Having dealt with many tenders over the years, I can honestly say that I have seen examples of the best and worst.
Developing tender skills, not only for the production of the response document, but also in relation to the presentation process, should be a priority for all staff – particularly within the small to medium-sized enterprise groups, where core employees are often required to participate.
While responding might appear to be a minefield to the novice, taking a methodical and careful approach can make the process much easier, and anyone can learn to do this effectively.
First, try and bring a consistent and logical approach into play. Answer the questions that have been asked. The biggest problems usually arise when an OH professional is asked to complete a costing matrix, and it just doesn’t fit their fee schedule. If this is the case, try to stick to the costing matrix as closely as possible, even if it means that you need to bundle or cost certain services separately, such as pre-employment. If you can’t, make sure that you provide a full explanation. Don’t leave anything open to misinterpretation.
Start by keeping the entire tender process in mind. This will always follow the pattern: pre-qualification, tender, additional responses, presentation, and final negotiations.
Confirmation – If you need to confirm that you will be participating in the tender process, do it and do it promptly, or you may find you have fallen at the first hurdle.
Preparing for response – Make a copy, either paper or electronic. Take time to read the entire document from beginning to end – my preferred method is a slow, meticulous read with highlighter and red pen in hand. Make sure that any other team member(s) assigned response duties are given as much notice as possible to complete their sections, particularly the financial specialists. Crucially, make sure that everyone knows the submission date.
Questions – If there is something that you don’t understand, address it at the beginning. Often there is a time limit on when questions can be asked. Most potential clients will share questions and answers with all respondents, so you will often find that others have similar questions.
Standard information – A library of standard information will always be useful, but remember to update it. Include:
Corporate information – (VAT number, bank details/references, company registration number)
Policies and procedures – (particularly health and safety, equal opportunities)
Financials – (audited accounts, turnover, length of trading).
References – It is always better to have approached your references beforehand. Try to identify those clients that would be willing to provide references. A list of approximately 12 should stand you in good stead when it comes to comparable organisation size, services provided and scope of works.
Proof read – and then get someone else to repeat the process. Accuracy is essential.
Instructions – Ensure these are carried out. There is no point in spending all that time putting together a response only to find that you have not submitted it on the right date, or you have done something to nullify it, such as not including specific information or signing specific forms.
Interviews – These are another vital step in the process. Remember, you have not won the contract yet. Be prepared, prepare a bit more, and then check your preparations. If you have not been provided with a brief, think about the questions that you may be asked. This will help to determine the make-up of your team.
Everyone should have a copy of the complete tender response – most questions will arise from your response, so be prepared to explain and substantiate.
Keep your responses concise and relevant, and answer the question/address the point. If a colleague is struggling, help them out, and don’t be afraid to highlight your successes.
Presentations – Make sure you are prepared, have rehearsed, and that everyone knows their part. Arrange for your presentation to be provided electronically. Don’t use too many words on slides – as a rule of thumb, include a maximum of five points per slide, and no more than five words per point.
Bids, Tenders and Proposals: Winning Business Through Best Practice, by Harold Lewis, ISBN 9780749449735
Successful Bidding and Tendering, Marsh, P. D. V., ISBN 070450619X
Successful Competitive Tendering (Hawksmere Report), Jeff Woodhams, ISBN 1854182358
Genifer Foster, MSc SHRM, FCIPD, is managing director of Medigold Health Consultancy and director of COHPA (Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association) (www.cohpa.co.uk).
COHPA promotes occupational health, enables networking with other OH providers, and holds the largest known directory of OH providers in the UK.
If you only do five things
Confirm you are entering the tendering process.
Read the tendering document carefully.
Answer all the questions and explain any gaps.
Prepare carefully for the interview.
Rehearse your presentation and keep it simple.