7 ways to win competitive tenders

| November 2, 2016

Participating in competitive tenders is a reality for many companies, especially as they grow. Here are seven pitching “hacks” to help put you ahead of the game.

Do you pitch for business through competitive bids and tenders? Then you know how challenging this can be.

Tenders are not an easy way to win business. Buyers set the rules, and they make the decisions.

Competitive tenders don’t run on the same timetable as the rest of your business – they run on the buyer’s timetable, which can be frustratingly unpredictable.

They are also, by definition, a competition, meaning you’ll be up against other credentialed people who are also chasing the business. If you’re lucky, there may only be a handful, but in other cases there could be hundreds.

For your team, who are already fully employed just running your business, working on tenders is a “5 to 9” job, not a 9 to 5 job. Because so much of the work needs to be completed after hours, or in the cracks of time between other work during the day, it’s common for them to end up burned out, stressed out, and resentful about the extra work.

So why bother to pitch for competitive tenders at all?

The more your business grows, and the larger the contracts are, the more this way of winning business becomes a reality – especially if you work with large businesses or with government.

And there is lucrative business to be won if you are smart about it. In 2014-15, the Australian Federal government spent $59.447 billion buying goods and services through competitive tenders.

If you have no choice but to compete for business through competitive tenders, here are seven simple strategies to “hack” the system and win more business for your business.

1.     Bid less to win more. You can double your win rate by halving the number of tenders you go for, concentrating your energy and effort where you have the greatest chance of success.
2.     Know your value. Successful new business pitches are a case of “ready, aim, fire”. Take a really good look at the work you do, and be ready by knowing exactly how you create commercial value for your customers.
3.     Have a strategy that translates into two or three compelling messages that are easy for the buyer to remember. These Purchaser Value Topics essentially work as evaluation criteria that you suggest to the buyer, that work in your favour and go over and above simply complying with theirs.

4.     Provide evidence to support your claims. Tender evaluators have to give each part of your proposal a score. To get a top score of 10/10 or 8/10, the evaluator will have to justify that ‘all claims are fully supported’ in the part of your proposal they are reviewing. Score any lower than this, and your submission will quickly drop out of contention.
5.     Carefully analyse everything the tender is asking for, and answer the ‘question behind the question’. Why did they ask this question? What do they want to know? How will the answer affect their decision-making process? Many tender questions are made up of more than one part, so don’t just skim the surface. You’ll miss something, and this could count against you.
6.     Minimise their risk of choosing you. A recent sales effectiveness study by Qvidian showed that only 63 per cent of salespeople made their targets, and many sales are lost to “no decision”. Similarly, not every tender has a winner – sometimes, the risk of buying simply seems too great. Understand the risk the buyer faces in choosing you, and use your submission to reduce them.
7.     Make sure you present it beautifully. These days, when people are selling their home, they’ll often spend thousands on staging and furniture to show it off to potential buyers and to achieve the best price. Think of your tender response like that. It’s the only chance you’ll get to make a first impression.

Winning competitive tenders isn’t easy, but it can be done, and successful tender writing and presentation is a skill that you and your team can learn.