Whether you have a proficient business development team or are new to the tendering game, taking stock before a kick off meeting can help your business make better decisions about bidding and dramatically improve the win/loss ratio.
Know when it’s right for your business to respond to a Request for Tender (RFT)
Competitive tendering is far from a level playing field despite the strict procurement rules and evaluation criteria used to assess providers’ ability to deliver services. ‘Being in it to win it’ is a falsehood that can take a long time to learn.
Tendering is more than putting your offering to paper. It represents a stage in relationship building and the point from which relationships are cemented through service provision.
By submitting a tender, you are asking a client to place a deep level of trust in your business and your team. That level of trust is usually developed over time and is rarely formed across an evaluation panel’s (virtual) boardroom table.
If you have identified a dream project but don’t have a good existing relationship with a client or an enviable market position, slam on the brakes. Take some time to truly consider the costs of bidding before pushing ahead. How will tendering impact your bottom line and your team’s morale, or even your brand? Might you get a better ROI by pitching your capability to a client outside the tender process and with their attention focussed solely on you?
Opportunistic bids do occasionally win, but they are usually submitted by industry leaders who can absorb risk and costs more easily than most businesses.
Being judicious about the opportunities you pursue will significantly impact your success rate and prioritise your team’s focus.
Be part of your client’s team
A hallmark of most successful business development and technical teams is a joint ability to understand what a client is expecting to achieve by going out to tender. That’s not always apparent from the RFT evaluation criteria, but is learned through conversations with a client well before an RFT is released. There’s a lot to be said about what is left unspoken.
What a client wants to achieve is probably not limited to increased revenue and market share. It’s likely to include elements of corporate social responsibility and long-term sustainability.
By understanding the values that guide a client’s work and, importantly, how they see themselves, you can align your business with theirs, and with authenticity. Your ability to become an extension of your client’s team is important to developing shared goals. When your client’s interests are your interests, their success is yours too.
Your team should also reflect your client and the community in which it operates. Diversity isn’t a buzzword; it’s good business.
Building trust and adding value
It is not enough to simply tell a client that you have a track record delivering similar services of comparable scale and complexity. That’s a minimum criterion for bidding and won’t pitch you as the team to beat.
Your proposal needs to convince your client that you understand and complement their business, are trustworthy, and easy to work with. You do can do this best by telling them how their competitors have benefited from working with you.
Including client-centric case studies is the best way to convince a buyer to partner with you. Focus on the financial and non-financial benefits that working with you has generated for others. In the process you will learn more about your own business and become better at marketing your value proposition without sounding self-conscious or worse, arrogant.
Techniques to reduce cognitive strain
The evaluation panel assessing your submission is likely to include senior members of your client team, technical experts, and perhaps someone from an external body. They are not necessarily your peers, so don’t assume they will understand your terminology or the processes that your company is familiar with using. You don’t have to dumb-down a concept for it to be understood by non-experts, you just need to use plain English.
Your ability to engage an evaluation panel will reduce the effort they exert (cognitive strain) as they assess your proposal against those of your competitors. Plain English and storytelling are powerful techniques that reduce cognitive strain. Storytelling is also helpful in creating emotional connections and engaging all types of audiences.
Another important way to reduce cognitive strain is through visual communication.
Your submission might be technically brilliant, but if it is not compelling to read evaluators will lose interest in your message.
We all know that the brain responds to beauty like nothing else and that people process images much faster than they process written content. Evaluation panellists are no different from the average bear, so use graphic elements to break up text where and whenever possible.
Unless you work in the design sector, it is likely that you will use Word for your submissions. Word can’t help but constrain your ability to create a visually sophisticated document so differentiate your submission, and do it beautifully. It’s more important than you think and will help evaluators respond positively to your offering.
It’s all about engagement and relationship building.