How to Win Construction Contracts

Bidding for construction contracts presents a significant opportunity for you to expand your business and increase your turnover.

Often, the work is right on your doorstep, and opportunities to bid for construction tenders will increase with the implementation of the new localism bill. This aims to force local authorities to seek out local companies to complete their contracts. Of course, there’s also a global market of private companies out there, just waiting for you to claim a slice of the construction contracts that are available.

This world of opportunity means you should consider carefully before writing a construction bid. Is the contract one that you really want to go for? You’d be well advised to concentrate your construction bid writing in areas that are the core strengths of your business. There will be other opportunities to open up new markets through word of mouth and other avenues. For construction bid writing, stick to what you know best and gather some great feedback for a job well done. That completed tender is then likely to lead to referrals for more varied work.

Tenders Direct is a useful place to seek out construction bids. This comprehensive database is easy to search in quite focused geographical and work-related areas, so you can easily see where the construction bid opportunities are.

We have partnered with Tenders Direct to offer you a bid management service tightly focused on your areas of expertise. Using our promotional code, you can save £150 on your registration fee.

Through our Bid Management Service, we can then manage your construction contract opportunities, assessing how each potential contract fits in with the scope of your business. We will then filter 10 or 20 Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) per annum to you. This way, our bid management service saves you time and energy on hunting down construction bid writing opportunities – so you can concentrate on the work you really want to do.

On your behalf, having scoped out your best fit construction bid opportunities, we can help you through all the stages of the bid writing process. From our experience, if you use our full construction bid writing service, you can realistically expect to be short-listed for one in three construction tenders and win sixty per cent of those bids.

We hold a library of your key documents such as insurance and policies, which will need to be submitted for every tender. Using those, and in close consultation with you, we can complete the whole bid writing service for you.

You’re in charge. Having been presented with the construction tender opportunities we find for you, if you want to take over the bid writing process from there, you can. Alternatively, we can handle the entire process for you.

Our construction bid writers have over 15 years’ experience in procurement and other relevant disciplines. They are familiar with many of the organisations and individuals buying construction services. That makes them ideally placed to help you through every stage towards winning a construction tender, from the invitation to tender, right up to the final presentation.

Knowledge of the buyer is crucial to securing construction contracts. Buyers want to deal with contractors who fit in with their culture and who will follow their policies. As we know these buyers well, we can put you ahead of your competitors – with our team of experienced construction bid writers helping you to present your bid in a way that will score you highly in bid comparisons and demonstrate to buyers exactly why you are right for their job.

We are the UK’s largest tendering consultancy, which means we have the knowledge and expertise to help you win major construction contracts.

For professional bid management, to improve your win ratio, or for a full construction bid writing service, call Win That Bid on 0203 405 1850 or email us at hello@winthatbid.com.

Finding your voice

Writing a bid means writing dozens of documents for a wide (and sometimes mysterious) audience. That means employing some basic writing techniques to get the best possible impact out of your proposal. There are some basic strategies for clear bid writing:

  • Be direct and concise.
  • Avoid block text. If it becomes unavoidable, break the page up with images, charts and text-box quotes.
  • Avoid using generic boilerplate sales language. We’ll discuss why below.
  • Words like would, could, might and may reduce the sense of quiet assured confidence in your bid, creating doubt in the mind of the reader.
  • One idea per sentence. What you really should avoid when bid writing is giant run-on sentences full of commas and different notions, that confuse the reader and reduce the flow of the document to a thick viscous sludge that causes the client to struggle for breath like a beached whale, as demonstrated by this sentence. Aren’t you glad that’s over?

Research the client

When writing a bid be client focused and personalised. One company’s non-specific generic boilerplate reads much the same as another’s, and will likely bore the reader. More to the point, a cut and paste job will fail in one of the basic goals of the bid – to demonstrate that the bid writer has a clear understanding of the goals, issues and problems faced by the client.

Determine who the reader of the bid (and its separate sections) will be. Are they informed enough to understand the specifics of your solution or are they seeking to employ you to provide a service with which they are technically unfamiliar? You should also write with personality in mind, even if you know yourself to be writing a bid for a team to read. Pragmatic thinkers will be interested in results, and look for direct language, brevity and the strong use of graphics to quickly illustrate a point. Analytical thinkers will prefer a focus on detail and accurate facts, with charts and graphs.

In general, it is best to avoid lots of Technical Jargon in an Acronym Soup (TJAS), even if you are expecting an informed audience. Anything that slows down reader comprehension will hurt the bid. If the client is using different terminology to that commonly used in your organisation or even your industry, it will normally be best to use their wording.

Given the sheer scale of many bids, applying these ideas can seem like a frightening prospect. Win that Bid can pass the lessons learned over many successful bids to your bid team.

Creating a successful bid schedule

It’s possible to “wing” a bid if you consider early onset heart palpitations to be an acceptable business expense. If for some reason that isn’t desirable (or you want to win), bid writers should have a properly constructed schedule. You might live to win another bid!

What should the bid schedule account for?

The bid schedule should account for several major elements:

  • when are activities scheduled?
  • who is responsible for carrying them out?
  • which elements of the project are behind schedule or at risk?

It should also provide some flexibility at the end of the project. Submitting a bid is a time consuming and sometimes stressful process – bid portals can be temperamental and each dimension requires checking before the final submission. Time will be required for final proof-reading, formatting, late clarifications and other unexpected issues.

Clear lines of responsibility make it easier for any member of the team to understand where to go for information. At the same time, it also helps to avoid the most frustrating of delays; bid writers inadvertently duplicating each other’s work.

What are your project milestones?

Milestones are significant project events on which to build specific tasks around. Each task and its associated timeline can be tracked by the Project or Bid Manager (who might not be familiar with the specifics of each task). Each milestone is associated with a deliverable which provides evidence that the milestone has been completed.

When choosing your milestones, use the terminology stated in the bid documentation. Milestones should be discussed and signed off at the kick-off meeting by all stakeholders prior to the bid schedule being populated with tasks.

What are your dependencies?

Dependencies are points in the project where a problem with one aspect will affect other areas of the problem. Internal dependencies can be dealt with and identified within the team. External dependencies, out of the bid writer’s control, should be identified when assembling the schedule so that those responsible (a consultancy or accountancy firm, for instance) are aware of their own responsibilities and place in the schedule. Identify ownership of the dependency and place a milestone in the schedule to make it easy to check their status at any time.

How do you know how long things will take?

This is often a matter of experience and process but following these guidelines can help:

  • build in a contingency for unexpected issues;
  • set page/word limits. This will allow you to assess writing, assembling and review periods;
  • agree on style and writing conventions at the earliest opportunity, ideally at the kick-off meeting; and
  • ensure the bid team has a thorough understanding of the project’s win themes.

In particular, the latter two elements can really speed up the drafting process. Bid writers will have a much easier time writing a draft around themes rather than trying to crowbar them into an existing document.

Remember to plan for time consuming events which may have implications for the project even if no-one is actually working on them (such as acquiring permits or letters of support). Projected dates for acquiring or finishing these matters should be placed into the schedule, especially if they create some kind of chokepoint.

Post project, assess the processes you used and the success of the bid schedule. If it all seems like too much hard work give Win that Bid a call: they’ll be create your bid documentation and can manage the entire process.

Did your Win Theme get bronze, silver or gold?

The client has a problem that it can’t solve itself. So it submits an invitation to tender (ITT) in order to discover the best available solution to that problem. In order to attract the client’s attention, a bid writer needs to have the most compelling solution to that problem, and that should all be encapsulated in the Win Theme which needs to run through the entire bid proposal.

Brainstorm the problem

If you are having trouble coming up with a win theme, consider the client. Is it a public sector tender or for a private company?

  • What does the client want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What are the client’s priorities?
  • What are the client’s long term goals?
  • What worries the client?
  • What skills or products do I have that can answer those questions for the client?

Focus on the client

The client’s problem isn’t going to be solved by a detailed description of your company, its history and achievements, or even the quality of your general services. It needs a specific solution, which your bid writer’s win theme should address. Is there one primary focus – cost, regulatory compliance, innovation?

What can you offer the client that beats your competitors?

Make it the theme of your bid proposal

Once you’ve decided on a win theme, weave it through your document – not just the executive summary. Your bid writers should emphasise how your technical solutions reflect the theme. Highlight how your solution will allow the client to meet the goals you have identified.

If you or your bid writers are having trouble finding a compelling win theme, Win that Bid can help you find the answer!

Style is Substance

When writing for a long tender contract, it’s easy to forget about the basics of presentation and proof-reading. These things determine the impression your proposal will make. A messy, haphazard executive summary will give the impression of a messy, haphazard bid.

Agree on a style guide and make a checklist

In order to look professional, your bid documentation will have to appear consistent through-out. Doing that means agreeing on style conventions:

  • How will these documents look when printed? Will headers and footers be lost? Are the page boundaries appropriate?
  • Are the naming conventions correct? How are technical terms spelt or capitalised? Is the client’s name really spelt like that?
  • Does document layout make it easy to find information quickly and easily? Is the layout clear, or will the reader be lost in a sea of colourful titles and text boxes? Can they refer to a reference quickly?

A late change in the style guide will mean having to revise dozens if not hundreds of pages of text. Remember that you find yourself yawning in a debate about bullet points.

Implementing that style guide as a bid writer will require time and attention. By the time you’ve taken into account table fonts, page alignments and caption conventions, you could easily have a 20 point list. Which makes keeping one vital, as that really is too much to mentally keep track of in a rush.

Leave some time for review!

I know it isn’t always possible, but it really is important to try to leave ample time for editing and review after the bid writing process is completed. That time will be needed to pick up on mistakes, ensure the appendices are correctly referenced (and present!), and make changes.

Once you’ve written a document, you as a bid writer believe in your heart that you wrote what you meant to say. This will almost certainly be different to what you actually said, and if you try to review your own work immediately after writing you’ll miss those mistakes. Anyone unfortunate enough to have been subjected to the first draft of this blog post will understand that.

Or to quote that misbegotten document: “Anyone unfortunately to be subjected to the first draft will be understood.”

To avoid scattering such zen sentiments throughout your bid, you need to give yourself adequate time for review. If you or your bid writers want a second opinion or fresh eyes, Win that Bid’s document co-ordination services can help.

Processing your Proposal

Submitting a winning bid is an enormous task. The method statement alone might consist of 10 or 15 different documents and dozens of appendices. The final process of assembling a tender proposal often involves an enormous deluge of information, emails and revisions, during which time there isn’t time to stop and think. This is one of the reasons it is so important to take stock after the proposal for the tender opportunity has been submitted.

How effectively did the team work together?

Even when the bid writing team is working well together, there can be problems which effect the creation of the tender proposal. These often involve lines of communication, especially during the review process. It is important to ensure that the team is aware of where their different responsibilities lie. Creating checklists and document folders available simultaneously to the entire team can be a great help.

How effective was communication between the bid team and other people involved?

During a large proposal the bid writing team may well have needed a great deal of technical information for method statements or financial documents. A delay here can be a real bottleneck in submitting the final tender proposal.

Again, problems here can often be down to failures in communication. After submitting the tender proposal, discuss where those problems occurred and what can be done to ameliorate them later.

What can be done to improve on the process?

There will be times during a bid where you will wish you had done something in a different order or used a different method. During the final assembly of the bid there often isn’t time to implement that change.

After the bid, note down the problems that occurred and the solutions that came to mind. Take the chance to update your internal process documents or create a checklist of things to assess when going for the next tender opportunity. Win that Bid can help you assess your processes to make them even more effective.

What should I put into the Executive Summary?

For bid writers writing a tender and aiming to make the best possible impression on the client, the Executive Summary is all important. It will almost certainly be used as the starting point of their decision-making discussions. For some of those decision makers, the Executive Summary will be the only part of the tender proposal that they actually read.

Because it will be read by virtually everyone who reads the proposal, the Executive Summary should be concise, readable and avoid technical jargon. Bear in mind that the readers are likely to be impatient and lacking in technical training, if not extremely stressed.

That being the case, bid writers should focus on the win themes that are the focus throughout the tender.  Keep it short and relevant. Resist the urge to simply summarise everything else in the tender proposal: you should already have a table of contents.

Finally, it is worth bid writers taking extra time to ensure that your executive summary is properly presented. It is vital to proof read it carefully, given its importance to the success of the tender proposal.

Two Stage Tendering for Destination Builds

Perhaps the most crucial factors contributing to the success of a destination builds (tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, head offices) are location and design.  Once chosen, there’s not much you can do about location.  Design however, is a different matter.  Not only does it cause challenges throughout the initial fit out, over time the building will need to re-design to keep up to date.

There are four main methods of procurement and central to each is the responsibility of design.

1) Construct Only: This method sees the developer appoint a design team which will control all areas of design until the project is finished.  Once the design of the building is completed the developer will tender for a construction team.  This tender will be solely for construction duties and as bidding is for a finished design, tenderers can bid a lump sum.  The main advantage of this procurement process is that the developer retains control of design, vital to the owners. The contractor is also taking on less risk than a project that may still change so costs can be driven down.  However, this step by step process demands a lot more time than ones where building and design can overlap or coincide.

2) Design and Build: Design and build procurement involves the developer having their own design team which will begin the design process.  Then, once the design has reached a suitable stage, a design-build contract is issued.  The contractor who wins this contract will continue to develop the design, replacing the original team, while carrying out building works.  An advantage is that the work can begin earlier which will save the developer money.  It also limits the risk of extension of time claims due to design error.  There are some disadvantages.  Tenders will ask a higher price than Construct Only contracts, as they do more work.  Also, the developer loses design ownership key to the brand of the building.  It is possible for the developer to employ a team of design monitoring consultants but the opportunities for confrontation and crossed wires arise, as do more costs.

3) Two-Stage Tendering:  This can be seen as a adaptation to the Design and Build process.  It is sometimes thought of as more suitable for smaller, less complex buildings, but is increasingly popular.  This arrangement involves a contractor carrying out pre-construction work and assisting the developer’s design team.  It is usually let on a guaranteed maximum price basis.  When the design has progressed to a point where construction is able to begin, the developer will enter into either a construct only contract or possibly a design-build contract to complete the works.  The benefits of two-stage tendering to the developer involve retaining the all-important design control.  Also, as the developer has been able to engage the contractor early and obtain a fixed price for the second stage, this system provides cost and time savings.

4) Construction Management: With this system, the developer employs a construction manager as an advisor.  All works required throughout the building will be divided into packages and the construction manager will give guidance on the best way to do this.  The developer then enters into each separate contract while the construction manager oversees the process.  As everything is done under separate contracts, pre-construction works can begin while design is still being finalised.  When the design is finished one single contract can be issued for the rest of the works.  The main advantage to this method is the degree of control the developer keeps over the design.  The main disadvantage though, is that there is no single point of contact on the construction side.  Errors, queries and suggestions must involve tracking down the relevant contractor.  This is difficult for the developer and very unattractive to any lenders.  Previously, construction managers were assumed to have relatively little liability, as they are have no direct, contractual link with sub-contractors.  However, after the high profile Great Eastern Hotels case, construction managers and developers may view the arrangement differently.

Need tender writing or bid management assistance? Get in touch 0203 405 1850 or email hello@winthatbid.com

Are you ready for the Bribery Act?

The Bribery Act 2010 is due to come into effect very soon but are you prepared for the change it will bring?

Increasingly, public sector tenders require the supplier to explain their anti-bribery and anti-corruption processes and procedures. Despite a number of delays The Bribery Act is now due to come into force on 1st July 2011. The purpose of the Act amongst other things will be to:

  • provide a more effective legal framework to combat bribery in the public or private sectors
  • create two general offences covering the offering, promising or giving of an advantage, and requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of an advantage
  • create a discrete offence of bribery of a foreign public official
  • create a new offence of failure by a commercial organisation to prevent a bribe being paid for or on its behalf (it will be a defence if the organisation has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery
  • replace the fragmented and complex offences at common law and in the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889-1916
  • require the Secretary of State to publish guidance about procedures that relevant commercial organisations can put in place to prevent bribery on their behalf
  • help tackle the threat that bribery poses to economic progress and development around the world.

The Ministry of Justice published updated procedure guidance on 30th March 2011 that can be put into place by commercial organisations. The report advises that an organisation can form a case against the offence of failing to prevent bribery providing that they can prove adequate procedures are in place in the organisation. This is under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010.

The guidance sets out six principles that will assist commercial organisations with planning, implementing, monitoring and reviewing their business to ensure it is bribery free.

The principles are:

  1. Proportionate procedures
  2. Top level commitment
  3. Risk assessment
  4. Due diligence
  5. Communication
  6. Monitoring and Review

After each principle there are suggested practical guidelines to help your organisation address them. This designates control to the organisations to review their business and undertake the relevant risk assessments to determine whether or not their procedures are sufficiently robust. If your organisation does not meet the required standard, you are advised to implement anti-bribery procedures as soon as possible.

The guidance presents a risk based approach to adopting the sufficient procedures and acknowledges that different procedures will suit different organisations depending on

  • size of the company
  • markets in which the business operates in
  • the nature of the company’s business partners and transactions.

If you are flummoxed with your obligations under this new act or are having difficulties with any aspect of your bids and tenders, Win That Bid is simply a phone call away.

How to Successfully Manage a Proposal

3) Proposal checklist – Writing your Proposal

Even though you’ve already spent a lot of time in preparation, writing the document is the most important part of the process.  Aside from the more general groundwork, it’s now time to think about the text itself.  Collating all the necessary information into an easy to read document that sells your company and its abilities is a difficult task, this checklist will help to organise your thoughts and guide you while taking on the job.

  • Keep sentences short and use easy to understand, effective language.  You can use bullet points and headings to make the text easier to read.
  • Sum up your bid, explaining succinctly why it meets all the client’s needs and why your company is best to undertake the work, or provide the service.  Write this last and put it into the front of your document.
  • When you talk about yourselves highlight your success stories, especially with similar projects.  Aim to prove you have the skills and experience needed to meet the customer’s brief.

Your tender should include the following sections:

  1. Quotation – The first document should outline the requirements of the job, how you plan to fulfil them and how much this may cost.  If this is an estimate, it is essential the customer understands the final costs may differ.  The quotation needs to contain an overview of what you are providing, the time you expect this to take, contingency and the validity period of the tender.
  2. Terms and conditions – The second section of the tender contains the terms and conditions.  Most bids include a standard version of this.
  3. Letter of Agreement – This will state when the job will start, give targets for completion and payment terms.
  4. You should also include information about your company and staff.  This can come in the form of short CVs or biographies, detailing your skills and relevant experience.