From the time the tender is released, to the time you lodge your submission, you need to be continually working on your proposal.
As I’ve mentioned before, depending on how complex the procurement is, you might get anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks to respond to a tender (the most common response period is 3-4 weeks). This sounds like a generous amount of time, but it isn’t.
Buyers work out the validity period based on how long they think it will take you to put together a tender response. The longer you’re given, the more complex the requirement, and the more time-consuming your bid will be to prepare - and all this needs to happen on top of your day job.
Unfortunately, it’s common to see people “sit” on tender requests for days, or weeks, while they are deciding whether or not it’s worth going for, waiting for feedback from others, or just working on other things.
This is such a common story that if I had ten bucks for every time I heard it, I could be sitting on a beach in the Bahamas right now; in fact I got a call just yesterday from a client whose business had been sitting on a four-week tender for three weeks already, and had only just sent it to her to work on!
As I said last week, 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?
Any time you lose at the start of the bid schedule will have a compounding, negative effect on your offer, and therefore your chances of winning. Lose a week, and your strategy will suffer. Lose two weeks, and you will also miss key pieces of evidence to support your claims and maximise your evaluation score.
Let’s be generous and say that you have four weeks to submit your tender. Here’s how to spend each day in those four weeks to give yourself the best chance of success:
Week 1 – Circulate the briefing to your team as soon as it is released. Give them a day to read it. Then run your strategy session. Once you have your bid strategy and Purchaser Value Topics ready, write a draft of your Executive Summary. Get agreement in principle to the strategy and key messages.
Week 2 – with your bid strategy and Purchaser Value Topics agreed, now you can get stuck into planning your response. Analyse the tender questions; really pull them apart. Figure out what they are really asking for. What is the buyer’s motivation for asking? Is there a question behind the question? What do they want to expect to hear? Plan evidence to substantiate all your claims. Circulate your content plan with instructions to any other writers.
Week 3 – gather all your content and start shaping it into a proposal. Circulate the first draft for comment and review.
Week 4 – Make final changes, format the proposal and get internal sign-off. Submit it at least one day before the customer’s deadline.
Tender deadlines aren’t within your control, and it’s rare to see a tender period extended. Those weeks will go by faster than you think.
This schedule will give you the time you need to think, and to plan your proposal, even when you are stretched with other priorities.