Firstly, what are closed or invitation only tenders, bids and proposals?
In addition to the generally well-understood terms ‘tender’, ‘bid’ and ‘proposal’, there are ‘open’ and ‘closed’ processes, and then variations within each that can apply to professional services procurement.
Open or public tenders, bids and proposals
An open tender is just that, open to anyone. Generally advertised (though not always widely) through government websites, paid tender alert subscription services, in media or trade journals, they invite anyone to submit a tender.
Open tenders are most likely to be issued by government or government entities who seek competitive proposals.
Invitation only or closed tenders, bids and proposals
As the name suggests, invitation only closed tenders, bids and proposals involve only selected bidders.
Those invited have been pre-qualified in some way – perhaps by successfully making it through round one of an Expression of Interest (EOI), or by being invited based on an existing relationship or by market reputation.
Closed or invitation only tenders, bids and proposals are most likely to be found in the private sector.
Did you want the opportunity to tender, propose, pitch or bid but didn’t get invited?
If your firm has not been invited to participate in a closed or invitation only tender, bid or proposal the alternatives you have are these, individually, or in combination:
- to persuade the key person that you have something radically different and better to offer than the rest and should be invited to bid
- to go further up the tree – carefully – to persuade a higher authority that the process should be opened to you, because you can offer a better and/or more effective service than many competitors, including at least some of the incumbents
- to go to the prospective client with a different and better and much less expensive service offering than their current ones so they are compelled to pay some attention to you (an ‘alternative tender’ if you like)
- to get some of your allies – if you have them – at the prospective client’s organisation, in places of authority, to exercise their influence to ensure you are invited to bid
- to capture attention of most senior management level in a way that they say: ‘get a proposal from that firm – they must be considered’
- to capture attention of the procurement specialists demonstrating that you will be both better and save money so they say ‘we must consider them’.
You need to think through the implications of each – consider the myriad of dangers, and the resources which are appropriate to devote to a bid you are likely to be starting very late.
Think it through as, if this is your first formal interaction (and impression) with that organisation, there’s no going back, so be super careful!
It is actually better not to try and wheedle an invitation at the point a bid is released (or shortly after) it’s far better to strategically play the long game to get on this list for ‘invitation only’ tenders, bids & proposals.
For an overview of the myriad types of tenders, bids and proposals available to professional services providers, download our free resource Tender, bid & proposal types: a quick guide for professional services.
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. […]