Where should I invest my time to win a tender?

In a competitive tender, submission or proposal, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to where you spend your energy and your time.

Your offer is by far the most important element in your pitch – what will the customer actually be buying from you, and why is it the best option for them?

As this model shows, successful bidders tend to spend more time and energy working on their offer. (The numbers represent a percentage of total time).

Winners invest time and energy in developing their strategy and key messages (by exploring what the customer most wants, what they can best deliver, and what positions them most favourably against competitors) and in content and evidence planning (thinking deeply about the customer’s questions, structuring their offer, and finding evidence to substantiate their claims).

In contrast, losers tend to jump straight into writing and content creation (answering the tender questions) and end up with a lot of narrative that just isn’t very convincing. As a result, they also spend too much time on pre-submission polishing; effectively, re-writing the parts of the submission that just don’t work, in the hope that they will somehow create a cohesive whole.

Let’s say you wanted to write a book. You wouldn’t start by staring at a blank page; you’d start by getting a clear idea of your story, your characters, and where they are going. If you jumped straight into writing, you’d risk wasting time writing pages and pages that you might never use.

Writing a submission that doesn’t win you any business is like writing a book that never gets published. (Also known as a “complete bummer”).

If you struggle to write successful submissions, your proposal process could be the root cause of the problem.

Use this approach instead, and invest your time where it’s going to help you win.