The perception that many tenders were rigged or went to cronies was fairly widespread several years ago. However, and while it would be unwise or obviously untrue to say that such practices do not continue to exist today, tenders from most government agencies, from Commonwealth to Local, are now governed by fairly detailed guidelines, rules, processes and oversight to ensure fairness, equity and probity. Other common perceptions are that most tenders simply go to the incumbent, or that it is essential to have developed a relationship with the customer prior to the release of the tender. It is certainly true that, assuming good performance during the current contract, the current provider should logically enjoy some degree of advantage; however, most of our wins (and we win most of the tenders we prepare) are for challengers rather than incumbents, for small to medium businesses rather than the corporations, and for tenderers with no prior relationship with the purchasing organisation. So, what are we doing that the big corporations aren’t?
Clearly, price is a significant factor in most tenders, and its role or importance will vary depending, among other things, on where the tendered product or service sits on a continuum of sophistication: tenders for services perceived as commodity services, such as cleaning or security manpower, will be more price sensitive than those for professional services or for design and provision of mission-critical systems or facilities. In this respect, tender evaluators are not unlike the rest of us – except, few if any evaluators are making decisions solely on their own behalf; their recommendations must usually be agreed by their superiors, and at the one extreme (e.g. commodity services) they may need very good grounds to recommend a tender with pricing significantly above other tenders, and at the other extreme they would receive little thanks for selecting the lowest-priced tender for a critical system or service which gave rise to significant problems down the line. That said, price is rarely the only or over-riding factor. Purchasers look at a range of elements, including not only value and whole-of-contract costs but also factors such as the proposed solution and tenderers’ capabilities, infrastructure, key personnel and other resources, quality management, proven experience and performance, and low risk. We can help you identify and articulate your strengths and value in the bid.
The average RFT or RFP (Request For Tender or Request for Proposal) can seem pretty daunting in terms of the volume of paper, the various documents and the response requirements. In addition to Specifications and Draft Contracts, which serve to ensure clarity on the technical requirements and contractual matters, other parts of the RFT seek to ensure the transparency and probity referred to under “Aren’t most tenders a foregone conclusion?” above. As well, most tenders will seek confirmation of tenderer’s processes to ensure adequate standards of quality, safety and environmental management. (Further information is provided in our article “Why All the Documentation in Tenders?”).
Having read thousands of RFTs (and written a few ourselves), Tender Consulting are thoroughly familiar with the format, and know what we are looking for; we can interpret relevant areas, guide you through the maze and ensure you meet all relevant requirements.
Many tenders call for documentation on tenderers’ Quality, OH&S/WHS and/or Environmental Management Systems or policies and procedures.
Calls for appropriate OH&S/WHS policies and procedures seek to ensure a safe and healthy working environment and procedures to ensure the safety of the tenderer’s and customer’s personnel and other site users, and also to provide evidence that the customer has satisfactorily discharged their legal obligation to do so through their contractors.
Appropriate Safety systems are usually regarded as obligatory. However, and depending on the purchaser and the size and nature of the contract, requirements regarding Quality or Environmental procedures may not be as stringent as for safety systems, particularly if for example a small to medium company has quality management and other processes and procedures relevant to its size that ensure effective quality management in the absence of full ISO 9001:2008 Quality Assurance accreditation. Tender Consulting can help with such documentation, and can also recommend firms who can help develop the fuller processes and systems.
Research indicates that up to 30% of tenders fail through being non-compliant, often for simple reasons and in spite of what their authors thought was a good bid. Some non-compliance issues are relatively minor and the tender evaluators may take these up with the tenderer if the rest of the offer is compliant or sufficiently attractive. However, and particularly under the Procurement Guidelines of the Commonwealth and most State Governments, many tenders are rejected on grounds of Non Compliance in the first round of evaluation and not considered further – tenderers may have thought they had built a strong relationship with the client, and offered the best solutions, lowest costs, best value, and their tender was rejected, because of a Non Compliance issue; the tenderer, through error, ignorance or arrogance, simply did not provide what they were asked to. Tender Consulting can help ensure you avoid this pitfall. Our article “Making It Through The First Cut: The Need To Comply” provides some further insights into the problem and solutions.
Successful tendering is not simply about answering the questions, providing a technical description and putting in a price. Success comes from understanding the tendering process, careful preparation, differentiating your company and offer from the competition, and submitting a professional bid which:
We can also help increase future win rates by reviewing previous tenders, bringing an outside or strategic view, and providing comments and recommendations for improvement, overall and in relevant detailed responses, and where necessary by enhancing or re-writing key material. Finally, one of the best ways of improving your tenders and success rate is to seek feedback from the customer on every tender, lost or won, learn from any mistakes and success and feed this into the future tendering process.
Given that much of the information in the tender response document will need to be about and specific to your business and your operations, structure, personnel, resources and strengths etc, your input will be necessary in some form or other during the process to ensure we represent your information accurately. You will need to prepare any pricing. However, much of this information from you can be in the form of notes, company profiles, previous tenders etc , and once we have gathered the relevant information from you we can prepare the majority of the tender for your comment and finalisation, while you get on with the rest of your business.
We recognise that tendering is an intensively competitive process, and one that usually includes the disclosure of sensitive or confidential information. Confidentiality of our clients’ sensitive or proprietary information is a given.