Winning Tender: Top 10 Tips
With tenders becoming an increasingly competitive area for small businesses, Rob Fenn at the British Assessment Bureau shares his top ten tips to help you win that next vital contract.
Newcomers can be tempted into bidding for a contract that doesn’t really suit them, lured in by a pertinent keyword or high contract value. However, when you consider the amount of time and resource needed to prepare and deliver, it’s important to choose opportunities that fit your business like a glove. Not only will it result in a better win ratio, you’ll have wasted less time too.
The preparation of your bid can rely on valuable time from multiple people, so it’s important that the planning goes into it. Not only can this avoid forgetting anything, but an effective plan can be used as a template moving forward.
First, create an in-house library of key tendering information. This would include staff CVs, company background data, financial information, insurance policies, certificates, quality statements and case studies of previous work. In other words, the things that are asked for in just about every tender!
So there’s no confusion over responsibility or deadlines, the creation of a timeline is a useful tool. It goes without saying that this should be reviewed regularly and sent to everyone involved in the preparation of the tender bid.
Don’t be afraid to ask
It’s important to remember that you’re not on your own. In every tender, there is a contact listed if you have any questions. As there is usually a deadline for questions, don’t skip something you don’t understand, ask immediately!
Picking up the phone is certainly the best method, as far more information may be revealed beyond the question you ask. For example, you may find who the existing supplier is (if this is for a contract renewal), whether they’re happy with them, and the current pricing structure.
Put yourself in their shoes
Give consideration to the buyer’s viewpoint in your responses. Pick out their needs and explain how you can solve their problems, concentrating on how your skills and experience fulfil the requirements of the tender.
In order to create the perfect response, go beyond the tender documentation. Try to find more about the organisation and their ultimate responsibilities and goals. This tender may be just one jigsaw piece in their puzzle, so getting an idea of the ‘big picture’ can help shape what you say. By alluding to your awareness of this, you could add how your skills could assist them further down the line.
Collaborating for a stronger bid
If you’re still keen on bidding but recognise weaknesses in terms of skills or experience, could you strengthen your bid using a sub-contractor? With this in mind, it’s worth maintaining a trusted network that you can draw resource from.
This is probably the most contentious tip, and something many businesses are reluctant to do, but having a share of an opportunity is better than losing out altogether! It’s certainly not unusual or frowned upon to say you will use sub-contractors as part of the delivery, and in fact is one way of winning business yourself (see tip 10).
Consider score weighting
If you can’t comprehensively answer the main questions then, really, you should be reading our first tip again! The reality is it’s simply not worth going any further.
Some more complex questionnaires may leave you wondering how they’re weighted, with only some giving an indication of scoring. If there are no suggestions, then it is certainly worth asking the main contact if scoring is available. It will really help you to understand how in-depth your responses need to be.
Ditch the waffle
If you’ve already ticked off the tip above, you are in good stead! However, it is alarming how many people veer off from what is asked from them and resort to the dreaded waffle.
If you are struggling to answer a question, ask yourself if this tender is really right for your business. To make the final cut, the chances are you will need to have comprehensively answered every single question. Pasting in generic company marketing information is a common mistake, so don’t fall into the guilty camp!
Being clear and concise is very important. It is likely the buyer will have received many bids, so you’ll be in their good books if your responses correspond well with the questions. The same goes with pricing; being ambiguous will certainly not help you.
Add your USPs
You may have answered every question within the tender to the letter, but what have you done to make your really business stand out? In a previous article about sustainability, we’ve discussed how the Government plans to be the greenest ever, and increasingly this is reflected in what buying authorities are expecting of their suppliers. Consequentially, if you can show off your green credentials or engagement with the community, this may just make the winning difference.
A stable requirement is a demonstration of quality management. As such, the ISO 9001 quality standard is often mentioned within documentation and local council tendering guides. This was emphasised when speaking to Yvonne Burrows at First Call Construction Limited. She said; “Some people won’t even entertain you as a supplier if you don’t have ISO 9001 in place. It’s opened doors for us and in new areas of work that we would not have achieved without certification.”
Check, check and check again!
Never check your own work; get as many people to proof your tender bid as you can grab hold of! It’s easy to miss the occasional signature required or mix up cross-referencing. Most importantly, an outsider’s perspective can help tweak and improve answers.
Presentation is also important. Check for any specific requirements (how many copies required, whether the proposal should be bound etc.) and ensure it is all well packaged so it arrives on their desk in one piece! It goes without saying, if you have to submit your bid electronically, that you should follow up to ensure it has been received.
Don’t lose faith
As they saying goes, you can’t win them all! A decent success rate for tenders is 1 in 3, so you’ll need to get used to missing out from time to time. However, you can use the experience to turn your next bid into a winning combination.
Above a certain contract value, providing feedback to bidders is mandatory. Below this, it is more of an obligation, so it’s important you chase for comments on your bid. It could also be valuable to learn who won the contract, as there could be a sub-contractor opportunity there still.