By now, you will have noticed the increased activities governments at all levels are undertaking to breathe life back into their economy through stimulus packages, many of which involve Requests for Tender (RFTs). I mentioned this is my last message.
There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has a wide-reaching economic impact, so where does that leave suppliers who tender?
Currently, there is no shortage of tendering opportunities
So you see an opportunity, and decide to tender. Now put yourself in the Assessors shoes when they review your tender. They will have a formal scoring sheet, but they will also have mental ticks and crosses popping into their minds as they read through your tender.
You want many of the former, and few of the latter.
There are three broad issues here;
- · one is structure,
- · then there is readability, and·
- lastly mistakes.
Think about it; what will stop the agency selecting you? It is uncertainty, too many doubts or objections in their mind; a feeling of too much risk. These are the crosses. With no other information to go by the prospective customer will just take the lowest tender, when you want them ticking your boxes.
Write a well-structured response
The first step is to write a well-structured tender response. It’s more than just a quotation; it’s a Sales Proposal that leads to a logical step; to contract you.
What is going to stop the agency buying? If they were in front of you no doubt they would be asking questions of you before they gave you the order. Those questions are in effect barriers to the sale in their mind, barriers which increase the risk to them. And if you can’t answer the questions then you won’t have removed the risk, and, likely, you won’t make the sale.
The information requested in the RFT reflects the questions they would like answered to remove the risk.
If your goal is to get the sale, you must eliminate as much, if not all, of the risk the buyer perceives. Someone referred to an unanswered question as a ‘void’; if you haven’t filled the void, they are likely put in their own ‘answer’, an answer which might not be favourable to you. It becomes an objection to giving you the contract.
What could be the risks or possible objections your potential customer might have at the back of their mind? Here are some questions that I’ve come up against over the last thirty years, questions that are really potential objections that must be removed before the prospect will buy:
- · Does he really understand what I’m after?
- · What exactly am I being offered?
- · Why should I choose your proposal?
- · How do I know he can do what he says he can do?
- · How reliable is this business?
- · Are they professional?
- · What will happen if they don’t get it right?
- · When is he going to deliver?
If you don’t remove the risk or objection, you are reduced to competing on price. On the other hand, if you can remove the risk, then you are competing on value, and price alone becomes of lesser importance. It never entirely goes away, but other factors enter the equation.
Potential customers are seeking your services because they have a problem they want to be solved. Understanding that problem comes from the questions you ask before you prepare your tender. So the first thing they want to see in your tender response is that you understand their problem. The way you do that is you restate the problem.
You need to identify the real problem troubling the prospect. It is essential to identify the symptoms of the problem, but to then go beyond them to identify the underlying causes if you are to really solve their problem. That may mean some research
You are providing some initial information that you have expertise and experience in their problem area to start removing any doubts they may have in their mind.
There is one more step here. Tell the customer what this solution will deliver! After all, they are after the result, not just a collection of widgets. Clearly state you will be meeting their requirement.
Show them is a list of benefits that your solution provides. Note the difference between features (something the product or service has) and benefits (what that feature offers). It is the accumulation of benefits that solves their problem.
Every feature will have a benefit. List the benefits as a series of dot points. This makes it easier to for the prospect to review and understand.
Give the prospect reasons to choose your offering - Now you need to tell them WHY your proposal will deliver the result, and what makes it different from your competition.
Demonstrate why the prospect can trust you
You need to prove your credibility. How does the agency know you can deliver?
The best way to prove that is through providing relevant experience - practical examples that demonstrate to the prospect that you have done work or supplied services of a ‘similar nature, scope and size’ to that requested in the RFT.
Cover all three points. If they are not, then your prospect will see them as irrelevant and ignore them: more, not less risk.
List the examples, giving sufficient details to make them credible, without giving away any commercial information. Including photographs of the works provides further proof.
List awards and recognition your business has achieved. Give them feeling you know what you are doing.
Secondly, back demonstrated experience by listing referees they can talk to, having first got the referees permission of course. The very fact you have referees adds veracity. These should be for the examples of your experience you have just given.
Referees should be real and contactable. Prospects won’t always contact them, but the fact that they are there provides comfort.
Thirdly add testimonials. Testimonials do make a difference. We tend to think they are “not quite right”, a bit “salesy”, but people who are professional writers of sales material have tested this time and time again. The reason you keep seeing testimonials in ads is that they work.
Testimonials offer further “proof”, thus further reducing the risk in the agency’s mind. The ideal testimonials refer to possible objections/risks such as the difficulty of the job, or the short lead time that people may have in their minds, and counter them by confirming your expertise and performance.
Reliability – the prospect needs to know If you have removed the risk in the previous question you should also have removed this niggle in their mind. Demonstrated relevant experience, referees they can talk to, and testimonials offering proof do this for you.
Professionalism - So what makes you professional? How you go about your quotation and present it is part of presenting professionally.
You have no doubt made the comment yourself about someone; “He is very professional”.
What makes you think that? It is how they go about the job, how they interact with you, promptness, responsiveness, personal appearance, presentation of vehicles, the aesthetics of the job etc.
But it starts with the presentation of the tender response - a clear structure, discusses the problem, proposes a solution, demonstrates the solution pictorially, backed by experience, provides a validity period and is well presented.
If there were three tenderers for the same contract, you would feel more comfortable dealing with the one that presents most professionally.
And don’t worry about the length of the tender. Worry about answering all possible questions in their mind, the barriers to a sale.
A successful quotation is much more than a product and a price.
In my next article, I’ll address the two other key factors – Readability and Mistakes.
Remember - Tendering is one of those things in which businesses have to keep improving, because the competition is also looking to get better continually, and times are getting tougher, despite the opportunities.
Businesses shouldn’t leave it until they have a tender opportunity in front of them. Tender turnaround times are becoming increasingly truncated. You can have as little as ten working days to complete a response, and usually no more than three to four weeks. Be prepared.
You cannot afford to start your response late! Most tender responses need three rounds of drafting and editing before they are of a high enough quality to be truly competitive.
You can win such contracts. And it might be much simpler than you thought.
Last year I ran a Pilot course online - “TenderWins – The Tender Winning Formula”.
Think about this – winning just one tender at this time can provide your business with a good foundation for the next financial year. Don’t waste the opportunity.
Good luck only happens to those that get in front of it