By Michael Shiel, KMS Business Development and Improvement Solutions
Nowadays, it is common practice to submit tenders for the supply of goods and/or services to the private and public sectors.
A tender can take-on a multitude of formats, from a basic letter showing the product/service and price to more formal and complex tenders that apply to bigger projects or for supply contracts spread over time.
In particular, the public sector (i.e. government, local authorities and the NHS) have specific processes and requirements when tendering.
You may not win first time, however writing a tender can raise your profile and help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Asking for feedback can help you learn how to improve your bid for the next time.
Here are some key tips to help you on your way:
Finding Private & Public Sector Contracts
There are various ways to find out about private sector contracts, from building a network of contacts to carefully looking at advertisements in trade and professional magazines.
Networking can often be a great source of information and give you the heads-up for a forthcoming product or service requirement.
Don’t forget, it’s not always just about being the primary contractor… there are also a multitude of secondary contracts that could be available to your business.
It is also a good idea to investigate future contracts and tendering opportunities via procurement pipelines.
These give advance warning of forthcoming activity so that suppliers can prepare accordingly.
Should you Tender/Bid for Contracts?
The preparation of a tender can assist in winning more orders, however it can be time-consuming, cost money and also take up a lot of resource.
Unfortunately, if you are unsuccessful and don’t get the contract, the money and time spent is usually lost – therefore take a step back and consider the key-points before you commit to submitting an offer:
- Try to obtain a copy of the bidding documents and read them thoroughly (twice is better)!
- Look at the scope of work – can you meet product technical requirements or do you have the necessary service skills and experience?
- How much will it cost to prepare your bid including your own time and effort?
- Try to estimate the cost implications of fulfilling the contract.
- Would you need additional staff to execute the contract or would it impact on your existing workload?
- Reflect on the importance of a customer before making a final decision.
Bid Management and Writing Your Bid
Now that you have decided to proceed, consider the following regarding preparation of your bid.
- Decide who is going to be responsible for co-ordination and gathering information as well as who will write it and check it.
- If working to tight deadlines, have interim time-checks to confirm that you are on schedule.
- Highlight your previous experience and credentials for the job/contract including skills or knowledge developed with similar contracts.
- Provide details of how and when you will deliver the goods/services and don’t make promises that you cannot keep.
What Type of Information Should I Highlight?
Firstly, make sure you have read the specification carefully and can fully answer all questions.
Respond to the bid invitation by submitting a covering letter with your bid, thanking the client for the opportunity and describing the format of your bid.
An executive summary of the tender is an excellent way to highlight the benefits of your offer and explain why it answers the needs of the client.
Although the executive summary will be at the start of your tender, it should be the last item you write.
- When writing, focus on the needs of the client and how you can solve their problems.
- When you write about yourself or your business, highlight that you have the skills and experience to fulfil their requirements.
- If you have a unique selling point (USP), emphasise what the benefits are in more detail.
Presentation is Everything!
You’ve finished the detail, everything is answered and you are happy with the content!
Now take a step back and look at the presentation of your bid.
- Format is critical – follow the instructions given in the tendering documents.
- The documents should be clear on what the client needs and the evaluation criteria… if the client wants the answer in a certain place then don’t put the answer somewhere else where they have to hunt for it.
- If the tender documents have award criteria headings, use the same headings to structure your bid.
- Don’t assume the tender evaluation panel have any knowledge about what you are providing.
- Bullet points and subject headers are an excellent way to break-up text and highlight different sections of your bid easily.
- Check your pricing schedule to ensure that you have included all of the requested items.
- Once complete – read everything again, then ask someone else to read it.
The Dreaded Tender Deadline!
Don’t destroy all of your hard work… make sure that your bid is submitted on time!
If the client is requesting a hard-copy, you may wish to consider delivering the document yourself or use a courier if personal delivery is not possible.
Don’t be afraid to contact the organisation to check they have received it.
If the tender is for a public sector contract, then it is likely that you will need to submit your bid by uploading the documents via the online tendering portal, so leave enough time to upload before the deadline.
About the Author
KMS Business Development and Improvement Solutions (KMS BDIS) are a specialist service provider based at the North East BIC.
Michael has more than 25-years of Business Development experience including extensive Tendering/Bid Writing involvement and preparation. With experience in a wide-range of public and private market sectors, he has gained significant knowledge of complex tendering requirements and principles that are underpinned from working in the Electricity Utility and Oil & Gas industries.