Are you making these common tender mistakes?

Feb 26, 2021Bid Training, Bid Writing, SME Champions, Tender Writing

Are these common tender mistakes costing you business?

We know that UK public sector organisations want to spend more with SMEs: The government has a target of spending £1 in every three with small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs, but they’re currently falling short of that. As outlined in the recent green paper: Transforming Public Procurement, there is a move to make bidding increasingly more SME friendly, and we expect to see a focus on SMEs particularly in local authority spending as they aim to increase the circular economy in their area.

All public procurement has to be done using a strict process, with bids needing to comply with any requirements – but winning bids also respond to the unwritten needs and aspirations of the buyer. SMEs still have to give the contract to the best bid response, and this is where smaller companies without a bid team can fall short. As part of our drive to support more small businesses into bidding, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common mistakes we’ve helped our customers to correct to help set them on the road to success.

Misjudging the Time Commitment

Bidding takes time and effort, whether you are DIYing or calling in expert help. Unfortunately, many tenders have a short turnaround time, with submission needed within a few weeks of the publication of the tender documents. You’ll then need to make time to read and understand those documents, think about how you can provide the products or service required to develop your win themes, and then create the bid responses.

A professional bid writer can be expected to write 6-8 pages of content a day, assuming that’s all they have to do. If you’re an owner/operator, or a salesperson with bidding as part of your function then you’ll need to determine where you can make the time to work on the bid. That will probably also include talking to others in the business who have key information that you need, so include some time for gently chasing your colleagues who may not appreciate the importance of the tender to the business as a whole.

Files & Formats

Tender responses generally come with either word limits or page limits. If it’s a page limit, the procurer will want to make sure that all submissions are roughly the same number of words, so they’ll standardise the font size, or sometimes even the font itself. If this is the case, you’ll find details on the required format in the tender documents.

You’ll also need to ensure that you upload your responses in the correct file format; that might be by completing a template document, creating your own in word, or converting it to a PDF. Whatever the client is asking for, there will be a good reason for it and not sticking to those requirements will mean you have a non-compliant bid. Choosing the wrong font is a bad reason to lose a bid.

Not Reading the Specification

If you have quality responses or method statements to complete, make sure that you have made clear links between what the client has asked for in the specification, and what you’re proposing as the solution. If you believe that you have a better way of doing things that doesn’t conform to the specification, you can ask if the client will accept alternative proposals as a clarification question, but if they say no then any bid that doesn’t deliver the service the way they want it will be considered non-compliant.

Being too vague

In order to win a bid, you need to convince the evaluator that you are the best choice to deliver the product or service. To make it obvious to them that you are experts in your field, you need to give them relevant detail that backs up the statements that you’re making. Don’t just tell them that you believe customer service is important; explain how you back that up with training. If your company has a commitment to the environment, give facts and figures of the progress you’ve made towards decreasing your carbon footprint.

Being overly technical

Common Tender MistakesAs a balance to the previous point, you need to keep in mind that the evaluators might not be as familiar with the technicalities of what you do as you are. Let the question guide you and keep the evaluators in mind. For some bids you will know who is going to evaluate the bid, for others you will have to make an educated guess, but don’t assume they will know everything you do. Explain technical terms and those particular details that are specific to your industry; make sure a layperson could understand the benefits of your product or service.

Responding to the wrong tenders

Choosing which tenders to put your time and effort into is the most important part of the bid lifecycle. Our recent blog talked about when no is the right bid decision and making sure that you prioritise your chances of winning. This isn’t just about aligning the bid to your business goals, but also ensuring you are offering what the client wants. Look at the Price/Quality mix when it comes to assessment; if you’re offering a high-quality service, but 70% of the score is based on price it may not be the tender for you.

Help for common tender mistakes

At Bid for Success, we pride ourselves on helping our clients to identify which of these common tender mistakes they’ve been making and improve their responses and scores to win more business. We work flexibly with our SME clients and can work with you on a bid-by-bid basis to coach you out of those mistakes and towards success. If you identify with any of the items on the list above, we’d love to help you break your bad habits and start winning more business! Get in touch today.

Adrian Corcoran

Adrian Corcoran is Managing Director and Founder of Bid for Success. Passionate about working with great businesses to win them new work, she and the Bid for Success team are here to help you with your bidding and work winning needs.

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