Dare to be Different!
When tendering, do pay attention to the assessment criteria (how the responses will be measured), and their weighting.
They could include factors such as Local Content, Past Performance, Timeliness, Capacity, Capability, Scope Specific Criteria, Level of Risk, Innovation, and of course Price.
Price is always there, but beware, it is rarely the main factor. Weightings for each Assessment Criteria will vary from Request for Tender (RFT) to RFT. And Price can vary significantly from RFT to RFT. I have seen the weighting applied vary from 50% to 10%.
If it is 50%, or somewhere near it, you can be sure that the product or service being sought will be a commodity (no real difference), so the buyer is using price to differentiate the potential suppliers. But that is a rare situation. The lower the Price weighting, the more important the other criteria listed.
If your product offering looks much the same as your competitors, the only thing left is to try and compete on price.
But what is sought most of the time is Value for Money, a balance of the weighting factors.
If you can’t compete on Value for Money, it will come back to Price. Please don’t.
The Underlying Message
That ‘one thing’ is obviously related to, and, in fact, underpins, those key marketing tools used in various marketing messages such as Core Marketing Message, Unique Selling Proposition and Elevator Pitch.
For tender responses, it is usually referred to as your Value Proposition.
If you can find that one thing, and focus on whom you are and what you will do around that one thing to meet this client’s requirement, you will find developing your response both easier, and more targeted.
And most importantly, it will make it much easier for the potential client to choose you and stick with you.
It is very difficult to be great at everything you do. You have to do many things well, but if there is one thing that you can be great at, then that will differentiate you from the competition.
You will no longer be a match in a matchbox.
There are a number of key attributes. Whichever format you use, you need to demonstrate your point of difference.
Developing a clear point of difference such as a Value Proposition, is the first step in writing a tender response.
Start with a clear and persuasive Executive Summary that recognises the potential client’s intent, the problem they are seeking to solve, and then states your Value Proposition in response to that need. The Value Proposition should show why you are better than all of your competitors. Describe and validate the benefits the buyer will receive from your products or services so that they will choose you.
Importantly, it should also be seen as reducing the Risk from the buyer’s perspective. Much Value comes from lower Risk.
It’s possible that you might have different Value Propositions for different segments of the market and may need to create one for a specific customer for whom you are preparing a tender response.
And that is why you need to identify your point of difference, and not be a match in a matchbox.
You open a matchbox, but which match do you choose; the nearest one, one from the middle, or do you just grab one.
Does it actually matter; you just want to light something. The match is nothing but a means to an end. Any one will do.
Is that how the assessors will approach your tender response? They want to solve a problem. Will any product or service provider do? Will some do a better job than others? Are some riskier than others, with the potential to drive up the cost? Have you given them a compelling reason to pick you?
What many competitors don’t do is to provide a compelling reason to select them. Instead, because they haven’t carefully thought through their response, they end up with a complex if not obscure message, trying to appeal to as many bases as possible in case they miss a key factor.
Drafting a compelling and persuasive tender response appears to be quite simple. It's the message you can condense into a single sentence, or even a phrase. Its promise is clear when the Assessors read it, and their thought is "this is whom we need!"
The problem is, “simple” is hard work. Making things complex is actually much easier - complicated by having to identify this factor not as a generality across your overall offering to your marketplace, but to the specific requirements of this tender. Simple you say. Why should your message be simple?
Well, there is a good reason for that. A simple, targeted message, clearly stating the benefits you provide, the result the customer can expect, will strike home when that potential customer reads or hears the message. If it doesn’t do that, it won’t.
Find that one thing and it becomes a unifying theme that guides your approach to the tender. And it's pure shark-bait for marketing and publicity.
It is what sets you apart for this requirement – “They’re the one. I wouldn’t go anywhere else!” That’s what you want the Assessors to say.
So How Do You Do This?
Two key points.
The first is “what is your business really good at, in fact great at?” I’m not talking about the things you do well. To stay in business there are a number of things you must do well. No, I’m talking about the one thing you do exceptionally well; the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors; the thing that when people hear the phrase, just a few words, they think of your business. It will take you from good to great.
One thing. It doesn’t mean you should not be adept at others. This is the standout, the defining point.
r- tIt must be something that matters to this customer - the other key point. It must be specifically applicable to this tender requirement.
A great skill or attribute does nothing if it doesn’t light the match. Before you can create such a simple but compelling message, you first need to understand what you are aiming for.
So get out a piece of paper, create columns for each mandatory requirement (somehow paper seems more visual than a computer screen), with the most heavily weighted criteria first. Start listing thoughts in each column on how you meet that requirement, and how you back your claims. See if you can create 5 in each column.
Then see if you can reduce that to 3.
Can you fit them together? Is there a simple compelling message that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions, and becomes pure shark-bait for the tender Assessors.
Dare to be different.
Yes, but, I can hear you say
Now I know any good business needs to do a number of things well; you can’t just pick one. And I agree with that. And I’m not saying don’t do those as well as you possibly can. I am saying there needs to be one that stands head and shoulders above the others for the specific opportunity you are addressing, which lifts you out of the ruck.
It is not about your other customers. Concentrate on this specific opportunity.
A third issue is – none of my competitors are doing this! There is a roadblock here. Some small businesses look around and see that none of their competitors strays too far from the accepted path. They don’t dare to be different.
Don’t be a match in a match box. Dare to be different.
Build a simple, compelling message about one thing, one thing that you are great at that this customer will really value and end up with a Value Proposition that's crisp, clean, and that they will understand instantly.
Developing a clear Value Proposition is the first step in writing a tender response and will make the job of writing the tender response much easier.
To your success.