There are quite a few things to consider when responding to a tender (RFI, RFP, feel free to insert your own initialisation).
Look before you leap
When you receive a tender document, read it from cover to cover to ensure you understand everything there is to know about it. Unless you take the time to understand exactly what the customer wants in terms of product, service level agreements, price, timescales and terms and conditions you won’t be able to structure your response to satisfy those requirements.
Resist the temptation to leap into constructing a response. Time taken reading and thoroughly understanding the requirements will save a lot of work, cost and emotion (if you get it wrong) later on. If there is something you need clarification on or if you have questions to ask, make sure you do this immediately after reading the tender and before you decide to respond.
You don’t have to bid
Probably the most important rule to remember is that you don’t have to bid just because you have been invited to.
After you have finished reading the tender ask yourself if the requirements being specified are aligned to your company’s strengths and if you can win? If the answer is no or you are not sure, then consider the time and cost associated with responding and whether or not your resources would be better spent elsewhere?
In addition, if the first time you were aware of the tender is when it dropped into your inbox, it’s a sign that you are not positioned strategically with the customer and competing organisations are probably more so..
If you do respond, do it to the best of your ability
Responding to a tender is exactly the same as submitting a sales proposal, other than that the structure of how the information is provided is dictated by the customer, not the selling organisation. In my own experience it’s amazing how many organisations forget this and make a poor job of their tender responses.
So, if you do decide to respond make sure you provide the information requested in the format provided. Moreover, be specific with your answers and at all costs avoid generic responses that point towards a lack of understanding or compliance to the requirements.
It’s not always about price
The lowest price does not always win.
The production of a tender takes a lot of time, resource and money for the buying organisation to produce. The customer is trying to achieve a combination of the best solution and price, not just the best price. The more relevant your response is to the customer’s requirements the less relevant the price will be. Even Public Sector tenders are judged on best value not on best price.
Why we lose
When a tender response is unsuccessful it is because (a) you should not have responded in the first place, (b) your response didn’t meet the tender’s requirements in full and someone else’s did, (c) you didn’t understand the customers resonating focus, (d) a combination of all three
Don’t be late
Every tender comes with a deadline for submission, if you can’t comply with the deadline tell the customer as soon as you receive it. The only time you can credibly ask for an extension is as soon as you receive it. If it’s not possible to get an extension, a no bid should be your next course of action. Otherwise you will undoubtedly (a) rush your response, which will result in a loss, (b) miss the deadline and/or (c) both.
Tenders are an invitation to produce a sales proposal for a specific piece of business, albeit in a specific format. As such, they should be loved with the same degree of qualification, care process and professionalism as any other opportunity.
So, if you received one today, hopefully after reading this, you’ll know what to do.