“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” – Albert Einstein
One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to work with different clients where I get to see the best – and sometimes the not so great – bid teams and processes. I find great professional and personal reward in being able to help bid teams put together winning tenders and to bring each client the experience I have gained from those who have gone before.
While organisations and projects obviously differ, there are a few common threads that I have observed encapsulate a (relatively)pain-free, or highly challenging, tender experience. Where there has been a less than optimal experience, the organisation or the bid team has generally fallen into what I have come to call the Tender Trap.
So what is the Tender Trap? Tendering is a process – there is a beginning and an end and a whole raft of steps, milestones and checkpoints along the way to get a bid to the point of pushing the “submit” button. Unfortunately, some organisations become so fixated on the race to submission that they leapfrog over some of the most important steps – or they don’t even have those steps in place to begin with. This is the Tender Trap – spending so much time focusing on the end goal at the expense of all the important ones along the way that will ensure a compelling, persuasive and innovative submission.
Those organisations which have the highest tender success rate have two things in common:
- They have a concise and clearly communicated set of processes that everyone knows about
- These processes are sacrosanct and the team sticks to them – no matter what
While there are many ways to run a tender, below are my thoughts on five of the most important highline processes to that you don’t fall victim to the Tender Trap:
- Do you really, really want big?
- Do we have the financial and human resources to give 110% into putting together a winning submission?
- Is our senior management/board 100% behind us in this submission?
- What will winning this tender mean for our business?
- What will not winning this tender mean for our business?
- Are there other, more certain opportunities we should be pursuing?
- How much do we really want to win?
2. Do you have the team you need? Not all organisations have the luxury of being able to pull staff off their “day job” for weeks, or even months to work solely on tenders, or to bring in outside contractors. In my experience, many bid teams are under-resourced – which means that as the submission date draws closer and team members spend more time with their colleagues than their families, they can become tired, disheartened and eventually dysfunctional. No one does their best work after working weeks and weekends of 12+ hour days…. It’s therefore critical to have an adequately resourced team from Day One. Bidding is expensive, nut if you look at the cost v the reward if you win, it’s a worthy investment. Scrambling half or three-quarters of the way through the bid to find additional people – who may not be available at short notice and if they need time to get up to speed – is a trap I have seen many organisations fall into.
3. Do you have a pre-determined bid process and the power to enforce it? – Most bids will have a bid manager – at Aurora Marketing we call these Bid Whips and we have a number of team members who we embed with our clients to run the bid process – setting meetings, milestones and the processes for writing, editing, reviewing, signing off and submitting the bid. These are the wranglers who need to coerce, cajole, counsel and cheerlead the team into the meeting deadlines – and if needed can enforce a level of accountability onto any individuals who may continue to let the team down. As soon as the process begins to slip, the entire bid begins to slip. I’ve heard of all the excuses of the Tender Trap – “it’s too early to start writing that part”; “this section doesn’t need a bronze/silver review as it’s really straighforward/just a compliance piece”; “I can’t make that meeting, can we reschedule to next week?”. In a streamlined bid, the process must be held as sacrosanct and everyone needs to understand that the trap of slipping a little behind can lead to major problems.
4. Do you have a robust and independent internal review process? A rigorous review process is critical. Ideally, you should have a review team that consists of experts who are outside the bid team and even outside the organisation. The Tender Trap here is that if documents are only reviewed within the bid team or the same department, important analysis or omissions will be missed. In the bid teams we work with, Aurora Marketing runs a multi-layer process through which review teams collectively assess and score each document against set criteria. I have seen many documents that were thought to be at “silver or gold” level fall back to bronze using this process. This is not a criticism of the author, but rather proof of a robust process that helps lift responses from just answering the exam question to be compelling, persuasive, innovative – and winning.
5. Are you prepared for the post-bid process – e.g. questions, negotiations, BAFO etc. The “submit” button has been pushed, the celebratory drinks drunk and the bid team de-mobilised and sent back to their day jobs or onto the next contract. Then the client comes back with a stack of questions, requests to re-submit in some areas, or re-negotiate parts of your solution. You’re heading into extra time but your playing field is empty because your team have left the stadium. Avoid falling into this trap by ensuring you have a few key bid team members on standby and ready to re-mobilise if needed.
While putting together a winning tender is of course dependent on many factors, these are just a few pieces of advice to help avoid the pitfalls of the Tender Trap.
For more information on the key elements of of putting together a winning tender or to speak to us for help or advice, give the team a call on 07 3211 4299.