The process of tendering should begin long before the Request for Tender or Expression of Interest appears on the scene. Last ditched efforts result in a rushed and unprofessional tender response. The successful business is one that plans ahead. The following steps can help you improve your success rate with tenders and avoid the need for all-nighters just to get something over the line on time.
- Be clear on the goals of your business and know what it is you want to achieve.
- Look to build relationships with organisations you would like to do work for or who can assist you.
- Research your market and maintain an up-to-date database of relevant and useful information
- Build the capabilities and capacity you believe you need to get the job done
While unexpected opportunities will always arise, good planning and preparation will make even these go smoother.
Plan Your Response
Once you have the RFT in front of you avoid the temptation to charge in and start writing. Once again, planning is critical. In any documentation project, planning usually takes up about 30% of the allotted time. Depending on your schedule, you may need to be more flexible with this. The following steps are minimum requirements for preparing a tender response; some of them you may be able to have almost ready to go when the process starts:
- Assign a Project Manager
- Produce a detailed Document Management Plan which assigns tasks, responsibilities and schedule.
- Pull the RFT apart and write down all the requirements asked for by the client. Aside from the selection criteria, this may include items such as restrictions on; font, word length, submission dates, contact details and method of submission. The end result is a Tender Response Map.
- Create a document shell, or Response Template, using headings to address the requirements identified above. Check that the flow of the document is coherent and logical.
Bid / No Bid
Once the Response Template has been agreed you should now have a much clearer understanding of the requirements of the tender. Now is the time to decide if you actually want to bid. Producing a tender response consumes a great deal of time and resources; the wiser course of action may be not to bid if you don’t believe you can win it. Check for the following:
- Do you have the capabilities to do the work?
- Do you have the capacity to do the work?
- Is it in line with your organisations goals?
- Can you win and is the return worth the effort?
- Can you afford the expense of submitting a tender?
Check our downloads for a comprehensive bid / no bid checklist.
From your earlier preparation you should have a large amount of catalogued information ready, however it is likely that you will identify gaps in your research. Your Document Management Plan should have assigned the task of additional research; once the decision to bid has been reached, this should now commence. Remember to catalogue this information as before to ensure it is not lost for next time.
The task of writing can now commence in earnest. You already have your response structured so it is now a matter of filling in the blanks. Be prepared, however, to change the format slightly as new information and new ideas come to light. Remember, any plan needs to be flexible. Points to note include:
- Follow the clients style guide or format (if provided)
- Write with a focus on the client and not you. Show the benefit to them.
- Answer all questions fully and truthfully
- Use clear and concise writing
- Back up all your claims with examples
- Clearly demonstrate your point of difference on matters that the client cares about.
For more tips on writing, check out this useful website.
- Reviewing your work is critical. Nothing puts a tender assessor off more than a sloppy and unprofessional response. The following tips should help:
- Your Document Management Plan should include a rigid workflow which assigns reviewer responsibilities and a checklist of what to look for.
- Conduct an editorial review looking for errors of style, spelling, register, word count, etc.
- Conduct a content review looking for incompleteness and errors of fact.
- Remember that you should not review your own work. Your brain sees what it thinks the page says, not what is really there. If you have to review it yourself, put it aside for a few days, if you have time, and then come back to it. Be prepared for a few surprises.
For more tips on reviewing, check out this useful website.
You would be surprised how many tenders have failed right at this moment. There is no point in having a gold-plated tender response if it doesn’t get into the tender box on time. Your Project Manager must keep an eye on the following:
- All project personnel are keeping to the schedule
- There are no changes to tender conditions including submission date
- Sufficient time is allowed for the tender response to be delivered by mail or hand if required.
- If the response is to be uploaded to the client, as is often the case with government tenders, ensure that your IT is compatible and the upload is completed in time. Tender conditions often require that the upload is complete before the closing time, if a large number of responses are being submitted at the same time yours may be late.