Print and read ALL of the documentation before you do anything else. As a minimum, this is likely to include the specification, the tender questions, terms and conditions, pricing schedule and any appendices. Put aside time to go through these in detail, highlighting any important elements and making notes in the margin as you go. This review will help you to:
- Ensure you definitely want to participate in the tender (that your business can fulfil the criteria, meet the specification and that the business will be deliverable and profitable in the event that you win it).
- Identify the evaluation criteria and any minimum standards and make sure every point is covered in your completed responses. (For example, if they have specific assessment criteria, then refer to this in responses relating to the recruitment process. Or if they ask you for a sample service level agreement, cross reference the specification and the T&C to make sure your response covers all of their requirements – customising your SLA is likely to score better than just using a standard document).
- Pick out clauses that affect profitability and ensure that you take these into account when doing the pricing (elements such as 10-year referencing, paying for CRB/occupational health checks, excessive insurance limits, temp-to-perm FOC after eight weeks, excessive guarantees/rebates). These can often be hidden in the specification, T&C and appendices.
- Identify any questions you need to ask the client before the deadline for questions elapses.
Go through the questions and establish what information you need to get from consultants / other sources. You will nearly always score better if you can provide strong evidence, examples and case studies, so give your operational staff as much time as possible to source the necessary information.
Ask questions. There’s no such thing as a silly question. Ensure you submit questions well before the deadline for questions. If you are using a web portal – make sure you keep up to date with the client’s responses as these will often impact your own responses significantly.
Push back if you think the client’s requirements are inappropriate or unfair. A recent tender for provision of IT contractors to a university specified that the business was open to suppliers with an annual turnover of more than £50 million. Yet the business was worth less than £1 million over a three-year period and the university anticipated engaging three preferred suppliers, making this demand completely disproportionate. A number of agencies asked the client to justify this and the university reduced the minimum turnover to £2.5 million.
Follow the instructions implicitly. Whether that’s word count restrictions, layout, font, margins, number of copies, packaging, adherence to deadlines etc). Any non-compliance, however small, may lead to your tender being deselected, so cross check everything before submission.
Make sure you’ve got all of the relevant policies and procedures documented in advance. Most pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) will ask for copies of your policies, such as equality and diversity, environmental, health and safety, business continuity, corporate social responsibility, and quality assurance. Build and maintain a library of these in advance, and this will save you a lot of time and stress when you’re up against a tight deadline. Failure to provide all of the policies requested will often lead to your tender being de-selected.
Answer the question! Break down the question and ensure that you answer every part of it. Use subheadings to help you do this. So a question in a recent tender was “What methods do you use when sourcing candidates to ensure that they meet customers’ requirements and describe how you handle issues and problems?” The response needed to cover (a) methods for sourcing candidates, (b) how you ensure they meet the customers’ requirements and (c) how you handle issues and problems.
Provide evidence in the form of facts, figures, examples and case studies. If you want to get those elusive additional marks, then provide evidence, evidence and more evidence! Theoretical answers are fine – by all means tell the evaluator how you do it…..but make it more real and convincing by providing specific, measurable examples to back up the hypothetical answer you’ve given. In a nutshell, demonstrate that you’ve done it successfully before.
Cross reference and proof-read. Go back to all of the tender documents and go through each element that you highlighted or noted. Have you covered each of these elements in your response? If not, go back and adapt your responses accordingly. Once complete, get someone else to proof-read your document – they’ll often spot things that you have missed.
Finally, never do ANY of the following:
- Include generic brochures/company information, unless it is specifically requested.
- Cut and paste marketing material into your documents without ensuring it is relevant to the question asked and has been adapted accordingly.
- Provide information that is not requested and for which there is no evaluation score
- Assume that just because you are an existing supplier, the people evaluating the tender know anything about your business, experience or capability. The people you deal with on a day-to-day basis may have nothing to do with the tender process.
Fiona Brunton is a Recruitment Tender Writer and Expert. Find her at Brunton Bid Writing