How To Win Bids and Tenders

Wondering how to go about winning bids and tenders? Writing first-class bids isn’t an exact science – but at Win That Bid, we’ve got the expertise to help you secure your dream contracts with ease.

Top Ten Tips for Winning Tenders

1.    Be thorough: answer every question in the bid document – missing out a couple of vital questions can lose you the entire bid.

2.    Know your marketplace (competitors & pricing): spend time researching your competitors and understand their pricing prior to the bid writing process.

3.    Appeal to your reader: offer persuasive, benefit-led responses and think about the customer – what’s important to them? What are they looking for in their supplier?  Don’t simply provide a list of features – if you want to win tenders, take your responses one step further and state the benefits.

4.    Have a model: build a library of standard PQQ and tender responses – save documents such as insurance certificates, policies and yearly accounts in one place that is easily accessible by others in the company.

5.    Outdo yourself: don’t leave your tender until the last minute – make sure that you have dedicated ample time and resources to produce the best possible result. If you can’t submit your best effort for this bid, why you are submitting at all?

6.    Be decisive: make a conscious decision to bid – if you are tendering ‘just because’, this is not the recipe for a winning bid.

7.    Discriminate: can you deliver this tender? Do you want to win this bid? If you win, what will happen to your other contracts? Make sure you’re bidding for business you really want.

8.    Understand the bid requirements – and adhere to them.

9.    Know your audience: read the bid evaluation criteria – what’s most important to the customer?

10.  Be proactive: engage with the customer – being invited to bid is a compliment, and likely to put your submission in a stronger position than a cold response.

 

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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.

What exactly does the buyer want?

When aiming for a tender contract it’s important to consider what the procurer wants from the contract. This is a vital part of winning contract opportunities.

Public and private sector organisations are putting a relentless focus on cost efficiencies. Many companies believe that the main role of their procurement team is to deliver cost savings and this will be a critical aspect of many contract opportunities.

However important these savings are, they may not be the only goal of the organisation. This is particularly true of companies that are looking to expand their business. They may wish to increase their productivity and competitiveness in the long term, by introducing new systems, methods or tools. Equally, they might want a new approach to a critical area of their business which appears to be failing.

The majority of procurement work involves SMEs. These companies do not always have the most effective procurement methods and so it is particularly important to communicate with them about the aims of their tender contract and discover what it they want now, and what they will want in the future.

Tender Writing: Your proposal checklist

Proposal Checklist – Preparing to write your proposal submission

Now that you have thought about how your company will handle the tendering process, it is time to think about writing the tender itself.  There are things you should consider, and information you should gather, before beginning to write so you create the best document you are capable of.

  • What do you know about your client?  This information can be extremely useful in knowing how to pitch your document.  Perhaps the client is looking for particular benefits, for example price or level of service.
  • Make sure you are not just there to test the market or to make up numbers.  You may even want to think about requesting your customers sign a non-disclosure agreement before presenting.  This will help to ensure any ideas or information you wish to protect remains yours.
  • If you are bidding for something the customer has previously received from someone else, what can you learn from the service provided by the current or previous supplier?  You are allowed to ask the customer about this and it may help lend more insight into how to fit your bid to their needs.
  • Make sure you have all the latest information from your team, are you up to date with all the work your they have been doing on the bid?
  • Have you collected all of the relevant documents and information you will need when writing your bid, in particular, your quotation?
  • Read all the requirements and follow the instructions to the letter.  It may surprise you to learn that lots of bids are rejected simply for not complying with the instructions.  (Or it may not surprise you at all, if yours has been one of them!)
  • Remember you’re in competition.  It may help to think about what you would consider if a company was bidding to you.

How to Successfully Manage a Proposal

Each week we will be looking at a different element of how to effectively manage a bid to ensure your proposal submission is prepared in a timely fashion and is as good as it can be. In this first part of our five part series we will be covering the kick-off meeting with your bid team.

1) Proposal Checklist – The Kick-off Meeting.

Kick-off meetings are critical milestones that require careful planning. A good one will inspire your bid team, a poor one can demoralise it.

Prior to the meeting prepare an agenda and comprehensive kick-off package and be sure to invite the right people.

During the meeting encourage everyone to talk through their initial thoughts on the bid.  Read the proposal documentation together then discuss your general approach. Do the decision makers agree that this opportunity if you won it would align with your business strategy? Can you deliver it? Who is likely to be your competition?  When everyone is on the same page, going through this checklist will help make the proposal writing process easier:

  • Identify all of the documents and information you are likely to need when writing your proposal.
  • Allocate different roles to each member of the proposal team and following the meeting distribute the proposal template document including in it who will be responsible for which sections of the document.
  • As your strategy for dealing with the proposal becomes clearer make sure you consider how the bid will fit in with your other work.  Consider the amount of time and the number of personnel that will be devoted to the bid, estimate how much the proposal will cost you and allocate a bid budget. Decide whether you will need to hire consultants or expert bid writers.
  • Create a proposal schedule including deliverables and milestones. Decide the first set of deadlines during this meeting and according to this plan arrange when your second meeting will take place.  Ensure all team members are absolutely clear on when their work needs to be completed.
  • If there are questions about the proposal that can only be answered by the buyer, agree who will be the key contact and how they will manage this and communicate the answers to the team.  Your questions should be answered swiftly and if you have concerns regarding company autonomy you can ask them not to divulge your details especially if the response is likely to be published to all respondents.

Next time on Win That Bid’s blog – ‘Preparing to Write Your Proposal’