Tender responses are a painful but important part of the sales process. Due to the effort and discipline involved many companies either don’t bother or don’t invest enough resource in the process. The following piece highlights a number of areas to pay attention to when submitting a response.
1. Work on your relationships
People listen to those they like and trust. A good relationship with key decision makers in the procurement process goes a long way to helping understand what they want, what their concerns are, and how they rate your prospects of winning a tender process. In many cases a good relationship can often influence the content of an invitation to tender and give you a head start in your response.
Put together an appropriate response timetable that highlights key milestones and factors in a number of opportunities to receive quality assurance from suitable members of the organisation.
3. Assemble a suitable response team
Your response team should consist of subject matter experts – either internal or external – as well as good writers. In Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson tell us to “Hire great writers….because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”
It’s unrealistic to expect everyone on the team to be a good writer, meaning that someone else is going to have to commit an expert’s ideas to paper.
4. Use simple and clear language
Effective bid writing eschews the need for the stiff and turgid language that litters modern day business writing and power point presentations. Keep it simple and lose the adjectives and adverbs.
5. Nail the solution from the start
It’s unreasonable to expect that the solution presented won’t change during the course of the process but it’s important to have the main elements agreed before writing begins. Constant tinkering throughout the process leads to considerable rework, rewriting, and heaps of stress.
6. Answer the questions asked and lose the boiler plate
A common complaint from those evaluating tenders is that potential suppliers often respond to what they wish they were asked as opposed to what they were actually asked. This more often than not leads to low scoring.
One reason is that respondents will often recycle an answer used in a previous response. There may be instances where it’s appropriate to use boilerplate but all questions should be answered with the customer and their particular concerns in mind. Excessive use of boilerplate leads to the sense that the solution proposed is generic and not designed with the customer in mind. It also conveys a lack of rigor and attention to detail.
7. Use plenty of diagrams
As disappointing as it may sound, even the best written tender responses are often fairly tough going for the evaluator. Where possible, and in order to make things clearer and more interesting for the evaluator, use attractive and easy to understand diagrams that complement the written content.
8. Share the Load
Writing is tough and requires a lot of effort. For large bids the work load should be shared across a number of people. Leaving the majority of the writing to just a few will lead to a poorly written tender.
Finishing the document and submitting it either in physical or electronic format is possibly the most stressful part of the entire process. Agree a time whereby no more quality assurance or tinkering is allowed. A target finish date at least a day in advance of the actual submission date allows a buffer and a chance to recover in the event of an unforeseen inconvenience.
10. Follow the process to the end
Win or lose, tender responses are a great way to showcase your company. They help to build profile and trust in the marketplace and give you more insight into potential supplier needs and concerns. Follow the process right through to the end and if unsuccessful always avail of the opportunity for a debrief in order to learn where you can make improvements.