How to win contracts

 
 

You’ve found a great opportunity for your business. You’ve got a product or service that can really deliver what the buyer needs. Everything is falling into place.

But you still need to write a tender response before you win the contract.

 
 

Putting together a tender proposal is tricky, and the truth is there’s no tried and tested template to follow each time you bid for a contract. All the elements, from the questions to the scoring and the weighting, will be different for every tender.

Every tender is different, and your tender response should be different too.

While there’s no perfect template, there are great tips and specific steps that you should take to make sure that your tender response shows off what you can do and makes the buying authority really take notice.

Top tip!

Ask questions. If in doubt about anything, always ask for clarification. This applies at every stage of the tender process. Ask about the scope of the contract, how the tender will be scored, confirm the tender procedure, the value of the contract over the full contract lifecycle and so on. Never assume, it could end up costing you!

 
 

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Step 1: Do your homework

The first step when writing a winning tender response is research. The more you know about the client and their requirements the better your final response will be.

In order to gain a clearer understanding of a potential client’s requirements, you could try to arrange a meeting or have a telephone conversation with them before you start work on the tender. You should always raise questions in writing if tender documents are unclear, on any issue from contract deadlines to how you’d get paid.

 

Contracting authorities want the best possible outcome for their procurements, so it’s in their own interests to help every supplier submit the most accurate and well-informed bid. And the first place to start when doing research is the tender document.

It is important to remember that any questions asked of the contracting authority will normally be anonymised and the question and answer will then be provided to all bidders. This can happen both at the PQQ and ITT stage.

 
 

Step 2: Study the tender document

Your proposal should be driven by the tender document. It is your guide to winning the contract.

That means reading the specification carefully, then reading it again. The tender document should tell you everything you need to know about how the buyer wants to receive your bid. This includes the procurement process that will be used, how you will be evaluated and scored, and how the contract will be awarded.

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Step 3: Get ready to write

Allow plenty of time for writing and submitting the tender. It will take more time than you think and a sure-fire way to be disqualified immediately is by submitting a late tender response.

It might also be worth including a covering letter with your bid that responds to the bid invitation, summarises your main message and explains how the documents are organised.

 

Your covering letter could include:

– the purpose and origin of the bid

– a summary of your work as a contractor, past experience and credentials for this job

– details of how you’ll carry out the work and how and when the client’s aims will be achieved

 
 

Step 4: Writing the bid

While every bid is unique, there are some tips which, if you keep them in mind when writing a response, should stand you in good stead for every bid you write. So with that in mind, here’s our top ten tips for writing a tender response that really wins.

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Top 10 tips to winning public contracts

 

 

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Tip #1: Plan ahead

Put together a timetable for completing your tender response and make sure you stick to it.

This enables you to work back from the final tender deadline, ensure you have all the documentation in order and up to date, allow sufficient time for proofreading before submitting and so on.

Submitting a tender often takes longer than you think. Always aim to have your response ready to submit by a day or two before the deadline, just to be safe.

 
 

 

Tip #2: Promote the benefit

The first thing you’ll want to do when writing your tender response is describe what you do, how much it costs and how long the project will take.

This is all crucial stuff, but there’s one thing missing:

The benefit.

While it’s absolutely fundamental to list the features of your product or service, you still need to sell the benefit of what you’re doing.

 
 

Focus on the client. Talk about their needs and how you can solve their problems. When you write about yourself, it’s to prove you have the skills, experience and organisation to fulfil the client’s requirements.

 

Do your research. Find out what the contracting authority really needs. What’s important to them? And, most importantly, what will they get from you that they won’t get from anyone else?

Help the client by coming up with ideas – from alternative ways of doing things to how to tackle possible worries about future maintenance or staffing implications.

A tender response which not only outlines exactly what you can do but also explains exactly how the buyer will benefit from your product, service, your experience and expertise will stand head and shoulders above a proposal which just lists the facts.

Top tip!

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What are they looking for really? What extras could they benefit from that they haven’t specified in the contract notice? Where can you add real value to their specification? What’s important to them? If you can answer these questions you can impress the decision makers.

 
 

 

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Tip #3: Emphasise the impact

Tied to the idea of selling the benefit of your solution is this:

Focus on the impact your solution will have beyond the scope of the contract.

One area of tender writing which can be forgotten is examining the current market, relevant legislation or the social impact of the solution you’re offering.

 

For example:

In order to carry out the work required by the contract, your firm might need to hire additional staff to help deliver the project on time.

This means you’re creating jobs. It means your solution is having a real social impact in the community. You could be helping apprentices learn new skills or helping to boost local employment.

By describing exactly what additional, positive impact your solution will have on employment, the environment or the community, you stand a much better chance of winning the bid over a competitor which doesn’t think of this in their response.

 
 

 

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Tip #4: Prove your point

Your company is the best at what you do, right?

Prove it.

It’s not enough to make an assertion, you need to go further. Back up what you’re saying with examples, statistics, awards you’ve won, charts, supporting information. Anything that proves that you can do what you say.

 

Don’t assume that the buyer will simply take your word for it. Even if you’ve worked with this authority before, don’t assume that they will remember the last time you won a contract with them or how well you performed.

Remind them and back it up every time.

 
 

 

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Tip #5: Keep it personal

Never reply with a stock answer. It stands out like a sore thumb and, worse still, it looks lazy.

Always tailor your responses to  the particular bid. Take the time to read the questions, answer them in full with this particular contracting authority in mind, then write, rewrite and write your response again.

 

Every tender is different and so is every buyer. If you aren’t sure what a particular question means, just ask! There is always an opportunity to ask the buyer questions. The more you know about the bid, the better placed you’ll be to answer the questions in the PQQ or tender documents in the best possible way.

 
 

 

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Tip #6: Assemble a winning team

Once you’ve decided to bid, you’ll need to decide how to manage the process.

If you’re a sole trader or very small business, it may not be feasible to create a full bid team. However, for larger firms, there are a few questions you might want to ask when preparing your bids:

– Who gathers information and does research?

– Who co-ordinates all the material you need?

– Who writes the drafts?

– Who checks them?

– How will the rest of your firm’s work get done during this time?

 

If you’re able, choose a team which you know will play to the strengths of the tender specification. If you’re a sole trader, just make sure that while taking the time to prepare a strong bid you’re still able to keep up with the normal duties of running your business.

If you put a team together to deal with the above issues, give details of your team in your tender response.

Emphasise your team’s strengths. Maybe a member of your team has previous experience in working with the buying authority or is a noted expert in this particular field. Give details of this in your response.

A strong team will certainly help put together a strong bid.

 
 

 

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Tip #7: Consider the price

One of the most common mistakes made in the tendering process is when suppliers assume that the cheapest bid always wins. Not only is this wrong, but under-pricing your solution could actually harm your chances.

One of the major changes to come about as a result of the new UK Public Procurement Regulations 2015 is that, when scoring a tender, the buyers should give focus not just to price, but to the best price for the best quality, or even the life-cycle costs.

 

Value for money and not price alone decides most bids. By deliberately under-pricing, suppliers run the risk of being seen to lack credibility in their proposals, they could put themselves in danger of not being able to run the contract to the budgets set, and could give the impression that the low price reflects the low quality of the solution.

There are two distinct stages to properly costing your bid.

 
 

Stage 1

Understanding the full costs of delivery

First, you need to be clear about the full costs of delivering your solution. It is essential that you include all relevant overheads in your calculations and do not just count the direct or marginal costs involved. This means taking into account staff wages, any transportation or delivery costs, renting or buying new equipment and so on.

Stage 2

Deciding how to price your solution for the bid

You may decide to subsidise a contract initially to be more competitive (known as a ‘loss leader’) or you may decide to go for a higher profit margin so you can put money into your reserves. Alternatively, you may feel that the higher quality and added value you are offering justifies a higher price without sacrificing value for money.

 

So long as you can properly justify why you have arrived at the price and explain the benefits associated with your specific solution, your bid will be considered fairly.

 
 

 

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Tip #8: Take it offline

Online procurement is becoming more and more popular and for good reason. However, it can also make it really easy to introduce errors in your bids.

Completing your tender responses online means it’s easy to skip a step, miss out a page, submit the bid before you’ve completed the whole response and so on. It might sound unlikely, but it happens.

By taking the response offline first, it adds an extra security step. Complete the form offline then upload it in sequence, giving you a chance to double check everything. Which brings us to…

 
 

 

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Tip #9: Make sure it’s perfect

It’s always a good idea to proofread everything before you submit it. After all the hard work you’ve put in, giving a bad impression with a typo or bad grammar could ruin an otherwise winning tender.

Consider the language you use, how clearly you present your ideas, how the final product will be presented.

Here are our top tips for getting the final edit right:

 

Getting your tender perfect every time

– Keep sentences and paragraphs short and punchy

– Use bullet points and headings to break up text

– Decide on a clear typesetting, layout and font size and stick to them throughout

– Be careful if cutting and pasting copy to make sure the format stays the same and nothing is lost or duplicated

– Develop a logical argument in your tender which showcases your solution in a clear way

– Read everything again, then get a colleague to read it for meaning, typing mistakes and omissions. A fresh pair of eyes is always welcome

– Use clearly identified appendices for supporting additional information

Impressions count, so making your tender response look professional will definitely help with your overall scoring.

 
 

 

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Tip #10: Get it in on time

Finally, make sure the tender is delivered on time!

It is unlikely that organisations will consider your tender if it arrives after the closing time.

Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your response; always send it early.

 
 

Is that everything?

Writing the bid is crucial, but the process isn’t quite over yet. Now your bid will be scored and evaluated, and even if you win the contract, there’s always the possibility that the award could be challenged by a competitor.

Up next, we’ll explain how tenders are scored, what the Standstill Period means for you and how to make the most of the process even if you don’t win this time.

 
 

If you liked this chapter, you might also like this:

 
 
 

How to bid for contracts

Back Chapter 5

What happens after the bid?

Chapter 7 Forward

 
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