventing the wheel’?
  2. Are all documents up to date and in consistent formats that can be easily inserted in hard or electronic format?

No? Then what you need is a bid library.

Our first tip is to create a bid library.

To clarify, when we say bid library, we are referring to a repository of documents and standard answers to questions that regularly appear in tenders and proposals. Companies will have different names for this repository, but we tend to refer to it as a ‘bid library’.

There are a number of areas which are repeated across the majority of tender responses. We suggest having the documentation filed, and ready to be updated as necessary, for each new tender request. The most common areas include:

  • Company Information: Core information, audited accounts and references.
  • Management: Organisation charts, management, CVs, qualifications, vetting and training.
  • Policies/Procedures: Health & safety, environmental, sustainability, equality & diversity, risk & quality management, disaster recovery, insurance, subcontractor and supply management etc.
  • Accreditations: Professional and ISO accreditations.

However, do proceed with caution! It is essential that the content of your bid libraries is [1] up-to-date and [2] tailored to each client in order to meet the specific scoring criteria for each bid.

One of our bid consultants adds:

“I was once providing bid consultancy to a company who had wanted to implement tender excellence into the sales team. The company had maintained a large bid library over several years and the Bid Co-ordinator was showing me how they (as a team) use the library to respond to ITTs.

The process of completing an ITT consisted of the famous “cut and paste” technique, using the previous responses and inserting them where they thought suited best. This all seemed a little backward to me, though I could see the perceived logic in saving time. Upon review of the previous responses, I realised that a lot of the information was out of date. When I asked why they did it this way, I was simply told that this how they have always done it.

This is the opposite of an efficient and time saving bid process!

So, remember, a bid library can be a highly efficient and vital tool to any Bid Manager or Bid Writer. However, like all good tools, it needs to be maintained on a regular basis. Utilised to its full potential, the library can track the best and worst scoring responses and continuously improve the time and quality of submissions, and ultimately win rates.

Our second is to review your bid performance  

In order to increase your chances of success in future bids, it is essential to spend time reviewing your prior performance. If you won a bid, why did you win it and what about that particular response made it the winning bid?

Even more important, when your previous bids have been unsuccessful, did you approach the client to find out why?

If the answer is yes, you will have had a chance to review your previous submissions, identify your weaknesses, refine data and be more prepared for future bids. Use this information to inform, and plan, your approach to future bid responses.

Every scoring criteria is different but there are a number of factors which commonly influence whether you win or lose. Some are out of your control (for example that you are bidding against a preferred incumbent supplier) but others you can consider ahead of time, to help you with early planning for your bid response.

According to Steve Martin , author of  Heavy Hitter I.T. Sales Strategy: Competitive Insights from Interviews with 1,000+ Key Information Technology Decision Makers, his research shows there are a few key factors to consider that can influence winning business.

  1. Incumbent advantage: The odds of unseating an incumbent vendor are typically about 20 percent, so it’s a good idea to try to understand more about the current supplier.
  2. Inability to remove risk.This is critical. You need to be able to demonstrate how you present a lower risk that your competitors.
  3. C-Level access.Whilst it is understood that bid manager will often run the process, Martin notes that there is a direct correlation between winning bids and the level of access that the client has with the most senior stakeholders within the bidding organisation.
  4. Solution-focused.To be selected to bid in the first place, there is an expectation that you are a suitable partner to solve the client’s problem. The way to stand out from the competition, however, is that you demonstrate how you can deliver a better solution, to meet the specific needs of this client, than your competitors.
  5. Poorly messaged content. Winning bids demonstrate a good use of the English language with strong messaging which will resonate with all evaluators.
  6. Quality of pre-sales resources. This refers to the individuals who have the early stage contact with the client. A lack of contact with knowledgeable people within your organisation in the early stages of the sales process can contribute to losing bids.
  7. Out-of-range pricing. Savvy evaluators realise there will always be a low bidder. In reality, there is an acceptable price range that the prospect is willing to pay, and solutions priced outside of this boundary will rarely, if ever, be selected.

But, what if you don’t have the feedback you need to understand why you lost the bid?

Firstly, build this evaluation and feedback phase into future bids. The comments you receive from losing bids can be monumental in improving future responses.

It is most likely a little late to start asking for feedback from the client now. You could consider the most common mistakes, which result in unsuccessful bids.

Our final tip is to review the list of most common mistakes

Sometimes the reason you did not win is cost-related, perhaps your submission contained too many common mistakes, or maybe your submission quality levels simply did not match those of your competition.

In order to review your performance, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Did you follow the client’s written instructions and present a compliant bid? If unable to be fully compliant, did you approach the client to agree an alternative approach, otherwise you may have just been wasting your time?
  2. Did you answer the actual questions asked, rather than what you believed they meant? Too often we see responses that the responder wants to give, rather than what has actually been asked.
  3. Were your answers too generic or did you spend time in creating a concise and bespoke response to the client’s question?
  4. Did you ask the client to clarify points that were not clear?
  5. Are you only ‘matching’ the requirements or are you providing ‘added value’?
  6. Have you copied and pasted, but forgotten to change company details, names, situations etc?
  7. Has anyone proof-read and reviewed your final document?
Conducting an independent review of your bid responses

Another option is to invite a professional bid writing company, like eXceeding, to review your previous submissions and help you understand where you have gone wrong. If you would like to engage one of our bid consultants to review your previous bids, please book an initial appointment here to discuss you needs.

We also offer bid readiness workshops that help clients prepare for bids. This service assists both first time bidders, and organisations who bid regularly, to improve their success rates. As part of this service, we provide bid teams with the tools they need to help to present a submission that is professionally presented, grammatically correct and consistent in style and format, giving them the very best chance of success.

Theny Monteith, bid response lead

Theny Monteith

Theny is an experienced bid lead, with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry. She is skilled in Communication, Facilitation, Management, Law, and Relationship Building.

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