The first truth of bidding is that it takes time. Even for moderately simple tenders, putting a high-quality bid submission together requires a sustained, concentrated effort, co-ordination between different parts of the business, and a lot of resource management.
A typical tender submission lasts around 4-6 weeks which is theoretically plenty of time to put together a coherent and compelling proposal. What this does not take into account is the time lost due to rearranging appointments, replicating work, or having to make last minute revisions.
However, there are simple steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls and give yourself enough time to make your bids as good as they can be.
This may seem obvious, but it bears noting. Procurement has only become more competitive as the standard of bids has gone up and treating it like a part-time activity will inhibit your ability to put together a quality submission. A Managing Director or Business Development Manager often juggles multiple roles at the same time and when emergencies crop up, it is often projects like tender submissions that get put on the backburner.
Large organisations might have entire bid teams with multiple different roles (such as bid writers, bid co-ordinators, bid managers, etc.) working together on multiple bids each day. This might not be realistic for SME organisations, who may wish to consider the assistance of a bid specialist. At the very least, you should be clear about what priority you give to each bid submission.
It can be tempting to go for as many opportunities as you can find, to increase your chances of winning by casting as wide a net as possible. However, put simply, the more bids you have to work on at any given time, the less time you have to put into any one submission. To avoid this, consider both your current resource capacity as well as the merits and risks of each opportunity.
Obviously, you should discount any opportunity that you don’t meet the mandatory requirements for. Following this, best practice is to identify the factors that are likely to impact your ability to win the contract: Does the contract align to your core service provision? Do you have demonstrable similar experience? Are you known to the Buyer? Etc.
Score each opportunity around these factors consistently and you will start to see which opportunities are right for you. At the same time, trust your intuition. If an opportunity looks great on paper but there is something about it that just doesn’t feel right, this will have an effect on the way you approach that project.
Maintain a bid library
Consider this scenario: while looking at quality questions, you recall that you have answered a similar question for a previous bid a year ago. You don’t remember which one, so you spend all afternoon looking through old files, only to find out that the question you answered wasn’t quite as useful as you thought.
A bid library is a repository to store the documentation that is commonly asked for as part of public sector bids in a single location for ease of access. This includes previous quality responses and case studies as well as certifications, insurance documentations, client testimonials, audited accounts, etc.
The rub is that for a bid library to actually save time, it needs to be kept up to date. Nominate a person to update the bid library following each submission, set alerts for expiry dates on certifications, etc. and vitally, build a library that works for your purposes. Don’t try to overcomplicate it past where it needs to be.
Schedule your time
Like all projects, there are many individual stages to a tender submission. This includes both those set by the Procuring Body such as site visits, deadline for clarification questions, and the submission deadline, as well as the ones you set internally, (e.g., review gates, etc.).
Schedule a suitable time early into the project to hold a kick-off meeting with everyone who will be working on the bid, including your Subject Matter Experts. Use this meeting to agree who is needed at each stage, and ensure everyone will be available at that time, giving a clear expectation of what is required at what time and in what order.
Crucially, try to pencil in at least one review about a week prior to the submission deadline, to go over all written content. A peer review will help you to notice gaps in your information, correct typos, and give you direction to take your bid from compliant to compelling.
Structure your responses
There is no worse use of time than staring at a blank page, waiting for words to appear. The easiest way to avoid this is to spend a little time to break down your planned response into its component parts. This will structure the task into more manageable sections and will help you to avoid veering off-topic.
How exactly to structure your response is heavily dependent on the question being asked. Often a single quality question comprises several different points it expects your answer to cover, so start by turning each into a compelling heading. Make a note of the word count and proportion it out evenly over each element.
From there, consider the information that would be required for someone with no knowledge of your organisation to understand how your solution works (start with the Who, the When, the Where, etc.) and finally ask the question, what evidence can I provide to prove the above? These form the building blocks of your response.
Still stuck? Consider outsourcing
If you have tried implementing the above and are still finding yourselves pushed for time, or if there is an upcoming key bid that you just don’t have the resource to manage on your own, specialist bidding consultants, such as AM Bid, can work with you to understand what makes you stand out as a business and craft that into compelling tender responses written to deadline.
And of course, you’ll have final sign-off on submission, so you’ll be 100% confident that what the Buyer sees is your business at its best.