And why it is important to persevere
Tendering is a pain in the arse – horrendous. It is nearly impossible to submit a quality tender response.”
So said a respondent to a survey I conducted on businesses seeking to win work from governments through the tendering process. As I said before, there’s money in tendering. Governments, whether at Federal, State or Local levels are major buyers of goods and services. And they pay in a timely manner. That can be important to your business.
Because I want to continue to assist small and medium businesses improve their success rates in tendering to governments, I surveyed a range of businesses to find out the issues that concerned them most, the biggest impediments to winning more business.
And this is what I found! And there is a clue to where you should be working, but more of that when you’ve been through these comments. Here are some of their comments. Even these comments raise questions for me.
Time Required was a major issue:
- A lot of hours into ticking boxes, getting quotes, time in collating.
- Time is a factor – you always need time to do well. We do a cost-benefit analysis of our decision to tender – discount the opportunity if we are not a front runner.
- Time factor, and lack of understanding of those assessing. Do they want a flowery response, or specific? One takes more time than the other.
- Time to submit – the last tender was 90 pages, three weeks work
- We have no redundant staff to do the submission. The alternative is to get someone to help. There is a cost to doing the submission.
- There’s so much time and effort in doing a tender, addressing the little things.
- Finishing it in time to have a break and review is inevitably difficult to achieve.
- For most SMEs, time is the biggest enemy. Time you could use for something else.
And then there is stress!
- Stress – knowing that it is a lot of effort, yet you can lose 5 years’ worth of work if you don’t get it right.
- You feel the responsibility of getting the tender right.
- It is difficult when you put in the hours and hard work to develop a response, and don’t succeed.
- “Tendering is a pain in the arse – horrendous. It is nearly impossible to submit a quality tender response.”
The content necessary in your response is part of the time pressure:
- The amount of content is the biggest requirement and that is why it is important to cut and paste. In your answers you need to be aware of possible consistent misconceptions. So give more than a basic answer, give as much detail as possible. But that takes time.
- One respondent suggested they cut and paste to reduce the time and stress in supplying the content. Now that can be dangerous.
And then there are the problems with the response requirements!
- Content required can be replicated in different questions
- Repeated questions.
- They also seem to ask the same question, with small variations.
- A lot of questions in tenders tend to be the same, with some variations. You have to go back, look back and learn – put in the information that is relevant. It’s more than just copying and pasting.
Many businesses had problems with those calling the tenders:
- The underlying problem is that the Department is understaffed, and can’t do the necessary work beforehand.
- The quality of tender requests they are writing. The people writing the tenders don’t know their subject matter.
- People writing the tenders don’t have the necessary skillset to do so. Their cut and paste is obvious, and not applicable.
- It takes them time to draft the response to our queries. Effectively we are helping them improve their tender, but we have to do so without getting them offside. How to be the good guy while implying they are idiots.
- Responding to queries which really are statements – “what you really should be saying is this!” They obviously don’t know what they are talking about.
- The lack of understanding of those assessing. Do they want a flowery response, or specific?
- The major problem appears to be that they don’t read the responses. We submit a profile with each tender, but the assessors come back with basic questions which have already been answered in the Profile.
- The Assessors didn’t really read the response.
- Inexperience on behalf of Procurement – they are not able to read or understand the response.
- Government’s technical ability to understand their tender (is limited).
- Once done, getting the first work (panel contracts)? And then there are the Ts & Cs.
- They are only interested in price – this governs all.
- There was no ownership within Government. The manager we reported to had moved on. The whole structure of the Agency our region has changed. Very bureaucratic.
- With a tender, you’re trying to offer a solution to their issues, so you need to demonstrate you understand their issue. You have to do more than just feature dump on your product. You need to find out what are the issues before, “I might be able to help you with that!”
- Not being able to demonstrate value – get value over the line in your response.
- You should reduce the time to submit a compliant response, by drawing on proven responses – templates.
- Winning the first one – that is the hardest. Getting familiarity with the process, being comfortable and systematic helps.
- CC says it’s a struggle every time, and he constantly reviews, looking for better ways of saying something.
- Build a personal relationship with the person calling the Tender.
- Learn how to communicate your story and services as clearly as possible.
There is a lot to think about in these responses. Some came from very experienced and successful tenderers, others from less-experienced. But I was interested that the most experienced respondent emphasised the need to keep on reviewing and improving. I had a chuckle as he is an old client who also told me I had worked myself out of a job by helping him improve his tender responses.
There is one point I’d like to emphasise. There is little to be gained by seeking to win more by changing the way those on the other sides of the table go about calling and assessing tenders. Governments and their bureaucrats are very hard to change. There is a great deal of inertia.
More will be gained by working on those things over which you have control– how you respond. It’s a little like a SWOT analysis. Opportunities and Threats are outside your business, and you have little control over them. But you do have control over your Strengths and Weaknesses.
So persevere, and keep on improving.
What is your experience?
I’m working on a new online course to help people transform their success rate in tendering, while reducing the time and stress involved, and would like to build your experience into the design of the modules.
And if you would like to understand more on my approach to tendering go to www.catalysnt.com.au. You might like to download my freebie – “How to Overcome the 19 Most Common Mistakes in Tendering”.