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Overcoming Failure in Tender Writing

Executive Compass Branding

Over the years I have been involved in a large number of tender writing projects and many of the organisations that approach me for assistance are struggling with a low win rate.

Whilst this is not necessarily unusual in itself, what does strike me is the reccurence of common errors that count against the tendering party. What is more distressing is that these common errors are easily avoided.

Of course, rectifying these errors does not mean that your tender is guaranteed to win. Many of your co-tendering competitors will have a sound tender submission too. But is it not better to run the race on a sound footing, competing on economic viability and quality rather than being excluded because you forgot to sign the documents?

So what are the most common reasons for premature tender failure?

1. Failing to meet the criteria

You could be the perfect candidate to provide your product or service to your potential client, but unless they can glean this fact from your tender submission, the chance is high that you will fail to win. When tenders are issued, they tend to be issued with a large number of documents, amongst the most important of which is the specification. Your buyer expects to see each element of their specification met and failing to meet these requirements in your tender submission, even if your organisation does in the real world, is doomed to failure. Similarly, trying to align your organisation with the specification when it is actually a poor match will shine through. Establish from the outset if your organisation can meet the specification comfortably and if not, it is better to walk away.

2. Administrative failures

How awful. You’ve spent days, weeks and even months preparing the perfect tender. Your writing is persuasive, your company is 100% a good match for the contract and you feel you can’t lose. But someone forgot to sign on the dotted line or worse, you miss the deadline by a couple of hours. Administrative failures are the worst reason to lose a tender because there can be no excuses. To ensure that silly mistakes are avoided, including spelling and grammar mistakes, attaching the wrong documents (or forgetting to attach any), submitting to the wrong place or over-using the assigned space available, preparation is key. Final checking is essential and this should be done by a 3rd party with time allowed for this stage at the outset of the project.

3. Re-using a losing tender

Preparing a tender is hard work and expensive in terms of time and resources. This does not mean, however, that it is a good idea to keep submitting a losing tender. Tweaking old, unsuccessful tenders to fit a new proposal is doomed to failure. Not only is it likely that the original tender itself was deeply flawed but by adding and subtracting from it to fit a new client, the tender will gradually get worse. Each tender should be written from scratch and to fresh guidance documents. If there is a lack of expertise in tendering within your organisation, then the best way forward is to speak to an experienced tender professional. They can look at your existing tenders and pin-point what probably went wrong. They can also guide you, using experience and client knowledge, towards producing successful tenders well into the future.

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