Not winning any contracts?
Posted by Jill Watson on June 30, 2010
I sometimes get the sense that businesses new to public sector tenders (or sometimes even those with years of experience) think that on submitting a PQQ or a Bid, as long as they’ve made some sort of submission, they’re in with as much chance as anyone at getting into the next round or winning the contract outright. A bit like hoping your lottery numbers come up on a Saturday night or sending out reams of speculative CV’s on the hunt for a new job.
This approach doesn’t give any regard to the rigour with which the public sector evaluate PQQ’s and Tenders. While you might find the odd employer interested in speculative applications, winning bids does not work on a “luck of the draw” basis where you might eventually win something if you just keep firing out submissions left right and centre. If this isn’t working for you now, it’s not likely to start working any time soon. It’s time to change tack. Especially as the public sector faces an even tighter monetary squeeze.
If your bid is one of 10 on the conveyor belt, the evaluators are unlikely to come over all inclusive. They are more likely to be brutal in separating the wheat from the chafe. There can only be ONE winner. They are only looking for ONE winner. And they are likely to choose the bid which speaks to them with a real understanding of their needs and how to address them.
Don’t forget the adjective COMPETITIVE before the word tendering! Take a long hard look at this fella on the right – does he look like he’s going to conduct a lovely, fluffy, points for anything evaluation? Or does he look like he wants to whittle the number of bids down as quickly as possible and find that one outstanding proposal that really meets his needs? (Or is he in fact asleep?!) The point is, evaluators are under time pressure and are not stupid. Lack of planning, experience and substance in a bid will be easily spotted.
What is this business of bidding “blind” then? In simple terms, it’s submitting bids without being prepared with all the information you need. But blind to what exactly? I’m going to pick out a few key things which some suppliers are guilty of being blind to:
1) The context of the organisation that you are bidding to. Politics, geography, demographics, budgets – think about how these might subtlety impact on the agenda the buyer sets when purchasing. Whether they are related to procurement or not, central and regional government initiatives and NHS specific ones can all have differing impacts on priorities for different contracting authorities. If you are a cleaning company bidding for a £1m contract with a local authority, what has it got to do with you that the authority wants to bring the long-term unemployed back into work? Nothing you might think. But your client might place an awful lot of value on meeting these kind of sideline objectives through procurement. Sustainability, equality and diversity and environmental concerns are likely to feature highly as well, so it’s worthwhile keeping abreast of what is going on at a strategic level for your potential clients.
2) The evaluation criteria and process. How are your PQQ’s evaluated? What company policies are required and how will these be evaluated? What is the percentage price/quality split at tender stage and the exact breakdown of quality elements? If you don’t know the answers to some or any of these questions you need to prepare to address them before you even think about bidding. If the award criteria are 70% price and 30% quality, is your high-end offering going to win this time?
3) Your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, you should always know who you are going to be up against in a competitive bidding situation. On our Successful Tendering course this month there was about a 50/50 split in the room on awareness of competitors when bidding. You can find out who is winning contracts through Contract Award Notices which publish details of successful bidders, you could also pick up the phone and ask the contracting authority who the incumbent is. Hell you could even ask the client about the current supplier’s performance if you manage to get your hands on them at a meet the buyer event or something similar.
4) The opportunities out there. Are you really keeping an eye on all the high and low value contracts out there that are available? Do you understand the differences between OJEU and low-value contracts, framework agreements etc and how they might represent different types opportunities for you?
5) The benefits (rather than features) of your product or service to the client. Sure, you all know how great your company is and could talk about it until the cows come home. But are you linking the features of your offering to the specific benefits to the client (building on your understanding of the context and the client needs as per item 1)? This is something which is notoriously lacking in most proposals. A good tip is to apply the “So What?” test to the answers you provide in your documents… or the “So what does this mean to them?”, then write it in your bid – that way you will build more client focus into your tenders.
If your business development team can start to get a handle on these things before launching themselves at every opportunity, then you will be more likely to go for the right opportunities AND win them.
Go after public sector contracts with your eyes wide open.