The tender process explained

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As your company grows winning larger contracts can be a vital step to increase growth and improve profitability. How can your organisation use the tender process to win the big deals necessary to take your business to the next level?

Types of tender

There are essentially two main types of tender, these can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Public sector tenders – these are usually highly standardised and include selection processes and invitations to tender. Your company will need to make the shortlist before even submitting a bid, which may include completing many template response documents.
  • Private sector tenders – in contrast, private tenders are not restricted to the same degree. Expect a much more flexible tendering process and the room to demonstrate business flair and personality.

Whilst private companies are still duty-bound to treat bidders fairly, they can use whatever evaluation criteria is appropriate to their requirements.

How to find a tender for your business

With private sector contracts, your business will usually be invited to take part in the tendering process, or you may come across business opportunities through business clubs and networking. These can often be considered in the same light as sales opportunities. Alternatively, you can approach commercial companies to put your forward for the tenders in your chosen sectors.

Local authorities have portals that you can register on in order to be invited to tender for smaller contracts. Some public sector organisations will have a preferred supplier list (PSL) and you will need to be on this list in order to be invited to tender.

Deciding on applying for a tender

Putting together a bid for a tender can take up a large amount of your time and resources. It is therefore of vital importance that you only make bids for business that you are capable of supplying that match with your existing customer profile.

It’s easy to speculate about winning million pound plus contracts, but if your average arrangement is only around the high 5 to low 6 figures, then you need to question if your operation is sufficiently equipped to meet the terms of the tender. Evaluate your suitability and potential for success by considering the following:

  • Regulatory and Mandatory requirements
  • Demonstration of appropriate experience within a relevant industry sector
  • Sufficient resources in terms of operational personnel and cash flow
  • The potential profit from the arrangement together with the risk

Simply put, only target tenders that you have both a realistic chance of winning and are certain that you fulfil with 100% client satisfaction.

Your bid writing team

Before you start writing you bid you should construct a team capable of expressing your commercial offering in a succinct, accurate and attractive manner. Choosing the right set of individuals with a wide range of skills is likely to increase your chances of success, as they will ensure that all the appropriate areas are covered. Your team should include the following skill sets:

  • Bid Manager – this individual is responsible for overseeing the bid writing process. They are tasked with making all key decisions and meeting the timescales needed to progress the project.
  • Writer – this individual presents the data, processes and technical details in a structured and precise manner to fit the requirements of the tender process, listing the relevant details and supporting information where necessary.
  • Contributors – these will be team members or managers from the relevant parts of the company that need to provide input into the tender. They deliver facts and figures about operations and capacity that are subsequently collated by the writer to support the bid.
  • Proofreader – finally when the bid is complete another individual should be tasked with ensuring that the work is grammatically consistent and free from typos and errors. The writer is unsuitable for this task as they will be too close to the work to accurately spot all the errors.

Writing the bid

When you have found the right tender for your business and assembled a team, the next requirement is writing the bid. It is vital that you clearly demonstrate why your company is the most suitable for the job. Consider the following factors:

  • Relevancy – use case studies and proven data from projects you have completed successfully to show that you have experience in the appropriate sectors. The more aligned previous experience is with the current project, the greater the likelihood of success.
  • Engagement – put the buyer at the front and centre of your mind when writing the bid. What specific information do they want to know? How can you display a succinct understanding of their unique dilemmas and challenges, placing specific functions of your company forward as a solution?
  • Simplicity – ensure that your bid is written in simple language. Communication is the number one objective, avoid sounding overly formal or overloading the prose with industry terminology of jargon. Always opt for ease of understanding, adopting a precise and clear format of progression throughout.
  • Completeness – double check all the facts and figures, verifying that the data that’s being supplied meets the requirements of the procurer. Look at all the dates and certification and if you need to make additional remarks or add further supporting information then use the additional value section.

Writing a successful bid is difficult. Remember that even the strongest companies only convert around 33% of bids into successful contracts. It is of course imperative that you look to streamline your process through accurate feedback. If you win a tender, what was it about your company that impressed your client? Or if you lose then it’s not uncommon to seek out feedback that you can use to further improve your offer in the future.

And as a last word of advice let’s turn to the UK business magnate Richard Branson who said that “business opportunities are like buses, they’ll always be another one around the corner.”

Learn more: Our 7 key tips on how to win tenders

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Written by Mark Nutburn

CTO - technology professional with over 20 years of IT experience building bespoke CRM systems and designing customised software solutions. A key part of the management team at The British Assessment Bureau for many years and a part of AMTIVO’s management team.