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The $3 billion secret to winning work through tenders

At a time when evaluation increasingly favours non-price attributes in procurement processes - and we've had news that our clients have now won more than $3 billion in work through tenders - what is the secret for any organisation looking to win work through tenders?
Is it well-written copy? Is it a nicely bound document? Is it great marketing materials? Clearly expressed points of difference? A stellar presentation? Well, some of these maybe, but really the secret just comes down to two words:

Plan ahead

We are often involved in a bid once the RFP / RFT document has already come out. We enjoy the work involved in understanding what has motivated the process, what your client wants to achieve through it, how it fits with their wider objectives in shaping the process, and then putting together your submission to maximise your presentation of skills, capabilities, experience and people.

But, think about how more effective your approach could be if you've also done the following:

1. Planned your year's targeting ahead

  • Sit down at the beginning of the year to work out:
  • Your key client / project targets for the next twelve months
  • The factors that underpin their need to put work out to tender
  • And, if you can, what those tendered pieces of work will achieve for them as steps along their strategic journey.
2. Get to know your targets

Really understand their company objectives, their values and ways of doing things – and the attributes they cherish most in their partners. Strong interpersonal relationships are hugely valuable here, so if you are not already close to the people who matter it's time to work out how you can do so.

3. Ask yourselves: what can you do to align with your targets through action?

Made changes in your business if necessary to ensure you are aligned early with your client's ethos. Identify things that you can do within your own organisation to match their requirements. If the organisation you're looking to target is particularly driven by innovation, the customer experience or sustainability for example, and you are genuinely also motivated in that way, how can you ensure that you're building the prominence of these factors within your business in a way that you can demonstrate now – and not just at tender time?

4. Prove your alignment through communication

Find opportunities to tell stories about what you're doing way before the tender you are targeting. Think about the mechanisms you can use: do you have to submit monthly reports to the client now (if you are the incumbent provider) and, if so, how can you use that process to highlight examples of excellence that align you with your client? And tell stories (through your controlled media - website, newsletters, social media channels etc – as well as earned media or awards etc) that showcase the attributes now that you'll need to demonstrate when you arrive at the formal bidding point.

This is about positioning for success

Not only are the four points above good practice anyway when it comes to being a responsible and active corporate citizen, but they will help you to position your own company. Truthfully. In the eyes of your targeted client you will be viewed as an aligned and proactive partner that is already doing the things that they like, acting genuinely to showcase your capabilities, behaviours and achievements in a way that matches the aspirations of your intended client.

Ultimately, this will help you to achieve the thing that everyone wants: to be the tenderer that your target wants to do well through the formal RFT process.

Then the formal documentation process should in many ways be really just about:

  • Them - wanting you to do well in the process (and even for you to win the work)
  • You - proving to the client what they already know about you, because you have already shown it to them
  • You using the past tense, not the future tense: "We have already delivered", "our approach is proven through" etc, is always much more effective than "we will show you that…"
Ask yourself 5 simple questions:
  1. What major bids are coming up this year that we want to target?
  2. What skills do we need to demonstrate to position ourselves well before this opportunity comes up?
  3. How can we demonstrate through action and evidence that we live the values we espouse?
  4. How can we demonstrate through action and case studies NOW the values and skills that we need to show to win the big bid?
  5. How can we enter awards to gain recognition of the skills and ways of doing things that are our hallmark?
Plan ahead. Tell stories. Have fun – and win.