I was reading some interesting research recently about the attitudes and approaches of both buyers and bidders to the tendering process. What struck me is how differently buyers and bidders still tend to see the world. The Bid Coach is all about narrowing the perception gap between bidders and the people who put contracts out to tender.
A few findings leapt out at me. The first was that less than 50% of bidders rated the quality of their bids at greater than 7 out of 10. In my experience bidders overestimate the quality of the bids they submit, this suggests that the majority of bids submitted are sub-standard (and that bidders know it!).
Is there any point submitting a bid that, even in your estimation, is anything less than a nine out of ten? You tell me. Related to this, around a fifth of the respondents believed that they would get away with a poor proposal if they present well. This sounds like taking the easy way out to me, and anyway why take the risk? If your company is going to the effort and cost of pitching for a contract why wouldn’t they ensure that every part of their pitch was anything other than top notch? Presumably you need the work, or why would you be bidding?
Is the RFP Process Broken? The RFP process may be broken, or it may not. Whatever it is, you have to deal with it if you want to win contracts. Problems bidders highlighted with the RFP process will, no doubt, be familiar: not enough time, unclear business or strategic goals, unclear evaluation criteria.
Given that the typical shortcomings of RFPs are familiar and well documented, why do so few businesses have plans and processes to mitigate the risks?
Would More Time Really Help? When it comes to timescales I wonder whether adding another week or two weeks to the time allowed for responses would actually change anything? Would many businesses just leave it a bit longer before urgency finally takes over? Timescales are what they are. The company that most wants to win the business will deal with that reality.
Organising resources efficiently, having clear roles, deliverables and accountability, and, above all, a plan, are more productive reactions than bemoaning the lack of time. Sure, everyone is busy, but there are external resources you can draw on when needed.
Take Control Business and strategic goals have been lacking or poorly explained in RFPs for as long as I can remember. But often people in your organisation will have some insights into what these are or will certainly know who to ask. If you don’t take positive steps to resolve these uncertainties at an early stage you are undermining your proposal from the outset.
The same goes with unclear evaluation criteria. Your choices are: make assumptions, try to cover all bases (and submit an unfocused proposal), or ask for clarification. Only one of these strategies is likely to be reliable. Again, not much chance to take care of this if the RFQ sits on a desk for a week before anyone starts serious work.
The point of all this is that EVERY part of the tender process matters. Sometimes the difference between winners and losers is very marginal so why do anything other than give every part of the process your best shot?
And if you don’t think you can do that for every RFP you receive, try two simple strategies: one, focus on opportunities with the best fit to your strengths and business goals; two, get professional support with any aspect of the process where you are under-resourced or lack expertise.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.