In tendering, nothing speaks for itself!

In tendering, nothing speaks for itself!

Picture of Plan A

Plan A

In tendering, nothing speaks for itself!

“Tell me why must I always explain…”

Van Morrison

“I can’t believe the **** that they write and then wonder why they didn’t win the job.”

Tender Evaluator, name withheld.

In 2021, with a couple of decades of developments in procurement behind us, why are tender submissions still falling short of the mark? Why are tender evaluators still seeing poor non-price attributes resulting in capable suppliers losing the bid? 

If your tender submissions which start with sentences such as: “Our company brings the right mix of experience to deliver this project on time and to specification…”  then we’d bet you’ve also wondered why you aren’t scoring well on non-price attributes.

Many tender responses answer the questions with why they’re the best choice and what they are going to do, and most will stop there. A few good ones may expand on this, to explain in more detail how they will do it. 

Outstanding proposals go even further – they tailor their whole presentation around why their solution will best meet the client’s needs; and their comprehensive understanding of what is required. They provide convincing evidence of where they’ve done this before, as proof of their experience. 

Their focus is on demonstrating how they will minimise the risk to the client of having the work completed on time, within budget and to a high standard. They will remove all doubt that they’re the ones for the job. So, the example above becomes:

“….Council will gain from our company’s experience in delivering complex stormwater pipelines in busy urban environments as shown by our performance on:

  • Project X: demonstrating our capabilities in directional drilling and complex stakeholder management.
  • Project Y: delivered to tight timeframes – despite significant logistical challenges.
  • The award we won on Project Z: confirming the success our nominated team has achieved on recent past projects.”

Sadly, we often see tender submissions which include very little information on the similarities of their project experience with the project being tendered. If that evidence of relevance is not explicit or believable, then it’s hit-or-miss whether evaluators will join the dots to recognise the value of that experience. Evaluators are wising up to this and now often ask for referee confirmations of performance, rather than relying on ‘spin’. 

And there’s a serious warning here for tenderers to tell the truth! If you fudge a poor past result or stretch a truth to make your performance look better, you’ll very likely be found out. For example, omission of any reference of poor performance on a past contract that had gone pear-shaped, recently cost that tenderer a new and similar contract. “Such a missed opportunity to describe lessons learned” commented the Evaluators. “That would have put them head and shoulders above the rest”. 

In another recent example, claims that a contract extension was proof that of satisfaction were disputed by the referee, who confirmed the real reason was due to delays in issuing a new contract form. 

If you don’t provide verifiable evidence to support your case, you invite evaluators to either brush over your strengths, or make it their job to find out the truth. 

My point? Don’t leave it open to the evaluators to form their own view on the inferences to draw. Always provide accurate evidence.  Make sure your referees are well aware of any factors that could have been perceived negatively and why they should not be held against you. They will check. If aspects didn’t go well on a project which you feel is still valid for inclusion, acknowledge them and itemise the lessons learned – as long as they’re relevant and demonstrate your strengths and your openness to constructive criticism. 

How does your relevant experience and track record prove you understand the project under tender? Likewise, how does your methodology show your knowledge and capability to deliver this kind of work? Examples may be geotechnical challenges, complex programming on tight timeframe, procurement relationships ensuring quality, specialised plant and equipment, skilled personnel and/or back-up resources. Be detailed when drawing the comparisons with the project under tender. Beware of coming across as arrogant and perhaps even dismissive of the client’s perceived challenges, risks and concerns.

As with all projects, planning is key when preparing tenders. Sometimes it takes an independent view to identify the factors that could differentiate you from the other bidders. Your offer may either seem unremarkable to you, when in fact it’s quite unique. Or it might seem amazing until someone tells you that your approach is commonplace.  Either way, it’s better to be told this while you can do something about it, than in a debrief for unsuccessful tenderers.

Whenever it’s possible for you to provide something that your competitors can’t, you have the potential to distinguish yourself from the pack. 

And that’s what it takes, in today’s environment, to win tenders.