Should you respond?
Tender or proposal opportunities arise in many ways. But before you rush off and start writing your tender, there are a few things to think about.
Read the Request For Tender (RFT) TWICE.
Read the RFT straight through from beginning to end. Then read it again, highlighting the key points, especially:
• Closing date and time
• How the tender is to be submitted: online upload, USB, email, by mail?
• Format of the document: using template supplied? Word, Excel or PDF?
Then, ask yourself:
• Does the client, their industry, or the service they are outsourcing, match your business development strategy?
• Can you meet their essential criteria – do you have the skills or experience they are seeking?
• If successful, will you have people available to undertake the project or deliver the service?
• Who will be responsible for driving the tender process?
• How much time, resources and admin support will it cost to prepare the proposal?
• How much do you know about the client organisation, and how much do they know about you? Do your competitors have the inside running?
• Do you have a realistic chance of success?
If you decide to submit a proposal, be kind to yourself and allow plenty of time. You may find it helpful to draw up a simple work plan that identifies the steps that need to be achieved to complete the tender, allocates tasks and sets deadlines. Developing your tender content To help you to prepare a tender response, you need to develop a strategy for its content. A strategy is simply a path to leads you from A to B:
Where is the client organisation right now?
To convince the client that you are the right people for the job, you need to show that you understand their business and industry – what social, political, economic and environmental issues are impacting them now, or will do shortly? Do your research – check the web, press cuttings and annual reports. A SWOT analysis may help you to bring together the issues the client is facing so you can address these in your tender.
Why they are issuing this tender now? For example, are they unhappy with their current suppliers, or are they benchmarking fees? Try to meet or speak to someone at the client who is close to the decision making process. This is a very useful way to get information about their objectives, show your enthusiasm and present your credentials.
Where does the client want to go?
What are their objectives in seeking this tender, or what do they want to achieve from outsourcing this project or service? They may state these in their RFT, but read between the lines – are there other, less explicit objectives? What has your research indicated? Does anyone in your business know this potential client? What does the press say? Perhaps this will become apparent at your meeting, or through your research.
How will you help them to achieve their objectives?
It is crucial that throughout your tender you describe how you will help the client to meet their objectives and fulfil their needs. Use the Executive Summary to summarise this.
Describe your understanding of their objectives and needs.
Describe your project or service delivery
What is your plan of action or methodology? Describe the resources you will need, the costs, people required, timeframe and milestones. How will your approach or methodology help the client organisation to achieve their goals?
There may be more than one way to achieve their objectives and fulfil their needs. For example, you may be able to offer:
• Faster service
• Lower costs
• Technological superiority
• Outstanding industry knowledge and experience
• A unique, effective methodology or approach
Wherever possible, use diagrams, charts and timelines to demonstrate your service and project delivery approach.
Demonstrate why your business can deliver the project or service better than any other by including hard evidence for your track record.
• Facts and figures about your organisation, such as the number of staff, IT services.
• Case studies describing time or cost savings for clients.
• Previous experience with this client.
• Examples of where you have gone beyond a client’s expectations.
• Involvement in unique, demanding or very large, high profile or first-time projects.
• Independent evidence – references from clients, press cuttings or awards.
• Profiles of the people who will undertake the project or provide the service.
Describe what will you bring to the client
Every statement you make about your business and how you will provide the service or project must have an associated What’s In It For Me factor. The WIIFM factor is what the client will gain by using your organisation, and how this will meet their objectives.
What you are offering is either an output (feature) or an outcome (benefit) both of which will help you to deliver the client’s objectives, plus give them something ‘extra’, or added value. Outputs and outcomes are of great interest to clients. It is important to understand the subtle difference between them.
Outputs are tangible features, for example, IT resources you will provide, such as an online service, or an event you will organise, such as an open day or seminar. It is important to be tangible, rather than vague when describing these.
How will you know what you’ve achieved?
If you win, how will you measure success with the client? Perhaps by seeking feedback through interviews or questionnaires? How can you use the insights and information gleaned to help you improve the ongoing service or project management? Tell them what you will do, and then do it!
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