How to Make Sure Your Tender Doesn’t Fall at the First Hurdle

Tuesday 23 August, 2016


Recently, I attended a workshop with the procurement team of a very large, multinational company, along with a selection of their small business suppliers.

In my experience, the procurement teams of many large organisations exist in a parallel universe somewhere – virtually uncontactable and untouchable by we mere mortals, so having such an opportunity is quite unusual. The procurement team freely shared their experiences, answered questions, and clearly articulated what it is that they look for when evaluating tender submissions.


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We even got to work through an actual tender document with them, where they pointed out the items that we really should be paying attention to. Some of these were very obvious, but the team reliably informed us that they see all manner of things in tender submissions, not all of which are “best practice”.

Lack of attention to some of these basic items means that your tender submission will most probably be discarded immediately – without receiving any consideration at all.

What do tender evaluation teams look for?

So what do large companies look for when evaluating Tender responses? And what can you do to make your tender submissions more likely to be a winner, and not fall at the first hurdle?

1. Never assume anything: If you have a question about something in the tender – ask, and ask early. If anything is unclear, or you would just like some further clarification, ask the question. A tender can be lost due to the lack of a simple question.

2. Give them the full story: You are not sitting beside the tender team when they read your submission, so they can’t ask you questions to find out what you mean. Even if you’ve worked for that company for years, don’t presume that they know you and what it is that you do. While you may have worked for that company for years, the members of the evaluation panel may not know you at all.

3. Articulate the benefit: Make sure you are very clear on the benefit that your solution/product/service will provide for your prospective client. To help you get clear on this, complete a Value Proposition Canvas before you start.

4. Contact only the people specified: Each tender will have a designated contact. Direct all questions or correspondence to them only. That way you can ensure that you are getting the correct and official answers to your questions.

5. Answer ALL questions: Never, ever leave questions blank. The tender evaluation team do not know if you have overlooked it, or simply ignored it. This is the fast track way to have your tender submission discarded immediately.

6. Never put N/A: If a question is Not Applicable to you, tell them why. A short sentence is sufficient, so the tender evaluation team know that it isn’t applicable to you – not that you just think so.

7. Don’t send them hunting for documents: By all means include attachments to help your business case, but give at least a brief description within the Tender – not just “See Attachment J”.

8. Emphasise your strengths: Emphasise your strengths, not your competitor’s weaknesses. Ensure that you emphasise how your strengths will assist your prospective client. Doing that will raise questions in your client’s mind about whether your competitor can perform as well as you.

9. If you need more time, ask early: If you really do need more time, make sure you put in a request early. If you ask the day before, you can be sure that your request will be denied.

10. If you aren’t qualified, don’t bid: Make sure you read the eligibility criteria carefully – before you start writing. Many Tenders will have minimum requirements for insurances, professional qualifications, etc. If you don’t meet their criteria, your submission will be ruled out, and you will have wasted your time and money.

11. Follow their format: If they have given you a form or spreadsheet to complete, use it. From experience, I know that some of these can be difficult to follow. However, they are usually trying to achieve a situation where they can compare apples to apples.

12. Showcase relevant experience: Include information on projects or work you have completed that would be comparable in size, value and risk profile to the one you are tendering for. This will give the evaluation team insight into what you are capable of. Make them relevant, though – something you did 20 years ago won’t interest them.

Formal tenders are becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence for SME owners and managers. They take a great deal of time and money to prepare, so commit to the time and effort required to ensure you have the best possible chance of success.



About the contributor:

Bronwyn is a small business owner and serial entrepreneur whose driver is small business success in regional areas. Bronwyn has successfully started and runs two award-winning businesses from regional Queensland, and her latest venture, Mining For Business, will be her third.For most small business owners, landing that first contract with a big buyer is the spark for real business growth, but getting there isn’t always easy. Bronwyn’s businesses have been supplying to national and international companies and all levels of Government for almost 20 years, so she has brought all her experience of attracting, winning and retaining work with these large organisations together in the “Small Company, Big Business” Program.




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