Selecting the Right Tender Opportunities – Five Challenging Questions that need to be Asked

A shiny new tender opportunity has been released and the notification has been waiting patiently in your inbox.

· Is it within your industry? Yes.

· Is it within a location you could serve? Yes.

· Could you deliver the service? Yes.

Great! Should this mean a green light to go ahead and bid? Not necessarily.

As tempting as it is to get excited about a new tender opportunity, especially when it seems to fit your organisation’s service offering, it is important to be realistic. Failing to ask key questions and rushing ahead can result in wasted effort, a poorly defined strategy, or worse still – reputational damage with a key target client.

From experience, organisations can be reluctant to ‘no-go’ a tender opportunity – viewing it as turning down work. Taking an honest, frank approach to go/no-go decision making however, can avoid pursuing tenders that are unrealistic or unsuitable. After all, why risk tying up precious resources on a bid you are unlikely to win when a more suitable opportunity could be just around the corner?

Here are some key questions that assess the suitability of the tender opportunity and ensure you are on track to create a winning strategy:

1. Have we done the groundwork?

Becoming aware of an opportunity only when it has been released to market is like turning up late to a party – all the important conversations have been had. Codes of conduct regarding ethics and probity prohibit purchasing organisations from communicating with bidders once the opportunity is live. Golden pieces of background information which may not be included in tender documents themselves, can no longer be gained, such as:

· Are there issues with the incumbent and how has this affected the client’s perspective?

· Are there preferences as to which software and systems are used?

· Is there an emphasis on location/price/technology/resources?

Access to additional, critical information helps shape and tailor tender responses and give competitive advantage over other bidders or conversely, further inform a no-go decision if specific requirements and preferences cannot be met.

2. Is this a REAL opportunity?

Just because a tender is being advertised, does not mean that it is a real opportunity. Failure to secure funding, using tendering for market testing, selecting alternative procurement routes; there are several reasons a project may not come to fruition. Conducting background research will help to establish the validity of a tender and ensure the opportunity is worth your time, effort and resources.

3. Are we the best company for the job?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. As difficult as it is to acknowledge, there will be times when your organisation is not best placed to meet the requirements of the tender scope in relation to other competitors in the market.

Have an open and honest discussion. Which competitors in the market are likely to bid for this work? Are they more suited to the job? Do they have existing relationships or resources that would give them a competitive advantage?

These conversations help address strategic areas of improvement needed before bidding for the next opportunity.

4. Are we being aspirational?

Even though the opportunity may fulfil certain business objectives, and tick some boxes, it does not mean that it’s suitable right now. Is this an opportunity that would suit your organisation in 2, 3, 4 years’ time?

What questions are being asked and why? What resources are required? Are there specific case study examples that need to be provided? If so, can you provide them?

Tenders set out specific criteria for a reason and not having the relevant experience or capabilities cannot be skirted around in the bid response. There is nowhere to hide!

5. Can we create a competitive bid response?

Having the right resources to produce a compelling, competitive bid response is essential. Think about what your competitors will be submitting. Be realistic about the resources required and carefully plan a timeline to allow adequate review periods.

Are your responses clear, concise and interesting to read? Do they answer the question? Are they underpinned with evidence? Bespoke, tailored content is critical in responding to key questions and marking criteria. The use of generic marketing material simply will not cut it.

Following the above steps will help improve your strike rate by avoiding the headache and disappointment of wasted effort on inappropriate tender opportunities. Remember, if it feels too much of a stretch to fulfil the tender obligations, that’s usually a sign that the tender is unsuitable.

Happy bidding!

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