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How can you increase the win-rate of tenders when there are so many variables?

by Liz Haywood

Yes, there are many variables, not the least of which is clients being unpredictable in their decision-making processes. In a win/loss debrief, when I hear my Client say to their Client ‘I thought you said we were your Preferred supplier’, then I listen up!

But the good news is that everyone bidding for a tender – particularly a government tender - tends to accept that situation.

So you need to reduce the effect of some variables to be ahead of your competition.


First, make the Evaluators job as easy as possible.

Their mission is to skim-read proposals or sections of proposals, often under time-constraints, and effectively create two piles: one pile has proposals (or sections) that answer every part of each question (‘compliance’) and offer something different and better (‘differentiation’), and one pile which has the rest.

To be in the first pile, you need to make sure that everything you write is tested and improved, twice, for compliance and differentiation. Leave ‘no stone unturned’.

Here’s a recent example.

A client was responding to a government tender. That government entity stated very clearly that no legal departures were allowed on the contract. Yes, that is tough, but all it takes is one competitor to find a way to say ‘Yes’, and they are compliant and no one else is.

If that bidder also provides compelling reasons why their offer is different and better, then they win on the non-price criteria.

A second example of how you must make sure that everything you write is tested and improved – twice - for compliance and differentiation is providing proof of claims. Sounds mundane but consider this: you’re an evaluator of a $100M tender, and the question you’ve have asked is ‘Provide details of the relevant experience that your organisation brings to this Project’.

One response document goes down the well-trodden path of listing all the projects of similar size and scale.

Another response document pulls out facts from each of the projects that demonstrates that the projects are of similar size and scale. These facts are provable: an evaluator could ring up and check the facts.

Which one would you score highest? Now, what would that mean to win-rate if the individual weighting of that requirement is 20% out of the total of all the non-price criteria?

Secondly, you need to minimise the Risks for the Decision-makers.

There are at least 12 categories of risks for decision-makers.

Each time the same decision-makers make a decision, the mix of these 12 risks is usually different – sometimes subtly, sometimes markedly. If you spend time with them prior to the tender to find out what particular mix of these risks they are searching for, you have a very significant competitive advantage.

Thirdly, do your homework to understand where credible competitors are likely to be pricing their solution, and ensure you are in the envelope.

It’s surprising what you can find out: government entities usually publish what they’ve paid previously. Corporates are usually only too happy to divulge that because they want industry to be driving down prices. Use proactive proposals to test where your pricing might sit in terms of the client’s expectation.

These are just three of the ways you can reduce the effect of the common variables in responding to tenders. There are many more you can use to increase your win rate. What ways are you using to ensure your win rate?

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