By Stephen Mockett, general manager, Plan A.
Trying to write a tender submission without clear win themes is like, well … herding cats.
Most successful businesses apply a version of the ‘six Ps of planning’ – Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance – in their daily operations but too often treat tendering differently.
I was recently called in to help with a major government tender (outside of New Zealand) with less than a week until submission date, and on which the bid team had been working for some time. The content was technically demanding and the politics around the tendered project complex, so the members of the bid team were smart, and well versed in their respective areas of expertise. Better still, all had access to the master response document (sigh).
In sessions with the board and executive, it became apparent that they were clear on two important criteria – the fact it was a ‘must win’ and conceptually how they wanted to do so.
So why did the document, which was well into what they thought to be its final stages, not reflect clarity around what their win themes were and how they related to what the tenderer was most concerned about?
Maybe it’s because they put their subject matter experts in charge of developing content for their allocated sections, without a clear vision to coordinate them.
In the absence of clear ‘tram lines’ for them to operate within, human nature says they will focus on their subject matter, which is of course their passion. That’s fine, if their material is passed through a filter (or a Plan A consultant!). But if it isn’t, you end up with a master document that frankly needs an entire re-write. As I discovered.
There are some absolute fundamentals you must address before your bid team starts writing.
The most important one is ‘do you actually want to bid, and if yes, why’?
Being clear on the ‘why’ is a good discipline which helps inform your overall bid strategy. For example, if the answer to ‘why?’ is that you simply can’t afford to lose market share – that provides clear guidance for 🔑 aspects of your strategy. If on the other hand you see your customer has a need beyond what is expressed in the tender and which you know you can meet better than your competitors – your strategy will be different.
The next fundamental is developing your win themes. These ‘tramlines’ provide reference points for all of the bid team to guide both the ‘what’ and the ‘tone’ of the content they will develop.
There are only two things that win bids: the best price and/or the best value.
Incumbency is not a win theme (unless you find scored criteria for being the incumbent!). Communicating transition risk mitigations for your client might help you as an incumbent, but otherwise you need to demonstrate how your experience and incumbency will add value to your customer.
A win theme is one that provides benefit to your customer – that your competitors can’t. It addresses what your customer is trying to achieve and their risks – and how your solution to those issues is truly unique.
To develop meaningful win themes, first look at your competitors. What can you deliver that they can’t? And if there is something they do better, how can you counteract or dilute that?
Second, consider the evaluation criteria that are most important to your customer. Make sure you score well against these throughout your bid.
Third; carry out a risk assessment from your customer’s perspective. Once you know what their concerns are and what could go wrong for them, the ideas will start to flow.
With these win themes embedded and visible to all of your team, the content developed invariably is more aligned; and implementation of your strategies is clearly aligned and cohesive,
Best of all, the silver and bronze reviews of your draft submission will be a breeze. You’ll focus on where value is added, rather than tinker with diverse content until everyone is sent away with another rewrite task.
Stephen Mockett is General Manager of Plan A, which specialises in tendering strategy, bid writing, support, document preparation and review across all industry sectors. For more information visit www.plana.co.nz or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 64 27 522 9381.