Virtually every tender, proposal, submission or bid is contested between multiple proponents, and the juicier the opportunity, the fiercer the competition.
To win, you’ll need a viable solution to the client’s problem, that’s priced in a way that is affordable and defendable, backed by a practical approach to terms and conditions, and all of that needs to be supported by a team with relevant experience, that the client wants to do business with.
So easy, right? Totally.
But everyone might be bidding something that fits that criteria. How do you stand out from the competition?
We’ve outline below 5 tips that will help you grab the client’s attention and differentiate yourself as the best option for the client:
- Show you understand the client and the project better than your competition
For every project, the client has a vision of what they want to achieve, a set of objectives that must be met, a range of risks and challenges they have identified that must be managed, a set of opportunities that they hope will be realised, and a group of stakeholders that will have an influence. Within this realm of context, there will be some things that are keeping the client awake at night and some things that excite them with possibility. The key to offering a compelling proposal can be found somewhere in this entire mix, with the most potent opportunities arising from the ‘awake at night’ or ‘excite with possibilities’ angles.
If you can use the proposal as an opportunity to demonstrate that you thoroughly understand the client and their project, it gives the client a deep sense of comfort that you ‘get it’. Then when it comes to scoring your proposal on their evaluation matrix, you are more likely to score at the top end of the scale because you’ll be demonstrating an excellent understanding of their requirement and showing an excellent probability of success.
As a side note, make sure you cater to all the likely readers of the proposal – the evaluation panel will undoubtably come from different disciplines, such as engineering, legal, commercial, communications etc, so make sure you demonstrate a broad understanding that considers all of their objectives, risks, challenges… A classic mistake that proponents make is to focus on their comfort zone and neglect the rest of the project’s dimensions.
2. Let them know you want it
Clients are looking for delivery partners that will be motivated, committed and easy to deal with, so there is a lot to be said for the proponents that can demonstrate a genuine team character or culture that is enthusiastic, dedicated and likeable.
You can convey a positive and energetic team character in a number of ways:
- In personal interactions – being on time for meetings or calls, being well prepared, being thorough and showing attention to detail, doing additional work or research that the client wasn’t expecting, listening without interrupting, asking questions to deepen understanding, speaking with energy and enthusiasm, and so on…
- In your written submission – answering the client’s questions in the client’s format and structure, going to extra depth in responses, incorporating extra research or preparation that you have done, describing a positive and collaborative process for delivery, using positive and active voice, using respectful language, and so on…
Importantly, don’t underestimate how appealing it is to wear your heart on your sleeve a little bit. In person and in the submission, it is very powerful to explicitly state that you want to work with this client and on this project, and articulate what makes this client and project so interesting and why your team is inspired. When it comes to a client choosing between a proponent that is enthusiastic and committed, or a proponent that is indifferent or a little cool, the client will almost certainly choose the team that is more motivated.
3. Make it easy for the client
Clever proponents make it easy for the evaluation panels to read, understand and score their proposals. You can do this in a range of ways including:
- Following the exact structure of the client’s request
- Answering the questions in detail so the client has all the information they need
- Writing responses that are easy-to-read for all evaluators, with minimum unnecessary jargon, logical structure, good grammar etc
- Using document formatting, such as headings, bolding, pullouts and diagrams to enhance readability
- Explaining the rationale for key decisions or recommendations being made
- Explicitly stating how objectives will be achieved, how risks will be mitigated and how opportunities will be realised
- Explicitly stating the benefits to the client, and
- Explicitly stating what makes your proposal unique, innovative or smart.
You’ll note that the last few points are about being explicit. This is a key part of how to make things easy for the client. It is MUCH easier for a reader to have the information clearly stated for them, rather than have to draw their own conclusions as they read each paragraph. The truth is, many evaluators are busy, juggling multiple priorities, and in all probability are preoccupied as they are reading through the proposals. If you need them to work harder – to read a paragraph and then have to stop, think about the implications and then draw their own conclusions – you will almost certainly short-change yourself.
4. Don’t assume they know about you
In a tender, the only way the evaluation panel can score you is through your formal submission, so everything needs to be included there. This means you can’t rely on the client having any previous knowledge of or experience with your company – even if an evaluation panel member does know of your company, they aren’t meant to use that knowledge to influence their scores. At any rate, there are almost certainly going to be people on the evaluation panel that don’t know your organisation at all.
With this in mind, make sure you provide all the relevant information for your client to gain a solid understanding of your organisation’s track record, your capabilities and your strengths. Layer your proposal with information such as:
- Organisational capabilities and areas of specialty
- Experience in relevant industries
- Experience delivering certain services or outcomes
- Experience with the client specifically (not everyone will know what you have done for the client in the past)
- Areas of particular innovation or development
- Statistics on performance, such as KPIs
- Past achievements, such as awards and industry recognition
- Organisation charts
- Personal profiles, and
- Systems, processes and technology that will be used.
It helps to assume that the readers have never met you or working with your organisation – provide them with all the information needed to help them understand your capabilities and competencies.
5. Demonstrate added value to your client
The last tip is to go above and beyond what the client has asked for. Think of the client’s requirements as their minimum expectations, and find ways to deliver more for the same, the same for less, or ideally, more for less. At the end of the day, if all you are delivering to the client is what they have asked for, in a way that is ‘business as usual’, then you need to be the cheapest to win.
Think through all of the dimensions of the project and look for ways to excel – technical outcome, user outcomes, risk management, environmental outcomes, community outcomes, stakeholder outcomes, capex cost, whole-of-life cost, delivery timeframes, reduction in other costs such as labour costs, improved customer outcomes, etc…
There’s a saying in tendering: “If you find winning tenders is painful and expensive, try losing them!”
If you are going to the effort of submitting a tender that is viable from a technical, commercial and delivery perspective, it is worth it to follow these 5 simple tips to give yourself the best chance of success.
Aurora Marketing can help organisations in each phase of the sales process. For help winning your next complex sale, call us today on 1300 976 312 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org