It is common for the quality submission of the tender to ask challenging questions that could reflect badly on the bidder’s ability to service the contract or meet the authorities’ requirements. These questions cannot be ignored, but by answering them in specific ways to demonstrate proactive measures to manage any issues/challenges, marks can still be gained. Below we look at a general approach to managing situations such as these, including some practical examples.
How to respond to these types of bid questions
A variety of areas/questions could pose challenges to bidders by highlighting potential weaknesses in their tender proposals. This is very much based on the organisation’s experience, capabilities and experiences – and what may cause issues for one bidder, may represent a strength for others, for example, potential challenging themes include:
- Your approach to recruitment, where historically you might have struggled to attract and onboard sufficient numbers of high-quality staff, which could cast doubt over your ability to resource the contract.
- Experience, including case studies, where you do not have any or if the service is new.
- Retention, if your rate is below industry averages, which might suggest the client can expect a high turnover of staff meaning skills, experience etc. are lost and time is continuously needed to recruit/upskill replacements.
- Location, i.e. if your head office is based away from the contract’s geographical area which might suggest responsiveness and ability to deliver within required timescales are decreased.
These questions and challenges are common across the tenders we write and the organisations we support and can be effectively managed to result in a high-quality and persuasive submission if done so correctly. As always it is vital that regardless of whether it is a weakness of your submission/delivery model, you must still answer the question in full. To do so, whilst minimising the likelihood that it reflects badly on your tender submission, you should attempt to spin it and present it as a positive. This might include:
- Addressing the issue head-on, explaining lessons you have learnt, corrective/improvement actions you have/will implement, and outcomes achieved/expected.
- Emphasise the benefits and advantages of your approach, demonstrating why they might be better than other bidders, such as cost-savings and increased responsiveness.
- Highlight any innovation you have implemented or will implement to overcome these weaknesses.
- Successes on other similar contracts, which will help justify and strengthen your proposed approach.
Based on our extensive experience of producing tender responses that emphasise organisation’s strengths, whilst proactively addressing any weaknesses, examples of how you could spin potentially challenging topics could include:
- Recruitment – In industries such as health and social care, where it is common for organisations to face challenges recruiting staff, you could spin this by referencing any innovative approaches you might or have undertaken to attract and recruit highly skilled and experienced resources. For example, working with industry bodies such as ADASS to collaboratively promote opportunities and attract candidates. Similarly, you could emphasise that whilst recruitment is difficult, your low turnover has mitigated any recruitment issues, using statistics to evidence this.
- Retention – If you are asked to provide retention rates, but yours are lower than industry averages you could explain why this is the case if you have a valid reason. Similarly, you could explain that you have identified low retention rates via proactive monitoring, and have subsequently implemented SMART improvement plans, describing the measures you have/will implement to improve these. For example, improved salaries, introducing career and personal development programmes.
- Management structure – Where a small company might find it difficult to demonstrate sufficient size and capacity compared to a larger, national bidder, they could highlight the increased personal element of their structure, ensuring named points of contact are in place (along with their qualifications and experience) which will drive effective and collaborative working relationships.
- Experience – Where you do not have direct experience in the service you are tendering for you can look to demonstrate relevant parallels. An example of this is if tendering to undertake building maintenance and refurbishment works within a school, you could reference works undertaken in similar occupied/live building types such as a university, clinical setting or care home, highlighting similarities in terms of working around vulnerable building users and other aspects, e.g. minimising disruption.
- Location – If not local to the contract’s geographical area, explaining what mechanisms you will implement to ensure the contract is fully compliant with client requirements, could be timescales for any reactive elements. This might be via assigning a fully mobile workforce, all of whom will be based within the contract area and work an on-call duty rota to provide sufficient capacity and availability. You could also highlight any further benefits associated with this approach, such as a reduction in carbon emissions because of your local and mobile work team, or if you intend to recruit these positions, the added social value you can deliver via creation of job opportunities.
As you can see, by spinning the concerns/weaknesses you can begin to present them in a more positive manner, which could potentially enhance your submission making it seem a stronger proposal than other bidders.
For support in any stage of the tender process, contact our team of bid writers today to discuss how we can support your organisation.
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