If you don’t ask yourself the right questions before starting a bid, you’ll just end up wasting your time
‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ goes the old Benjamin Franklin quote, made famous in these parts by a certain Roy Keane.
But, politics and football aside, nowhere is good preparation more key to success than in the tendering process.
If you don’t plan properly and ask yourself the right questions before starting a tender, you’ll arrive at a point where you realise you can’t fulfil the requirements of the bid. And if you get there, you need to cut your losses and stop wasting your time.
In Ireland, most companies have a tender win rate below 20% – that’s a lot of wasted time.
So making the right first steps will clearly be crucial to any successful bid – and here are the key questions you need to ask yourself before you start the bid process:
Is this tender really worth it?
The amount of time a tender takes can vary, based on factors such as the complexity of the bid, and whether you have a library of bid content ready to go. But TenderScout recommends you need, on average, two weeks to give yourself enough time to produce customised case studies and to properly address the buyer’s needs.
Time is money, and spending two weeks on a process with just a one-in-five chance of success mightn’t seem like the best use of it.
So the key question here is – is this the right tender to bid for? Don’t go chasing unrealistic tenders. It is vital to ensure a tender is right for you before you invest your precious time, energy and resources.
Also, how long will the contract be for? This is an important element when deciding how long you should spend on the process. Is it really worth spending more than the recommended two weeks for a three-month contract? What about a 12-month or 18-month contract – is that worth the extra work?
Are there hidden costs?
As we’ve made clear, preparation is key – and financial preparation is possibly the most important aspect. While the cost of the tender is going to be a big part of whether you are successful or not, be alert to the fact there are other costs that mightn’t be so obvious from the outset.
For instance, will you have to hire help with the application? Who are you going to consult? Whether it’s bringing in professional help or investing in your technology, there are costs that add up – and this has to be taken into account when budgeting both your money and your time.
Be sure you have carefully considered the workload involved and ask yourself – what resources will I need to ensure I have the best possible chance of a successful bid?
Do you have your team in place? Have you delegated, or do you know who you will delegate to when push comes to shove and the deadline approaches? Furthermore, do you have a plan in place for the next steps if your bid is successful? There are all questions you must address before you commit to the process.
Have you done your homework?
It is important to remember that on any specific tender submission (apart from your very first one!), you won’t be starting from scratch. So there are certain things you can have in place to improve your chances.
Specialist procurement consultancy Arvo suggests you should have a tender library – a catalog of your previous submissions. This allows you to easily keep track of all applications and ensures you can keep a consistent message across the board. It will also be useful to look back on, as you learn from what went right or wrong with past tenders.
You must also ask yourself: is your finger on the pulse? Scheduling meetings with public sector buyers can ensure you are primed and ready for opportunities that present themselves. Similarly, platforms such as TenderScout will alert you to relevant tender opportunities so you are not taken by surprise.
Having your finger on the pulse will also make it easier to ‘qualify opportunities’. You don’t have to apply for every tender – and doing your homework will help you pick which ones are right for you.
Do you know when to call it a day?
We’ve established it is important you don’t go chasing unrealistic tenders, as the opportunity cost is too great. But if you’ve already started and things are not going well, it’s equally important to know when to cut your losses.
Are you going around in circles? Are you still looking for basic information 72 hours in? Is it dawning on you that you won’t be able to answer all the sections of the application impressively?
If you have given yourself two weeks to complete the process, but only have a tenth of the work done near the end of week one, consider calling it a day for this tender.
There’s no point in wasting any more of your time – and realising when it’s right to call it a day is a very valuable skill in itself.
If you have a tender you are interested in competing for, why not talk to us to see how we can help guide you along the process.