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Hints for tendering

You have decided to tender for some work. How do you start and get the most out of the time that you have?

Click through the headings below for some helpful hints to improve your chances of winning your next tender.

  • Read the RFx

    Read the RFx (Request for Quote or Tender)

    Read the RFx closely to learn in detail what the buyer wants. This one of the most important things you can do to increase your success in winning tenders.

    Use this simple checklist to make sure you understand whats being asked for.

    • Who is the buyer?
    • What is their aim or purpose?
    • What are they purchasing?
    • How does this purchase relate to their aim or purpose?
    • How do they specifically describe the planned purchase? For example:
      • Quantity
      • Quality
      • Operating system
      • National availability
    • What are the evaluation criteria?
    • What are the weightings for the evaluation criteria?
    • Are there any mandatory conditions?
    • What is the deadline for responses?
    thumb Top tips
    • Take notes when you read the RFx and make sure you can answer the questions above.
    • Use the evaluation criteria and weighting to understand what is important to the buyer.
    • The first thing to do when you see an opportunity is to quickly get your team together. Even if the tender closes in six weeks, meet on day one. Have a general read through the document and discuss if it’s something worth bidding for. If yes, allocate the tasks to those with the most skills in that space, and have everyone report back to one person who will pull together a complete response. That person may be contributing, but you need one person to coordinate everything. Schedule review meetings and put deadlines in people’s calendars.

      When the response has been compiled, get someone to do a check for consistency of language throughout. It doesn’t matter who this is, as long as you’ve nominated someone organised. Have the document ready to send the day before the deadline.
      Jason Stace, Manager Procurement Solutions Practice
      Starfish Consulting Limited
  • Understand the Buyer

    Understand the Buyer

    The better you understand the buyer, the better your chances of winning a tender.

    Take the time to get some background on the organisation. Look at their website, check out their annual report and search online for news about them.

    Many large corporations and most councils and government agencies have a strategy section on their website. This will give insight into their priorities and their major plans. The annual report will also be a source of intelligence on their strategy and direction, while news items may highlight areas where the organisation has issues.

    It's tempting to tell the buyer everything your business can do; but what they really want to know is how much you care about solving their problem.

    Quick questions to ask yourself:

    • What is the correct name of the buyer?
    • Which division is requesting tender applications?
    • Which part of their purpose or strategic plan does this purchase relate to?
    • What is the purpose of the RFx?
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    • Reflect your knowledge of the buyer in the way you respond to the RFx.
    • In the executive summary, and as part of your response to each question, begin by outlining the aspects of the buyer's problem that are relevant to that section of the document. As you present your solution, demonstrate how it will address the buyer's concerns.
    • Once you've answered an RFx question, review your response from the buyer's perspective. Ask yourself if your answer is relevant to what the buyer needs.
    • To stand out from your competitors you need to show that you’ve understood the company’s requirement, carefully considered how you’ll meet it and shown exactly how you’ll carry out what they want. Give examples of where you’ve successfully done this in the past – that adds credibility to what they’re saying – but you also need to explain how you’re going to do it for them. That’s the most important part.
      Philip Orchard, CEO
      PAE (New Zealand) Limited
  • Answer the questions

    Answer the questions

    To deliver better bids, make sure you answer each question fully.

    Buyers want you to answer the questions - not just give them a download of your company history or every service you provide unless that is what they ask for.

    Instead, think carefully about what the buyer is asking for, and why, and frame your answer around that.

    Be sure to answer the entire question - particularly if it's composed of several parts. Take time to answer each part completely.

    Also ensure that you answer the pricing question in the way specified - for example if you are asked for a per unit price, don't answer the question with a per hour price. If you think your hourly rate is important, you may be able to add this, as long as you have answered the question properly first.

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    • Read each question carefully. Break it down and maybe even rewrite it to gain a deeper understanding of what's being asked.
    • Sometimes a question contains several parts - make sure you answer each part of the question.
    • Compare the evaluation criteria with the questions - what question relates to what evaluation criteria?
    • Look at the weightings of the evaluation criteria and use this as a guide for what you should be focusing on.
    • Use each question as an opportunity to sell yourself. For example if the question is: 'Can you deliver product x by the specified delivery date?' you could answer 'yes', or you could answer in the affirmative with proof or an example: 'Yes, and in our 19 years of operation, we have never missed a deadline.'
    • If the RFx has a page limit, make sure you stick to it.
    • Answer the pricing question correctly.
    • Don’t get hung up on things; read it, understand it, answer the question, make sure you clearly tell the client what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It’s not rocket science. If you know your trade or skill, you already know everything you need to know.

      The fundamental thing is, don’t assume anything. Ask yourself: did I answer the question? There’s a temptation to think ‘I’ve been working with this company for 10 years; they know me.’ But if that company is doing things with due probity, they can only go on the information you provide in the document; not all the other stuff they know about you but that you’ve left out. If you do something well, spell it out. Don’t assume they know.
      Philip Orchard, CEO
      PAE (New Zealand) Limited
    • 1. It’s essential to adhere precisely to the questions that have been asked. Don’t imagine what you’d like the bid to be before you write it.
      2. Compare your bid with the evaluation criteria. Have an external reviewer take the evaluation criteria and critique your bid based on those, as though they were a panel reviewer.
      3. Don’t be afraid to enter into partnerships to win bids in areas where you need to show multiple strengths. But always make sure you choose partners that you trust and who have a common set of values.
      4. Find every opportunity to demonstrate the added value and innovation you can bring around the questions being asked.
      Nick Billowes
      CORE Education
    • Realise that no matter how good your submission, you may lose on price. We’ve lost major tenders where we’ve had the highest non-price attributes, but they didn’t like the price. That’s just the reality of the competitive market. There’s a minimum price you can and will do the work for. You can’t go below that.
      Philip Orchard, CEO
      PAE (New Zealand) Limited
  • Follow the RFx layout

    Follow the RFx layout

    To deliver better bids, make sure you answer the questions in the same order that they are listed in the RFx. This will make the evaluator's life easier by helping them find the answers to the questions they've asked, and to compare your responses to others.

    thumb Top tips
    • Lay out the answers in your bid document one by one in the order of the questions in the RFx. Follow the RFx instructions regarding formatting - for example, they may ask you to use a table - and use the same numbering system as in the RFx. If you have space, include the questions themselves to keep you on track and aid the evaluator.
    • Make sure your headings are the same as those in the RFx.
    • Ensure your numbering system is the same as the RFx.
    • Cross-check that all of the evaluation criteria are covered in your answers to the questions.
    • Make sure you have included all of the mandatory information as well as answering the questions
    • One very important thing is to make sure that someone who can spell and has a basic knowledge of grammar proofreads the document before you submit it. You need to create an overall impression of professionalism and that you care about the prospective job; you won’t do that if your proposal is full of errors.
      Philip Orchard, CEO
      PAE (New Zealand) Limited
  • Demonstrate your unique selling proposition/s

    Demonstrate your unique selling proposition/s

    Your competitors in your sector may all have basic skills, tools and standard methods that are common across your industry. Having an edge that makes your offering more attractive than others is what wins tenders.

    But that point of difference is only of value if it is important to the buyer.

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    • Get the basics right first - answer the questions in the RFX and ensure you show how you meet the evaluation criteria, then look at how you can stand out by adding extra value to the buyer.
    • Sit down with key staff, colleagues and friends and devise a list of unique things your company has or does that may be valued by the buyer. Demonstrate these in the tender without losing sight of the buyers' stated needs and evaluation criteria.
  • Be Compelling

    Be compelling

    Your tender document needs to stand out from the crowd, so make sure that everything you write helps you win business.

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    • Use plain English to answer the tender - avoid being wordy or over complicated.
    • Use a typeface and font size that's easy for the buyer to read (if a format is specified, be sure to use that).
    • Use abbreviations only when you are sure your buyer will understand them, and always define them the first time you use them.
    • Use graphics, lists and tables to help make your proposal easier to understand - First, check if this is allowed and whether it will impact on your page limit.
    • For any graphical elements, use great captions that help make your point. Instead of 'Customer Satisfaction Numbers in the Last Five Years', you could say: Customer Satisfaction Increases over the Last Five Years. All graphics you include should help tell the story.
    • Use colour and design where they add value, but don't let them overwhelm your document.
    • Include a great cover letter and or executive summary that shows you understand the buyer's need, and that you can meet it and add further value.
    • With the presentation of your proposal, put yourself in the shoes of the person doing the evaluation. There’s no doubt that a well-designed document is easier to navigate. The design of a document is fundamental to its readability. It should be accessible, which means simple text with some diagrams to keep it interesting, and a clear sequential layout. Find a common and effective template that you use and that becomes part of your branding.
      Nick Billowes
      CORE Education
  • What buyers look for in tenders

    What buyers look for in tenders



Last updated 13 August 2015