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.

Laying the procurement pipeline

New information has emerged from the Cabinet Office describing the £84bn ‘procurement pipeline’ planned for the next five years. Covering 18 business sectors, the pipeline lays out the government’s anticipated project needs over the next few years. Notices of this kind have been published since November 2011; the most recent announcement adds professional services, financial services, waste management, and fire services.

The government’s goal is to make it easier for companies to plan ahead, something that has traditionally been difficult for organisations working with the public sector. Skills gaps can be identified and dealt with earlier. Moreover, it is evidence of a laudable transparency in government spending that can only help improve processes and efficiency.

Back in April business secretary Vince Cable laid out the reasoning behind these plans. “Frankly, we’ve been too short-term in how we’ve done procurement in the past. Our key competitors in Europe already see procurement as an integral part of a proper industrial strategy and it’s time we did the same.” Recent procurement scandals and political rows have made it difficult for the government to prove it has any kind of industrial policy at all, and rather overshadowed the wave of initiatives, ideas and proposals streaming out of the cabinet office.

This initiative comes at a time when many businesses reliant on government contracts (especially those devoted to major infrastructure projects) are struggling. Construction giant Balfour Beatty recently issued a profit warning based on a dearth of major schemes, while a former Laing O’Rourke executive recently told the press that lack of infrastructure investment and planning in the UK would lead his ambitions elsewhere. Infrastructure schemes have fallen by half in the year to October, while £3bn of construction work is behind schedule or even entirely halted as a result of planning appeals. Friends and colleagues in the construction sector have sitting around waiting for suitable bids to emerge.

The Pipeline can give companies time to plan ahead which they might not have had before. Win that Bid’s vast experience in a number of sectors can help you make best use of that time, to be ready to grab the opportunities ahead.

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.

Technically Speaking

Readers of this blog will have seen many admonitions against boilerplate, jargon and overly complex technical data. However, there will be times – especially in the method statement – that this can’t be avoided.

Some of the usual basic rules apply:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it focused on the client
  • Avoid complicated terminology
  • Avoid long polysyllables in general (if like me you had to look that up, you know why!)
  • Use the client’s terminology

What will the reader focus on?

Informed, technically minded readers will be looking for accuracy and so it is imperative that your data is correct. This is especially important when submitting similar but distinct data across different lots. Be really careful when reformatting complex tables – it could mess up or remove entire columns of data.

More pragmatic thinkers will be looking for simple illustrations of your point and win theme. Bid writers need to strike a balance between impact and legibility on the one hand and specific detail on the other. In all cases make sure your charts are large and legible. Don’t be afraid to put complex charts into separate appendices.

A bid writer’s data needs to be backed up. A reader won’t automatically believe that you’re capable of meeting the terms of a security tender just because you lay out the particulars of how you would do it. Details of your experience and benchmarking will help, and will often be what less informed readers will look for first.

Is this necessary?

Ask whether your technical details are necessary. Often, bid writers will be asked to provide specifics. In that case, provide everything requested – but if they didn’t ask for something, ask yourself how the technical data relates to your message and win theme. If you can take it out without reducing the impact of your message, do so.

Focus on specific benefits to the client

When discussing technical detail, bid writers should focus on the benefits of the client. If your magnificent new threshing machine reduces fuel costs by a third, discuss how that will help the client’s bottom line rather than spending paragraphs on self-congratulation and long, specific explanations of which semi-legal uses of vegetable oil were used to achieve it.

The client will want certainty (especially for security tenders and the like). The buyer will want to know whether your processes work, and especially what will happen if some part of them fails to work. They will want to know that your product will be the solution to their problem, rather than a source of new ones.

Your technical statements are there to prove that. Win that Bid can help you strike the balance between legibility and detail.

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.

Qualifying the Bid

The G4S debacle we discussed in the last post raised a big issue for bid writers: how to qualify your bid. Is that astonishing £300 million tender opportunity going to turn into a real disaster for your company? Less melodramatically, are your bid writers going to waste weeks of sleepless nights filling out PQQs trying to win a bid you weren’t ever going to win?

Don’t go for every bid

Setting aside an apparent opportunity isn’t the same as wasting one. Trying to win a tender opportunity means putting in an enormous investment in time and energy. Much better to put that effort into a quality proposal than spreading it across dozens of failed prospects.

Before you choose which bids to aim for, read the tender contracts in detail and consider:

  • Are you qualified for the bid? Do you have the right accreditation, the right resources, the right documentation to get through the PQQ? More to the point, can you demonstrate that to the procurer?
  • Is the bid right for your business? Can you demonstrate prior work for clients in the same sector?
  • Do you understand the bid requirements? That unclear pricing structure could really hurt you after the contract is won, as happened to G4S!
  • Who is the buyer? Do you have a relationship with them? Will you be able to establish a dialogue with them? Will they ask you to provide five times the number of personnel you were contracted for at the last minute, and do you have contingency plans if they do?
  • Who are your competitors? Can your bid writers demonstrate why it is that your company will be a better choice?

Get some sleep!

The answers to those questions aren’t always as obvious as they sound, particularly in tender contracts with long or arcane PQQs. Win that Bid has a lot of experience in helping people to get those winning contracts, but also in avoiding two of the great curses of bid writing: wasting time on failed bids, or winning bids that the company was never suitable for in the first place.

Get Tender Ready with The TROC button today

What Does It Mean?

Get Tender Ready with the TROC todayCompanies that have passed the TROC (Tender Readiness Online Check) or otherwise prequalified to respond to large private or public sector invitations to tender may display this symbol.

What Does It Mean For Tendering Authorities And Procurement Officers?

Public Sector organisations should look for this symbol on SME company websites, because:
  • An SME company displaying THE TROC TENDER READY symbol is indicating that it has met the minimum criteria qualifying it to respond to a Public Sector tender
  • This means that the tendering body can confidently approach the company and invite them to participate in a procurement exercise.
  • Looking for the TROC TENDER READY button will help tendering authorities to meet the Government’s aspiration that ‘25% of public sector contracts should be awarded to SMEs’.

The TROC Tender Ready symbol is a private sector initiative, with no government funding or taxpayers’ money involved.

Companies who have successfully completed and passed a Public Sector PQQ or won a contract within the last TWELVE months should contact info@procurementconnection.org.uk to get their badge and press pack.

It’s up to the both the Private and Public Sectors, as well as the press and other media organisations, to raise awareness of the TROC Tender Ready symbol: it will help procurement officers to identify ‘Tender Ready’ busineeses and therefore help more SMEs to win Public Sector contracts.