Best Practice in tendering
To achieve Best Practice in tendering you must first identify all the important things that need doing - the critical projects. You then need to train staff to manage each project so as to improve, bit by bit. The more skilful you are at dealing with each project, the better you are equipped to win competitive contracts with confidence – and also achieve a worthwhile profit.
Think of tendering as being pipelines carrying favourable information to the minds of the people who will decide whether to run with you or not. There’s a pipeline leading to each decision maker.
The information will flow freely until it meets a blockage of some sort. Then the flow slows. What emerges is all that is left of your favourable message. A total blockage means that a decision maker can see no reason to vote for you. He or she will surely oppose you as a supplier.
With all pipelines flowing fully you have the best chance of winning. The larger each pipeline is, the more favourable information is being carried and the more keenly that decision maker will vote for you. In looking at projects for improvement to Best Practice in tendering we are really looking at where the blockages can occur.
Let’s skim through some examples. First off the mark is the matter of research. To appeal to a group of people you must seek out quite a lot of data about them. If you’ve not researched each decision maker you’re really going by guesswork. Imagine a tailor making a suit to please someone he’s never met.
Data from your research should feed first into “prior promotion”. This involves your ads, press releases, newsletters, catalogues, case studies, website etc. These are the tools that should guide the customer in your favour well before your bid comes up.
Make a stunning presentation
If your strategy is to become a favoured supplier to the organisation letting the contract, you must make a stunning presentation to the key decision makers. Thus the presentation becomes a valid project for improvement. Your presentation should leave the decision makers very impressed and keen to discuss more details. Tailoring your bid to their exact needs can involve negotiation, the next valid project for improvement.
Often the buyer will have tried to define their needs in a document such as a Request For Tender (RFT). The RFT may be vague in parts. It may invite you to explain things you are loath to divulge. The requirement is a project for improvement.
Next we have strategy. If your process for handling the research and RFT data are weak, you could end up running your pipelines into a brick wall. A valid project is the model format you refer to for the bid document itself. Is your model professional? Perhaps it just evolved over the years and is poor on structure, words and illustrations. Leading into the document is the covering letter. There are a dozen ways the letter can fail to impress. It’s a project for improvement.
The document comes in a cover. It may sit on the boardroom table beside the covers of your competitors. Think of the cover as a project. It needs to perform very well indeed. Sounds simple, but the index, too, is a project. No index, or one that has faults, may confuse the reader. Looking at sections of the index, we come first to the Introduction. You would surely introduce a guest speaker with flair and panache. Why not give your bid a great lead-up too?
Next section is the Executive Overview. What should it contain? How should it be designed to impress? You don’t want a blockage at this early stage.
The Objective is vital
Perhaps the most vital section is the Objective, or Requirement. It explains what you are setting out to provide. A flawed process here means you may offer a bunch of things the reader doesn’t care about. You may fail to offer things that really matter.
The Solution section is where you prove you can meet the Objective. The project here is to check that your recommendations are seen by all the decision makers as valid and compelling.
The next project to look at is how you handle the issue of Time. Fail to convince that you can cope with every step in a structured timely fashion and the buyer may choose someone else. If the buyer defers letting the contract for a while, you are losing your grip.
No matter how good your technology, it is people who will set it up and make it work. A key project is the way you present your Staff and reflect their competence.
I have yet to see a sample bid with the Price section structured without faults. The aim here is to achieve clarity, completeness and flexibility to match the buyer’s needs. Suppose you have the highest price. No problem if you show the buyer can afford it. Better, though, to appear no more than average. There are ways to achieve this. The process by which you will deliver each part of your service is different from how all your competitors would deliver it. Be sure the buyer can see benefits in your methods versus competitors’.
Attract the right labels
I expect your bid will contain notable, unique details throughout. A project is to study the final section where you repeat these together. Make doubly sure they are not missed. Each decision maker will surely attach “labels” to your bid. The need is to attract the labels you really wish for, eg best value for money, best track record.
The Appendix to your bid can be a mess. Or it can be well structured and continue to steer the reader firmly in your favour. The Appendix is a project in Best Practice for tendering.
Chapter 4 reprinted from Tom Evison’s book, “Winning More Profitable Tenders” – published 2007
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