Climbing to Tender Success


Bidding in tenders (either in an open, public tender or a closed, private tender where you are invited to participate) as a growth opportunity/business development strategy can be an exciting and prosperous return on your investment.  It can also be a time consuming, deflating and costly process.

Once you have made a decision to commit to bidding in tenders, ideally you have relationships with or have insight into the client organisations who are conducting the tenders. Tapping into that relationship or knowledge, and the members of their supply chain, will provide useful intelligence into the tender – their business requirements for a tender, strategic issues, cost/budget of the work, the internal motivators or politics and the potential solution the client desires.

Assess Your Position and Ability to Deliver:

Do you have the time, capacity and budget to tender?  Are you prepared to distract your team from their “business as usual” or would you require a dedicated external resource to manage and facilitate the tender response working with your team?  Do the outcomes from winning the tender align with your underlying value/selling proposition (USP)?  Are there better aligned opportunities to invest in?

Once you decide to hit the go button, work with the tender manager to monitor and commercially assess those internal factors as the tender process evolves.

Bid Strategy and Story:

Once the tender documentation has been reviewed, develop the core message you wish to deliver to the client.  The core message is not the answer to questions per se, it is the overarching story about why you are best placed to deliver – it is compelling, it is in simple, strong words and is designed to resonate with the client.

The development of a compelling story involves the key themes from each section woven into a consistent argument with that argument being a solution both in how it will benefit the client and how you will complete the work.  The client wants to see the value you bring to address their needs.  The client will be looking for different and innovative suggestions which can differentiate you from the competition.

Understand the Environment and the Process:

You have decided there is a compelling story to tell, now assess the potential competition, the risk to you of investing the time etc. in that tender, the resources and funds needed to prepare the tender response, the impact on the existing business and any environmental/economic/political conditions apparent.

Understanding the process, deadlines, ability to access further information and the form and content of each tender response is a must.

The bidding process itself needs to be planned and managed in the same way a project is.  Tasks need to be delegated, deadlines set and progress meetings conducted (without diving into project management methodologies here).  The team environment will build spirit and capability remembering it is people and their diverse skills and efforts that win tenders.

The probability of success, which may be just that extra 1 or 2%, will be maximised by having an expert tender manager as the hub in the wheel of a team who have the various expertise in technical areas including the line manager (who might otherwise assume to be the head of the tender).  That is, the tasks required are broken down and delegated to the right people, the technical experts, the ones who write persuasive arguments, people who will provide the “look and feel” of the document, people who are meticulous and detail orientated to check and recheck all spelling, grammar and facts etc..  The tender manager closely co-ordinates and manages the team members contributions, communicates to senior management on progress, dale with issues management, monitors the budget and brings the tender response together.

An outsourced tender manager is dedicated to the tender alone and not be distracted by ‘business as usual’, they bring 100% focus and specialised experience to the work.  While there is a cost to outsourcing, the benefits of dedicated tender expertise being applied to winning will outweigh that outsourcing cost.

Answer the questions and incorporate your Capability Statement (the hows and whys of your greatness!) addressing the clients needs within the context of the story.  The information in the body of the tender response should roll up into a memorable Executive Summary.  Inherent in your tender response is the operational plan on how you propose to deliver the goods or services for the client.  That plan needs to address the resources (people and assets), processes, time frames, cash-flow funding etc.?  Think carefully about asking questions for additional information from the clients as the answers provided may be circulated to every bidder and may reveal aspects not already considered by them and you lose a competitive advantage.

After lodgement of the tender response, there may be a shortlisting process and presentations and interviews required to decide the successful tenderer.  Meticulous planning, preparation and practice will be critical to success.

Review and Store Knowledge:

The learnings from the process should be invested into the next tender, feedback sought from the client and internally from the team members. Disseminate that information to the team for the improvement of future tender participation.  Along the way, you will have developed and fine-tuned precedent documentation for next time.

You will also have identified the benefits and shortcomings of your market offerings and your internal processes, providing a business improvement opportunity.

If you want some help winning more tenders, email me at or call me on +61 0418 882 918.