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.

 

Need some help winning that dream contract?

Call us today to discuss how we can help you win more business

How to Win UK Government Tenders

The UK coalition government is committed to putting more work out to government tenders. It’s already an enormous market, with £7.6bn being spent by central government alone, which means public tenders in the UK offer a precious opportunity to grow your business.

More UK government bids than ever:

Adding to that outsourcing pressure is the new localism bill that aims to force local authorities in the UK to procure more than 25% of its business from local companies through government contracts. UK opportunities are good – there are more UK government tenders to go for, and that’s all before we consider tendering in Europe.

Which UK government tenders would you like to win?

Our advice is always to play to your strengths. Use government tenders to bolster your strongest business, not to try and open up new markets.

Finding UK government contracts

For UK government tenders we recommend Tenders Direct. It’s comprehensive, free to search for public tenders, UK based, and shows the last year of tender opportunities so you can get an idea of what’s possible. For a quick calculation, think in terms of getting shortlisted for one in three public sector tenders and then winning 60% of those (assuming we’ve selected and written the tender).

Tenders Direct isn’t free (you can, however, save £150 using our promotion code here) but they save you time by manually filtering the public sector tender opportunities you receive.

UK government bidding project management

Use our bid management service to help you win government tenders in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

Because successfully winning public tenders is partly about selecting the right tenders, we then manage that stream of tender opportunities on your behalf, usually under a 10 or 20 per annum Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) bid management service.

We maintain a library of your key documents such as insurance and policies, ensuring we only spend time on key points of difference when completing a tender document. Effective bid management is about managing time and resources.

To win UK government contracts, use experienced people

If you just need someone to organise the initial stage of your bidding process, you can take over from here. However, our bid writers have a minimum of 15 years’ experience and most have come from the procurement world and know many of the buyers and organisations – so we can help with all stages of winning a bid through invitation to tender (ITT), right to the final presentation.

In these later stages it’s very important to know the buying organisation – their culture, policies, and supply chain. Here we have a head start, because our experienced team knows the government buyers and their scoring methodologies, so we are able to help you create content that presses the right buttons.

(If you are working on larger or more numerous bids, it’s worth knowing that – as the biggest tendering consultancy in the UK, we can provide extra muscle as and where you need it.)

For professional bid management, to improve your win ratio, or when you need more skilled resource while tackling government tenders, call Win That Bid on 0203 405 1850 or email us at hello@winthatbid.com.

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.

Virgin Rail and the right to challenge

The origins of the Virgin Rail scandal last month rapidly became lost in the recrimination and blame, as the Department for Transport attempt to apportion culpability and pundits discuss the role and capabilities of the civil service. When self-styled “tie-wearing adventurer” Richard Branson launched his legal challenge to the West Coast franchise decision two months ago, it was widely regarded as a knee-jerk, even ill-considered action of a man known for scrappy battles on behalf of his business.

The DfT was due to award a long term franchise to FirstGroup until “significant technical flaws” became evident during their preparations for the Virgin lawsuit. These flaws became evident in the risk assessments of First’s winning bid.

Virgin faced substantial risks in mounting a challenge to the DfT. Some of these risks were revealed in the initial media coverage of the challenge that portrayed Richard Branson as an opportunist and a sore loser (not helped by Virgin Rail’s relatively poor public reputation). If the legal case had failed Virgin’s commercial reputation (and finances) would have suffered.

They had a number of options, all of them risky:

Under Public Procurement law Virgin could mount a formal challenge. To do this they would have to allege that the contracting authority has run the process in an unfair or opaque manner. If they were successful in this, the contract award would have to be suspended while the issue is resolved – allowing more time to discover exactly what happened (and why they lost).

Their second option would be a judicial review. They would need to show a public interest in such an action – easily achieved, given the political climate – but the latter stage would be more difficult. Virgin would essentially have to prove that no reasonable authority would have made the contract decision. Before the events of last month, this was considered unlikely to happen.

In the event, Virgin were able to prove that large parts of the process was flawed. The DfT has spent the last few weeks apportioning blame, mainly directing it at the civil servants involved. In turn, there has been a lot of scrutiny directed at the structure of the procurement process –

A great many qualified professionals have been lured out the public sector by higher wages in recent months, and this, combined with poor systems of review, greatly contributed to the fiasco. We have been discussing government initiatives on this blog for months – all of them seem doomed to failure if the Civil Service can’t do something to arrest the skills gap in government procurement.

Richard Branson’s decision to challenge has been vindicated. The DfT has ordered a number of independent reviews and Virgin has been awarded a short term contract under circumstances that some rivals claim were actively uncompetitive (there should have been a tender for the contract extension). Since the fiasco Virgin has changed strategy dramatically, aiming to expand its market share into the East Coast lines that GNER and National Express mismanaged back into government hands three years ago (under contracts similar to the one offered to FirstGroup). They will likely also retain the West Coast franchise in the long term, if they can see off competition from Abellio.

Virgin Rail weighed up the risks inherent in challenging the bid and made the strategic decision to do. Meanwhile, we’ve been noticing that numerous tenders are having their deadlines put back – maybe as a result of jumpy procurement officials? Win that Bid can help you weigh up the risks in your own bids, and comprehend the contracting authority.

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.

New tender opportunities in Defence?

The Defence white paper released on 1st February 2012 has some important news for bid writers. Notably, it raises the possibility that the MOD will be procuring from a much wider range of sources than they had been previously. The paper states:

“Wherever possible, we will seek to fulfil the UK’s defence and security requirements through open competition in the domestic and global market, buying off-the-shelf where appropriate”

It is debatable how far this aim will be met. It will meet resistance from both vested interests in the defence industry and a number of powerful arguments about the practicalities of defending the nation using equipment sourced from outside. This makes it difficult for bid writers to predict exactly how MOD tenders will work in the future.

The MOD has made some more concrete initiatives of interest to bid writers. The threshold for advertising tendering opportunities has been reduced by 75% to £10,000 and they can now be found on Contracts Finder. Internal guidelines are being changed to ensure that PQQs produced by SMEs are not rejected on the basis of rigid turnover-to-contract value ratios without proper assessment of companies’ actual capacity and potential. This, along with the new Defence Suppliers Forum might present new tendering opportunities for bid writers in the future.