Do You Know What A Winning Tender Response Looks Like?

February 28, 2023

How do you know what a winning tender response looks like if you’ve never seen one?

Last week, I was working with a new client who needed assistance with a competitive tender response. The client requested support for developing content (several sections needed to be created), but indicated they were happy to manage the overall response themselves.

Over the course of the project, it became clear that the client was not in fact managing the response well. Further, I discovered the bid team did not have a clear focus on how their proposal would be differentiated and why the government buyer should choose them above everyone else.

We consider these rather important and fundamental elements of a winning proposal, but they (and many other important elements) fall outside simply responding to tender questions.

My point here is a simple one: If you’ve never seen a winning tender response, it can be hard to know how to create one.

The situation described above is common – especially within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which do not typically have dedicated bid and proposal personnel. Managing a winning tender response can often fall to team members who have other primary responsibilities – perhaps company communications, pre-sales, health and safety, or some form of administration.

People in all these roles are fully capable of managing a compliant and polished response. But developing a winning tender response often requires a little extra skill – especially in knowing the difference between a compliant and a winning response. And it is of course difficult to deliver, if you don’t know exactly what is needed to create such a response.

Ditch uninformed assumptions

When my eldest daughter finished her schooling, she was fortunate to win the business prize, achieving top of the form for business studies. I joked with her that I should receive that award, given all the coaching I had provided with homework and assignments over the course of her final two years.  

And this is exactly the predicament. 

We know that school-age children are learning many things for the first time. This means they have no base for reference. So, when an assignment asks them to create, for example, a budget for their fictitious product launch – but provides no example of one – it becomes a real challenge. You can imagine the variation that would have been submitted from each teenager in that class, based solely on their uninformed assumptions of what was needed.

The same applies in competitive responses.  

Developing a winning tender response doesn’t typically happen by accident. Companies that invest in team-member learning, continuous improvement, robust systems and processes, and development of team-member capabilities, are those that reap the best rewards. They know the difference between a compliant and a winning response. And they build that knowledge over time, through commitment and effort.

The ability to develop a compelling response is in us all – but may need simple guidance. Skills such as performing a thorough assessment of the response to determine if it could win, building a value proposition, developing a focus on risk mitigation, governance or other elements that may be required can all be taught. But putting together the overall bid can be incredibly complicated without a base of reference.

Support your teams with a base of reference 

Give your bidding teams the best chance of success by giving them the skills and capabilities they need. Have them attend bid response training, or have them coached, shadowed or fully supported through the response process.

You could also engage a specialist to develop content and artefacts in those areas that make the difference – this might be on policy, social procurement, local benefit commitments, quality, safety, performance management, risk mitigation, partnership development etc.

Only by providing this base of reference can you truly empower your local bidding teams to get the results you need. We may take it for granted, but our teams need the context, perspective and awareness of what a winning tender response truly means. If you help your teams know what a winning response looks like in your industry, you can set them on a course of continued success.

Brett Webster

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