Securing your position in your chosen market, increasing profitability and growing your customer base are fundamental business development functions. Ideally, this early game relationship building leads to an invitation to tender for work directly - great, go for it!
However, most companies (reasonably) want the best value in their procurement process and will hold some form of competitive bidding process.
Many organisations do not take the arrival of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) or Request for Proposal (RFP) seriously; they miss the opportunities this exercise presents. They labour under some common misconceptions and fail to showcase how great they and/or their product are.
Not “real” work
Viewing the bid submission as an unwanted distraction from core business undermines all your early game business development and client engagement hours. Not only is being invited to tender one of the goals of your sales activities, the bid submission is often the first project you undertake for a client. As such, you should plan the bid submission as a project.
A project needs someone to lead the process, to manage the contributors and stakeholders, and be responsible for the final product. Assigning a Bid Manager to focus on the bid requirements, drive the quality of the response and maintain the schedule will significantly improve the likelihood of submitting a winning proposal.
Of course, the Bid Manager can only do so much; they need to be supported by a dedicated team. When assigning people to the bid, ensure they understand the importance of this piece of work, and they have the necessary time in their schedule. A bid that is undertaken as “overtime” is not going to showcase your best work.
The first thing many people do on receipt of the ITT (or RFP) is read the submission date; the second thing they do is draft a request for an extension. As mentioned above, the bid submission is a project (granted, unpaid) for your prospective client. Undoubtedly, your bid submission is going to be full of demonstrations and explanations of how your product/process / company, will save the client time and therefore money, with regards to the bid subject matter. It is, therefore, counter productive and contradictory to ask for more time to complete this project.
The only times a submission extension request is reasonable, are 1) when you require more information from the client to complete the bid, or 2) if new critically different information is received late in the schedule.
It’s only the price that matters
Naturally, the bid price is important – your client wants best purchasing value, as much as you do. However, presenting a cheap or sloppy submission accompanied by a very low price is probably not a winning strategy. Before awarding a contract, the client will want to be assured of things such as:
When deciding the bid price, know your costs, build-in a suitable margin for risks and profit, and balance this with the market rate for your offering. If your client’s only selection criterion is price, consider carefully if this is a contract you want and look for potential upsell opportunities during the term.
They want us! Nothing else matters
It’s great to know you have an excellent relationship with your client, perhaps based on a previously successful project. However, being overly confident of your position and dismissive of the bid process will not be perceived well by those running the procurement exercise. Your bid submission must comply with the stipulations in the ITT (or RFP), claims should be backed by evidence and the price offer real value.
If you have previously worked with this client, use your insights to hone your response to their needs and value drivers, and demonstrate the advantages of the continued relationship. Remember, your competitors will be fighting hard for this work too. Try imagining that this is the first time this client has seen your work and keep focused on submitting the very best bid possible.