A notification of an unsuccessful outcome will always be disappointing, especially after feeling like you have done everything you possibly could to submit a strong and competitive tender that reflects your organisation well and responds in detail to each of the tender requirements. However, after getting over the initial disappointment, you should always use the loss as an opportunity to learn.
Unfortunately, in a single provider tender there will always be one winner, and similarly for framework agreements buyers often limit the number of places available. As such losing at some point in your tendering experience is inevitable. Rather than getting frustrated or sweeping a loss under the carpet and moving on we would instead suggest you undertake a post review analysis to identify why you were not successful, and how this learning can be applied in order to write winning tenders in the future.
After a loss, you should apply the following stages to ensure that constructive learning is taken on board and utilised when producing future bids.
1. Review your letter and attached feedback
The letter often identifies areas where your submission was weaker than the winning bid, or more generally why you have been unsuccessful. Depending on the nature of the feedback, there are often two key learning outcomes:
- Weaknesses in your submission – for example, have you not covered all elements of the question? Has something not been answered correctly or in enough detail? Do your answers leave the buyer questioning your capabilities?
- Strengths in the winning bid – for example, did the winner’s tender offer something over and above your offering? Did they offer the same product and service yet differentiate it from yours in some way? Were they cheaper? Were they innovative?
Keep this information in mind when writing future tenders as a means of improving your approach in general, and applying additional learning based on an analysis of competitors to produce competitive responses.
2. Conduct additional research into the winning organisation
Whilst you should never criticise or name other bidders in your tender, understanding your competition thoroughly is a valuable tool in writing winning tenders. Awareness of how your competitors present themselves will enable you to position yourself more competitively. For example, if they have a particular weakness that in your organisation is a strength capitalise on this, e.g. if their workforce is all based outside the area, talk about your organisation’s highly localised presence. Similarly, never ignore parts of the question because it is a weakness, and instead turn it into a positive by talking about what you have/will do to improve.
Meet with the people involved in the submission and analyse it thoroughly. Was anything omitted? Were there any presentational or grammatical errors? Was the writing style clear and concise or muddled and ambiguous? Were all the questions understood correctly and answered accordingly or were there areas of ambiguity? If so, do you recall having concerns at the time – remember you can always raise clarifications during the tender process so never attempt to respond to something you do not understand. If you’re struggling to see why you weren’t successful, ask a member of your organisation who was not involved – a new set of eyes may notice things you have missed. Once you have identified improvement targets put these into an action plan, and check against each in your next submission to ensure you learn from your mistakes.
Taking time to deconstruct a tender that did not win not can be a valuable learning tool. This process can help to negate some of the time and expense invested into writing the tender because it can provide a solid foundation on which to build your future submissions. This in turn should increase your chances of being successful in future tender opportunities.
If following the above you truly do not understand why you were not successful, and feel that your submission has been unfairly judged, or elements not read then you can challenge the outcome during the standstill period by providing a clear and succinct argument explaining why you feel your tender has been unfairly marked.
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