In the many different areas of soft facilities management, companies are no longer able to rely on existing client relations, brand power, and on undercutting competitors to secure new contracts and retain their existing ones. Instead it takes both a competitive advantage and somebody with the right skillset to portray your organisation in the best possible light during the procurement process; highlighting your experiences, innovations and unique selling points and even emphasising the weaknesses of your competitors’ approach if you know who else is in the running.
Going up Against the Competition
Grounds maintenance services are no exception to this rule. They are often procured as part of a wider facilities management contract, for example alongside cleaning and security services, but can be in isolation, a method commonly adopted by local authorities, schools and housing associations. One particular challenge for this industry, much like cleaning service providers, is that there are very few barriers to entry. This means that when writing a tender or completing a PQQ, you will more than likely face incredibly intense competition from companies of all shapes and sizes; from sole traders through to the likes of MITIE or Rentokil who have their own dedicated resources for completing such documentation to the highest possible standard.
When faced with competition like this, writing a tender submission which can win the contract can seem like a very daunting prospect. Before even beginning to compete in this arena you need to ensure that you are not doing your organisation a disservice by lacking the requisite ‘tickets’ other organisations will have in place. For example, do you have BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries) accreditation? Have your operatives received RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) recognised training? These are two sector-specific items which in times of old would have helped you to win the contract; now they are only enough to keep you in the race. BALI in particular is a very important accreditation to have, as to achieve it in the first instance you are subject to close scrutiny and a rigorous vetting procedure. Once you have this, you will be able to demonstrate that your working practices and management systems are of an appropriate standard to ensure the best possible service to all of your prospective and existing clients. Other possible certifications in this sector include the HTA (Horticultural Trades Association) and the IoG (Institute of Groundsmanship).
Along with less industry-specific items such as ISO 9001, 14001, 18001, CHAS, Constructionline and other SSIP member schemes, (SSIP is the Safety Schemes in Procurement and is an outward demonstration of the quality of your Health and Safety Working Practices), company certifications are all integral in ensuring that you are not disadvantaged before writing a PQQ for your next grounds maintenance project.
Evidence of Success
It is also incredibly important, regardless of your industry, to collate evidence of your successes in the form of testimonials and case studies. Particularly useful for the grounds maintenance sector, but also valuable for other similar FM services, is demonstrating your capability through the use of photographic evidence such as before and after pictures. Other ways of demonstrating your competence is a KPI report, and providing evidence of added value such as cost savings and surpassing quality targets. When you have a must win tender approaching, it is vital that you gather this information as it is an invaluable way of demonstrating your worthiness as a potential contractor.
Even though you may have achieved certification, gathered evidence and collated your previous experience for the pre-qualification questionnaire, you still have the task of writing clear, concise and compelling narrative responses to the questions. Persuasive writing needs a particular skillset and if you do not have this skillset, or your competitors have more expertise in this area than you, then you are unlikely to portray your organisation as the best possible way to meet the client’s requirements. As we say in the office, it is not enough to want to take on the contract, it is not even enough to know you can deliver it successfully; you need to be able to demonstrate that you are able to do it better than any other contractor. If you are not able to do this then you should consider either tender writing training or even outsourcing this element of a bid response to a company which specialises in writing tenders.
Executive Compass’ Experience
I personally have been involved in over 40 PQQ or ITT submissions in the grounds maintenance sector over the last 18 months, with a success rate surpassing our company average of 82%. The key is to be able to demonstrate an ability and willingness to surpass client requirements at every possible level; a lesson which is applicable to almost all industries, not just grounds maintenance. The reason why this lesson is so important for sectors such as this is that the client requirements can come across as very simplistic in nature, but the client will see their requirements, values and expectations as unique and no less important than if you were writing a tender for a major London Underground station refurbishment contract.
If you are a grounds maintenance company that is looking for assistance in helping their bid stand out amongst your fellow competitors, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a complementary discussion on how we may be able to assist you in taking the next steps to grow your organisation in both the private and public sector.
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