Does this tender planning scenario sound familiar? Excitement builds the first couple of days after an RFT release; there are even attempts to draft responses, but then professional work takes priority and the tender project quickly loses momentum. By the time someone reinvigorates the project, the deadline is looming and the task is even more difficult than it was before. And then there’s a mad rush just to get in a compliant bid, rather than the best bid.
Whether you’re a director, partner, or positioned in a marketing and business development role, getting good at planning tenders, proposals and bids is necessary to give you your best chance for success.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
For professional services, you’re typically given from three to six weeks to produce your response. Regardless of how much time you get, there are crucial steps to take and decisions to be made within the first three days after an RFT release.
So how do you get organised to make the most out of the opportunity?
Tender planning: How to get ready and set
- Bid/no-bid. Read through the RFT requirements and make a well-considered bid/no-bid decision. Objectively assess criteria such as the likelihood of success, the ability to meet minimum requirements, commercial risk vs. reward (download our bid or no-bid checklist).
- Select bid areas/categories. It‘s important to make a clear and considered decision early. Consider if relevant and demonstrable experience exists and whether the bid areas align to core competencies of the firm. Dropping or adding areas during the project adds unnecessary stress and increases the risk of errors or even non-compliance, particularly in complex tenders.
- Nominate the bid team. These are the people who will be responsible for managing and producing the response. Consider availability and bandwidth of the bid team, and ensure that each member will be available and can commit to the project. An example bid team (including position, responsibilities and involvement) might look like something this:
- Decide the service delivery team. Choose the service delivery team early so you can start collecting relevant experience to demonstrate your expertise in the chosen areas. It quickly becomes apparent during data collection if a staff member shouldn’t be part of the team for a certain category (e.g. they don’t have relevant experience).
- Tender strategy session. Brainstorm and develop the bid strategy, key messages and win themes for the proposal. Consider:
- What are the pain points for the tendering organisation?
- How can you resolve these pain points?
- How will your offer stand out amongst competitors?
- What does the tendering organisation really want? (it may not be exactly what they are asking for)
- Confirm project timetable. When you’re setting up your timetable, work backwards from the deadline. Consider:
- setting milestones for first, second and final review as well as compliance checks
- internal deadlines for draft content from subject matter specialists
- additional time required for hard copy production (if necessary) and hand in (especially time zones of hand-in locations)
- early submission of electronic copies, to avoid any last-minute technical difficulties.
- Tender kick-off meeting.
- Disseminate bid strategy, key messages and win themes to everyone involved (including subject matter specialists). This will help team members produce better quality and more relevant content to make a stronger case for appointment overall.
- Share the project timetable. All team members should be aware of the deadlines for the project. Tip: Set tight internal deadlines for draft content collection. Getting contribution from subject matters experts can often be like drawing blood from a stone.
Our timetable below summarises the tender process – from planning through to hand-in.
So once the next RFP hits your desk, get planning and make the most out the opportunity. Certainly client work is important, but prioritising the bid is too. A rush to the finish line job is high risk – you might end up with a proposal that’s unconvincing or worse, non-compliant.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]