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Five signs that you are positioned to win at tender time

***This article orginally appeared in the October/November version of New Zealand Construction News***

A tender response is never the time to introduce yourself to a client for the first time: it is the opportunity to underscore pricing and attributes of yours that they already value.

Ideally, it should be the final step towards helping them to realise an existing desire to choose you: the time to dot 'i's and cross 't's, not for saying "g'day" for the first time.

"How can we build that desire in the first place if we're not already doing the work?" is a question we often get asked. To get ahead of the game and lift your success rate at the tender box, much of your work to prepare for tenders should happen months – if not years – ahead of the tenders you are looking to win.

In our view, there are five key signs that show us that our clients are getting ready for that next big bid. The most successful organisations we work with follow a simple plan to help them to get ahead of the curve and build a winning position well before that GETS notification:

Sign 1: You're thinking ahead and have a plan in place

Do you have an annual plan to deliver on your tendering goals? What are the key bids you need to win this year - and next year? Why are they important to you, and to the client?

If your answers to these questions make you feel uncomfortable, it may be the time to look again at your plans for the next 12-18 months. Why? So you can do the essential work to examine, express - and then build - your positioning and offer in the mind of your intended client ahead of time.

How should you do that? Build your tendering activities and targets into your annual marketing and communications planning. After all, you can view tendering as one of the many ways to take your product or service to market. We believe therefore that you should integrate these activities into your wider plans.

Sign 2: You really understand your client

RFPs can only ever contain so much information. They rarely, if ever, give the full picture of what your intended client wants to achieve through the procurement exercise. Briefings sometimes give a little more detail, but it's a rare day that the RFP-and-briefing exercise dips below the surface in a meaningful way.

On the basis that your client is almost always running the procurement in order to achieve something - often as part of achieving a wider organisational goal – we say that understanding what that wider goal is, and how you can most effectively move them forward towards it, is an essential activity.

If you are 'attacking' as future tender opportunity, rather than defending your incumbent position, how are you going about getting the information you need to understand those goals? And what plans do you have in place to know what your client really wants, and sufficiently ahead of time so you can actually do something about it? The 'round of golf' method might be one avenue, but how can you get deeper? Do you know the client well enough – and do they know you? If not, now's the time to do something about it.

And, if you're the incumbent, are you making the most of your relationship? Use the golden opportunity through your day-to-day work to find out what makes your client tick - at all levels of operation.

Sign 3: You have a message, and you are prepared

While price is always a vital component of any bid – the doorway to the opportunity, if you like – what kicks down the door is how you stand out.

Every organisation on the planet stands out in some way. Is it the skillset that you offer, or the resources you can apply, a technical innovation you alone have mastered, what? If you understand well enough what your client's goals are, what your points of difference are – and what your competition offers – then you can work out by a process of elimination what your message needs to be.

Sign 4: You're showcasing your skills consistently

This is not about silky words: it is about organisational focus. If you are focused on your message and acting on it consistently, your client will see – again and again – that you are doing the things that they need, which then only requires capturing in your submission.

Are you showcasing your skills to your clients well enough in between tenders? As my mum said to me when I was growing up, actions speak louder than words. Use your current contracts to live your values and tell the stories of success, to fit with your messages. By consistently delivering the messages you have figured out and are putting out to the market - whether they are about the value of a product, team or service - then you're building your offer in the minds of your client, proving them repeatedly.

Position yourself through your daily activities, through media coverage, awards, events, your website content and through social media. Live your offer and tell the stories your client will value.

Sign 5: You're addressing your faults

The problems that occur are often less important than how you deal with them. If you can show how a fault has been corrected - leading to improvements and improved customer satisfaction - your client will see that poor outcomes are not acceptable to you and that you are always looking to do better.

If you show these five signs, you'll be much further down the road to succeeding at the tender box.

If you'd like more useful tips on how to build your positioning ahead of tenders, please get in touch with George: +64 21 536 637

George Hulbert is a Director of The Clarity Business, which has helped organisations to target and win work valued at more than $2.1 billion. www.theclaritybusiness.co.nz