Regardless of whether you are in a position to begin tendering, have tendered before, or are a new business beginning to build a portfolio, it is important that you lay strong foundations in order to write a tender. Positioning yourself as a strong competitor with relevant experience, competencies and qualifications is often key to this. As such, it is important from a competitive standpoint that you have everything in place prior to a tender being released.
There is no such thing as being over-prepared
Through our experience of completing over 4,000 tenders since 2009, we often encounter clients who do not meet the buyer’s requirements (and therefore cannot proceed), or do not have the necessary infrastructure/processes in place to submit a competitive bid. At this stage, and due to the time-sensitive parameters set by the buyer, it is often too late to begin implementing what the buyer wants and they have lost the tender before it has even been reviewed.
It is therefore imperative to think about what you can do, with many of our suggestions detailed below not only positioning you as a strong candidate in writing a tender, but also helping to improve your business overall.
Whilst the pre-tender phase does not enable you to have a clear and precise checklist indicating what makes the ideal candidate, there are still recurrent themes, requirements and minimum criteria that will enable you to produce an informed plan so that you can action continuous improvement strategies including timescales, budgets, feasibility, and how this will add value.
Based on our extensive experience, we have compiled a list of five industry-wide things you should consider implementing to strengthen your position prior to submission:
- Build a portfolio of case studies and examples – questions often require you to ‘demonstrate using examples where you have done something previously.’ For example, in a health and social care tender they may ask for evidence of where you have supported someone to live independently, or in an asbestos removal tender where you have identified a risk and put in place appropriate measures. It is therefore important to document events that evidence how you add value or learn from experiences so these can be accurately and concisely conveyed when required. References and contract examples are also regularly required to support a submission. We would therefore advice that you speak with your clients and ask if they are willing to provide a reference if requested by the buyer.
- Ensure you have the requisite memberships/accreditations as a minimum, and where possible look at what else you can add. For example, we have previously had clients who were the ‘perfect candidate’ but could not bid due to specific accreditation requirements such as ISO:9001, SIA (Security Industry Authority) membership, or a Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) accreditation such as CHAS. This is not something you can suddenly choose to implement once you have sight of the tender documents as it takes time and resource to meet the requisite standards. Making accreditations/memberships a priority early on will therefore increase your chances of meeting minimum standards, whilst also improving your reputation in the industry.
- Produce strong policies – often requested as supporting evidence, poorly presented, out-of-date, unsigned, or generic policies can undermine what you have written in your response, casting doubt on the accuracy and truthfulness of your submission. You should therefore make sure your policies remain up to date, and when requested by the buyer, include all information requested. For example, if you are required to submit an Adult and Children’s Safeguarding policy make sure if includes reference to both. If they are separate, submit both to ensure you reflect their requirements.
- Make sure you have capacity to meet the contract requirements, or a clear and actionable plan that will satisfy the buyer of your ability to have it in place by the start date – if you are already at capacity or are struggling to meet your current obligations you need to consider the impact this will have on your tendering abilities, and in the long term if you can fulfil contractual obligations. Failure to meet requirements, subpar performance, or continuous capacity issues could lead to a contract being taken away with the repercussions impacting all future tenders.
- Monitor contract notices including those that have been awarded – do some market research into the types of contracts available in your geographic area, who the buyers are, and who is winning/retaining contracts. This will enable you to position yourself competitively. For example, if you are an SME who typically holds contracts with a value of under £500,000, a contract with a value of £150 million requiring national coverage would not be suitable. Think realistically about what (based on competitor analysis) you can deliver and narrow your search to this.
Things to do once you have a tender that is live or in the pipeline
Once you have a specific contract in mind, you can be more intentional about your approach. Speak to the buyer (if possible), and attend market engagement events and site visits where available. This is where you will learn exactly what the job entails and will pick up snippets of important information not included in the tender documents. For example, when visiting a site, the contact may mention staffing/retention issues which you could then capitalise on in a staffing response by talking about established recruitment processes, and retention strategies, once again satisfying the buyer that you are able and competent to meet their needs.
Similarly, for contracts due for renewal it is worthwhile researching the incumbent provider:
- Is there anything that sets them apart?
- Have they had any reported issues in the tender?
- Do the tender documents allude to possible ongoing issues?
Whilst not an exact science, this type of information can inform your bid strategy, including what sets you apart, how you will solve any ongoing problems, and what added value you will bring to the contract.
For tender support, do not hesitate to contact Executive Compass today to discuss how we can support you.
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