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Andrew

I am the Bid Consultancy and Training Manager for Tenders Direct, and use my experience as a bid consultant to oversee their training and consultancy services. I’m a fully qualified member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals, and have worked on bids in the UK and Middle East – winning contracts valued up to £1BN. My specialisms include bid strategy, bid writing for complex projects and contract management.

Outside of work, I am qualified as a mediator to further improve my communication skills and ability to help parties reach amicable agreements. I also love outdoor pursuits such as rock climbing, trail running, hill walking and kayaking. More recently I discovered (in lieu of more expensive forms of premature mid-life crisis) callisthenics.

Q: Should you offer more than the specification stated in the tender if you know that’s what the buyer needs?

 

The short answer is yes, almost certainly!

This knowledge is gold.  Why do you spend time and effort cultivating relationships with potential buyers? So you can more deeply understand their needs so you can then propose solutions that meet and exceed them. 

I’m often faced with the complaint from unsuccessful bidders that the buyer was always going to award the contract to the current supplier. More often than not there is no conspiracy. The reality is just that the incumbent knows more about the buyer than the other bidders and the quality of their submission reflects this. 

The other thing to bear in mind here is how the questions are being scored. For top marks some scoring criteria ask for something like: “fully meets requirement” others might say something like “meets and exceeds requirement”. In this second example to score top marks you are explicitly being asked to go above and beyond the given specification!  Even if it isn’t explicit like this you should always find a way to show how you will deliver value above and beyond what they are expecting. 

Think about your overall proposal plan and work out the most appropriate places to include it. The winning bid is more often than not the one that demonstrates the biggest difference between value and price.  


During my monthly webinars I get asked great questions like the one covered above. By sharing the most common questions on this blog, my hope is that I can help more people find the answers they are looking for. 
 
If you have your own questions or are looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.   

Tel: 07384 818 704 
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com   
Web: View our training and consultancy services  
Web: View our upcoming and on demand webinars 

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Overlooking key details

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 5th and final post which will address the following mistake: 

Overlooking key details 

It sounds obvious, but not answering questions properly is one of the main causes of harsh feedback from buyers. The reason this happens can be attributed to many of the points mentioned earlier in this series (links provided at the bottom of the page). Attention to detail is important to fully comprehend what is required, and to make sure it has been exhaustively covered in your response. 

It is important that you ask for clarifications if you think there is any ambiguity in the questions. There is normally a window of time where this is allowed, so make sure you’ve fully reviewed all the documents and submitted all queries before the window closes. 

I’d strongly recommend establishing a checklist to answer off points one at a time, paying close attention to detail. There is a formal way to do this called a compliance matrix.  Their format can vary but basically you pull apart all the documentation in the tender and write down every single requirement.  You can then reference in the matrix where you have addressed the requirement in your response. This will ensure you are covering off absolutely everything that is being requested.   

You can even (where format and word count allow) include a simplified version of the matrix (known as a response matrix) in your submission to make it easier for the assessors to reference your answers and demonstrate your full compliance.     

I created a simple template that I use to help people get you started; I would be happy to send you a copy, just drop me an email at andrew.watson@proactis.com.


This post concludes my series of the top 5 common mistakes made when writing bids. I really hope you have found these posts helpful. If you would like to learn more about the tendering process and develop your skills, I currently run monthly webinars you might find useful. 
 
In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.  

Tel: 07384 818 704 
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com   
View our upcoming and on-demand webinars  
View my range of consultancy services  


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Too little, too late

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 4th post and will address the following mistake:

Too little, too late

Leaving work to the last minute. We’ve all done it. It is something that both large and small businesses alike struggle with and with bids it can be critical to your chances of success.

With no guarantee of winning, it is more challenging for businesses to assign the necessary resources needed to give it a strong chance of success. The difficulties in writing a submission, and the time it takes to do so, are often underestimated. These factors often combine which results in an 11th hour panic and sub-par outcomes.

You’ll need a sound project management approach in order to tackle the resourcing requirements of submitting a bid, which could mean temporarily pulling resource from other projects, something that senior management is often reticent in doing.

This is an area we see companies consistently struggle with. It might not always be apparent that there is an issue and its only if and when an unsuccessful tender is picked through that is becomes apparent there was an issue.

Some tips to avoid this:

Plan it out – by addressing our first mistake of the series, failing to prepare, you will have already identified your order of work and the dates these need to be completed  Think about how best to sequence your tasks and which ones can be done in parallel.

Learn from your mistakes – from previous submissions can you identify problem areas that required more time than expected? Can you put in safeguards to prevent this from happening again?

Set your own cut-off date – setting a date that falls before submission deadline will encourage you and your team to complete tasks sooner than needed. Slippage is common and by creating a buffer, you can give yourself time to recover should things not go as planned. If you are still writing first draft answers up to the day of submission (rather than doing final checks on revised versions) something has gone very wrong.

Ask yourself, is it worth it – if the deadline is fast approaching, is it worth putting in so much effort into a short period or would it be best to dedicate time to other tenders and creating more compelling bids. If you are finding that too little too late is a common mistake, try breaking the cycle and developing a more sustainable workflow. In a competitive sector it could be better to submit two high quality bids rather than three mediocre ones.

Ask for help – is there someone within your organisation who could help you with planning and managing your bids? If not, as the Bid Consultancy Manager at Tenders Direct, I have plenty of experience in identifying mistakes and helping bid managers achieve greater levels of efficiency. I’m always happy to discuss what actions you could take to quickly make improvements to your bid process, and help you get back on track.


For my final post, we’ll look at the the mistake of overlooking key details.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384 818 704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
5 – Overlooking key details

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 3rd post and will address the following mistake: 

Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy 

Often businesses, or the individual in charge of tenders, will focus on pricing for a tender, but there is a need for a more comprehensive decision-making process of which price is only a part, albeit an important one. In other words, agreeing one number is not a strategy. A price should be agreed upon following the implementation of an overall bid strategy and not the other way around, or in isolation from the bid strategy.  These are the main issues we see, where pricing is either decided on its own, or looked at too late and not aligned to the offer as a whole. Either approach isn’t fit for purpose as there is always a need to understand the drivers behind your prices.  
 
For example, you should ask yourself: 

  • What is the context of your chosen prices in regard to your entire offer? 
  • Are you able to offer unique value adding services or are your competitors able to offer exactly the same? 

Knowing the competitive environment and the key drivers for the customer are paramount to making good decisions.  The prices need to balance your chances of success with the value derived for the contract, which won’t be possible if you don’t give your pricing the time and contemplation it deserves. 

There are ways to look at this in more detail. For example, from our contract award database we could provide you with information about who specific contracts were awarded to and their values going back five years. From here it would be possible, by looking at the spend reports from individual public sector authorities, to start estimating how much incumbent suppliers are charging for their services. This type of analysis can help prevent your pricing strategy from being a shot in the dark.  
 
If you are interested in using contract award data to inform your pricing strategies, you might be interested in our Competitor Tracking Alerts. Not only do we offer a five year archive of contract awards, you can also track an unlimited number of competitors and receive alerts whenever they win high value public contracts.


For my next post, we’ll look at the the issues associated with leaving things to the last moment.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

Q: What are my chances of winning a tender?

A lot of people seem to have doubts about their chances of winning, and this is a very common question. 

Q: Is there any chance of winning at all? 
 
Of course there is! Bidding is not like the lottery, where winning is purely down to luck, it’s usually a very fair process. Your chance of winning depends on the quality of your submission and how it compares to your competition.  
 
The psychology of bidding is a quite complex and expansive topic.  It’s natural to get down on the process if you are consistently getting unsuccessful letters. The reality is that tenders are nearly always published in good faith and are designed to identify the best suppliers to then award the work to. If your results are consistently not what you would hope for then you need to reflect on what is going wrong, rather than just blaming the process.   

At the risk of giving away trade secrets, proposals measure two things; 

  1. Your capability to meet the buyer’s requirements
  2. Your capability to complete tenders to a high standard. 

You normally need both to be successful. Being great at one and terrible at the other won’t work. It’s worth reflecting on where you think you have issues:  
 
Are you not winning work that you feel is absolutely perfect for you and you have a great track record of delivering? It’s probably your tendering that’s letting you down.  
 
Are you bidding for things speculatively that you don’t really have experience delivering?  Then it’s probably your organisational capability. 

Always ask (and ask again if required!) for feedback from each and every unsuccessful tender.  Use this feedback, and do an internal debrief (lessons learned) after each submission. This should help you identify where the issues lie and drive improvements for future submissions. Don’t despair, just be honest and the ways to improve should be clear. 


If you have your own questions or are looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.  

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Biting off more than you can chew

In this series of posts, I’m addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 2nd post and will address the following mistake: 

Biting off more than you can chew 

Bid submissions can often be handled like a hot coal, with just one person eventually assigned to handle a submission in isolation. This inevitably leads to issues, misunderstandings or an underestimation of the time and resource required. You need to have the right people engaged and contributing to the bid from the beginning, and across the breadth of a business, in order to fully represent its capabilities. 

Too often we also see organisations respond half-heartedly to too many bids. You need a robust process in place for deciding whether to bid and then for the opportunities you do pursue, ensure that you give the bid your best effort. 

We consistently find a direct correlation between the level of resource employed in preparing proposals and success rate.  In short, bids should be a collective business effort, the more effort you put in, the better the outcomes. 

Responding to bids is a group effort, and as the person responsible for the bid, you will need to effectively manage your team to deliver the best results. To achieve this, you should consider: 

Choosing the right people – do you have the support of the key people needed to write this bid? 
Check your resources – do you have access to all the information and documents you will need, are they stored centrally for easy access? 
Setting clear goals – does your team know what they have to achieve and by when? 
Managing relationships – does your team know how their work impacts their colleagues and on time submission? 
Keeping everyone engaged – you may be keeping them informed, but are you doing it in a way that keeps them motivated and engaged? 
Tracking multiple projects – have you delegated responsibilities or utilised some form of bid management software to track progress?  
 
If you can answer these questions with a positive yes, you’ll be set-up well for tackling your submissions. If you are feeling swamped, it could be because you have taken on too much and your organisation needs to look more closely at how they are resourcing bids. If it’s because you are struggling to track the progress of multiple bids from start to finish, you need a system to support you – and I would strongly recommend Opportunity Manager. 

Opportunity Manager is available to all Tenders Direct subscribers, and is an incredibly simple yet efficient bid management tool. It’s designed to bring all of your notices into a single, customisable pipeline view – allowing you to check the status of all your bids at a glance, schedule tasks and reminders and centralise all of your bid documents. If this sounds like something you need, you can request a free demo of Opportunity Manager.


In my next post, I will cover the issues associated with not creating a proper pricing strategy.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Failing to prepare and preparing to fail

A recent industry study showed that nearly half of all procurement professionals in the UK believe suppliers are letting themselves down with their proposals and that they suffer from being of poor quality.  With the general standard being low, smart thinking and some effort can make a big difference. 

More often than not, the issues that occur when writing bids are symptomatic of larger, company-wide issues. But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t very specific, common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids – ones that can be easily rectified. 

In this series of posts, I will be addressing the Top 5 common mistakes made when writing bids, and how to overcome them. In my first post of the series, I will focus on:  

Failing to prepare and preparing to fail 

This old saying without a doubt applies to bid submissions. Too often, we see examples of where time has not been taken to devise a plan. You need to take a step back, identify and agree on what the approach will be. There are a lot of examples where it is obvious when someone has started writing before a plan is in place. Rather than dumping information and then re-arranging to suit a strategy, a plan should be put in place from the beginning, including structure and order as well as being collated in an attractive manner. For optimised results, submissions should be refined and fine-tuned, not muddled through.

Set yourself up for success by doing the following:

Develop your strategy– be clear on how you are going win.  Use all your research and knowledge to map out a winning strategy to inform your entire response.  

Plan your answers – identify what solutions you will include, how they meet the requirements of the tender and how to evidence the value they bring 

Agree Responsibilities – make sure tasks are allocated to the right people and an order of work is agreed. 

Set Deadlines – ensure everyone knows when tasks need to be complete  

Review – include time to review spelling, documents, format and tender requirements. 

 By taking these actions, you’ll set yourself up for success.  


In my next post, I will offer advice to help you avoid making the mistake of trying to take on too much! 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 
 
Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

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