The Tender Process Explained
Imagine you own a construction company. Your work is currently coming in at a slow pace and it’s having a detrimental impact on your cash flow. With staff and suppliers to pay and future plans to gain investment, you need to do something to bring more business in.
So, what do you do?
The most logical action to take, in this situation, would be to apply for long-term contractual work. If you can secure long term contracts, you will find that it stabilises your cash flow and allows you to run a sustainable business.
But, how do you go out and win these long-term contracts?
This is where the tender process comes into play.
By understanding the tender process and knowing how to write a successful bid, you can secure the long-term work that’s going to have the biggest impact on your business.
Before we get too excited though, let’s breakdown what the tender process looks like and how you can utilise it to your business’s advantage.
What is a tender?
An invitation to tender can be defined as the formal offer to bid for work/projects.
A tender document is a document that a supplier will submit in an attempt to win the work.
A tender document, sent out by an organisation, will need to include:
Description of goods and services to be procured
Conditions of tender e.g. qualifications, experience, etc.
Submission content and format
What is the tender process?
For some companies, tendering can cause all sorts of headaches. If you are not familiar with the process it can seem daunting, complicated and slightly overwhelming.
But, we are here to help!
With over 10 years experience in helping businesses win bids, we have a deep understanding of the tender process that we are happy to share with you!
So, let’s break it down into chronological steps below.
1. Know about the bid before it lands on your desk
In an ideal world, you would already know about a bid before it has gone public. There are a variety of ways that you can be in-the-know about future bids. A few of these could be through software to track upcoming bids, notifications, networking, meet the buyer events, desktop research and even stories in the media. If you know about a bid before it goes public, you can put yourself in a much better position and prepare yourself for when it goes live!
2. Initial bid/no bid decision on whether to go for it or not
Bidding isn’t simply a numbers game. Bidding can take a lot of time and resource, so it’s imperative that you focus on the bids you are genuinely keen to win and deliver. By being selective with your bidding, you can increase your win rate and spend your time and money more efficiently. So, before you go ahead and submit a bid, first assess whether or not you should be bidding and then make the rational decision.
3. Research the client
If you have made the decision to bid, you now have some work to do! We would always recommend that you research the client, so you can get a better understanding of their business and how you can fulfil their needs. Essentially, by researching and understanding the client, we can find out what their goals are, what makes them tick, what issues they have had in the past - these are examples of "hot buttons". The idea is then to provide a service/product (solution) that will address these.
4. Assessing the likely competition
As well as doing the research on the client, you also need to know who you are going up against. Unfortunately there’s no way of directly knowing who else will be bidding alongside you but keep your competitors front of mind when developing your own bid response.
You will need to stand out from your competition in order to win the work, so it’s always helpful to understand your position amongst your competitors. How is your offering different to theirs? What USP do you have over them? How can you compensate for possible advantages they may have over you? You need to consider all these options and establish an understanding of your competitors.
5. Build an ideal solution to the clients needs
Once you have a good understanding of your client and your competition, you can now start to build an ideal solution for the client, meeting their needs and business objectives. Think about how you are going to use stats, figures, previous work and more to validate your points and position yourself as a better choice than the competition.
6. Bid documents arrive
Depending on how you have been monitoring an upcoming bid, you will be notified when the bid documents become available to you. If you are using a procurement portal, the documents will be available to you online. You can then print them off, if necessary, and make notes on them as you wish. Alternatively, you may be emailed the bid documents, so it all depends on the client and how they are publishing the bid.
7. Final bid/no bid decision
After you have spent time looking at the bid document, it is now time to make a final decision and decide whether you are going to bid or not. At this stage, it is imperative that you understand the questions being asked and the requirements that you need to meet. Having a good understanding of what the client wants, and an awareness of whether or not you can fulfil their needs, will make the ‘bid or no bid’ decision much easier to make.
8. Kick the bid off - decide who is doing what and when it is being done
Assuming that you have gone ahead and decided to bid, you would now need to decide who will carry out each section of the document and establish when it needs to be done by. It may be that you need a few people to work on the bid, not only to save time but also as individuals they may have specialist knowledge that they can apply to certain sections of the document. There will also be a deadline that the bid has to be submitted by, which means you need to plan and prepare well in advance so you aren’t rushing.
9. Plan the bid - storyboard the bid and agree win themes
Now for the interesting part; the planning of the bid. Once you know who is doing which part of the bid and when it needs to be done for, you can now start to structure and storyboard your pitch. The storyboard is crucial as that is exactly what you are doing; telling the story of why you are the right business to carry out the work.
You can then establish your ‘win themes’ which are essentially; themes that tell the client what’s in it for them and why they should select you, over your competitors. Win theme’s can provide the hook to draw the client in, so make sure you get them right!
10. Write the bid
The most important part of the tender process has arrived. You’ve researched your client and competitors, you’ve proposed a solution, prepared your storyboard and now it is finally time to write your bid. When it comes to bid writing, many people are inexperienced, lacking in writing ability or simply do not understand how to construct a winning bid.
If you are looking for assistance with a bid, it is always a good idea to contact a professional bid writing company and get them to help or write your bid for you. At Thornton & Lowe, we are bid writing experts with a win rate of over 75%. So, if you need help with your bid, get in touch with us!
11. Review the bid
Before you go ahead and submit your bid, it is important that you review the document (we suggest twice) and make sure to iron out any mistakes. When you review your bid, put yourself in the customer's shoes and think “would I work with this business based on their proposition’.
The more you can view your bid from the customers perspective, the better insight you can get into whether it will be a success or a not. Alternatively, Thornton & Lowe have a bid review service where we can either: review and comment on your bid, review and improve or work on your strategy, review and then improve the bid.
12. Submit the bid
Once you have finished your bid, and you are happy to send it to the client, you can now go ahead and submit your bid. It’s crucial to keep an eye on the deadline through the whole tender process. There is nothing worse than having a few days to prepare, structure and write a bid, all because someone failed to keep track of the deadline. Once you submit the bid, the work doesn’t stop there either.
13. Assess what went well and what didn't go well
After submitting a bid, it’s always a good idea to assess how the process went for you. Did your team work well together? Did something hold up the process? Did you effectively establish your win themes? How did you manage your time up to the deadline?
To make the tender process easier for next time, ask yourself the questions above and reflect on the ways you could improve. It’s useful to write this information down and feed it back to your team so everyone is on the same page for the next bid.
14. Possible interview/presentation
If you were successful in your bidding attempts, you may now be asked to have an interview or present your pitch to the client.
15. Possible negotiation
If all goes to plan, the client may want to negotiate on the terms and conditions, and even the costs too.
16. Contract award
At the final stage of the tender process, you will be notified if you have won the contract or not. If you were successful, you now have secured long-term work for your business - cheers to that! Now you can prepare to carry out the work and take the initial steps required to move the process along.
For future bids, it’s always good to consider why you have won the contract and make sure to keep a record of your bid for reference. Usually, you will be scored or given feedback as to whether your bid was successful or not. This feedback is crucial to your business and needs to be considered for future bidding.
How to learn more about the tender process
If you are new to the tender process, you may still have many questions and not be 100% clear on how you can get the results you want. Luckily, you don’t need to be a bid writing expert to win bids for your business.
All you need is the right guidance and to follow the bid writing principles that will set you up for success. One of the best ways to learn about the tender process is to seek professional advice from bid writing companies/tender writing consultants.
At Thornton & Lowe, we’ve been helping companies win more contracts for over 10 years. So, we have an excellent understanding of the tender process and how to get the results you need.
We can work directly with your company to produce your bid submissions and ensure you win the contract you desire the most.
Alternatively, if you would like to get a more hands-on approach and learn the basics yourself, we also offer bid writing and tender training courses. In our courses, you will learn to write clear, concise and compelling bids that make you stand out from your competitors.
Not only will you walk away equipped with bid writing know-how but you will be awarded CPD points for completing our training courses.
To find out more information on our bid writing training courses, visit our page here.