BD tips and insights

And the winner is…Environmental scanning

And the winner is…


Juan Antonio Samaranch annoucing Sydney’s winning bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

The exhilaration from winning a tender, bid or proposal is hard to beat and the benefits are many!

But what about lost bids, tenders and proposals?

An infamous proposal failure was Australia’s lost bid for the 2022 Soccer World Cup. According to (the now disgraced Sepp Blatter):

“Australia had no chance. Not a chance. Never.”

As Steve Cannane says in his piece on the $46 million failed bid:

‘The reason Australia was never going to win?

“You never had a chance because you were never going to be competitive for the broadcasters,” according to Mr Blatter, as quoted in Whatever It Takes.

“Not the time zone, not the money. It is obvious. We have to make enough money at the World Cup for the next four years and Australia wouldn’t be able to do it.”

It would have been nice if the Australian Government had known Blatter’s true thoughts in 2008 before it committed $46 million of taxpayers’ money to the bid.’

Clearly many times the difference between a winning tender, bid or proposal  –  and a loser  –  frequently comes down to what you know before you write a single word … not what you find out after you’ve written the document.

Before you put fingers to the keyboard, nay, before you even decide to bid – you must scan your prospective client’s environment to ensure you are fully informed.

What is ‘environmental scanning’?

Simply put environmental scanning is the process to gather information about events and their relationships within an organisation’s internal and external environments and assess their relative impact. Your firm might call it due diligence, SWOT analysis or another name.

In the context of a competitive selection process environmental scanning is essential to  determine firstly, whether to bid (or not); and secondly how to approach  development of your response.

Environmental scanning before you bid

For an environmental scan of your (prospective) client here are some of the questions you should be able to answer:

  • Can we characterise our client’s/prospective client’s organisation?
    What do you know about their culture, range of business operations and functions, and the quality and level of our current and past relationships?
  • What do we know about our client’s operating environment?
    Financial, relationships with government, industry and/or regional pressures, political and public drivers, management competence?
  • What has been the stimulus behind requesting proposals?
    (Are the drivers cyclic? Political? Cost reduction? New management?)
  • Is this RFT/RFP just going to a restricted list or is it an ‘open’ tender?
  • Who will be evaluating the responses? How are we viewed by the evaluators and our client generally? (What is our reputation and profile?)
  • What would they see as our strengths and weaknesses versus our competitors?
  • How well do we currently perform in this area of work?

Other environmental scanning – before you put pen to paper

Other critical areas to evaluate before writing the first word include:

  • What work do we want to bid for? Are there geographical or practice limitations?
  • How much work are we going to bid for? Is there a minimum threshold?  A reasonable maximum?
  • How should we price our bid? What are our pricing alternatives?
  • Do we clearly understand what it will cost to produce the work?
  • What do the client’s expressed requirements really mean? What is it that they really want to buy?
  • What do we know about our competitors? What do they do well? Where are we better?
  • Are there other legal practices or expert service providers with whom we should be teaming or jointly bidding?
  • What should we be sure to include in our documents?
  • What will be persuasive and make a difference?
  • Are there any hidden traps, pitfalls, or other ‘skeletons’ of which we should be mindful?

These are just some of the avenues to explore and questions that you need to ask … and answer … before responding.

Don’t be naive like Australia’s 2022 bid for the Soccer World Cup – always do your environmental scanning before you commit resources to a bid!

What next?

If, after environmental scanning you still need help deciding whether this is the right opportunity for your firm see JMA’s Bid or no bid checklist
or download Part 1 of Win more tenders.

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