Don’t you just hate it when you put a lot of effort into a bid, and fail. Whether it be a Request for Tender (RFT), Request for Quotation (RFQ) or Request for Proposal (RFP), all require time, effort, and resources, and then be wasted by a mistake which causes you to lose out.
Yet most such mistakes can be overcome relatively simply by following a few rules. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to all types of bids as tenders. Although there are some differences in the intent of each, they all seek an offer from you. The mistakes and how to overcome or avoid them are common to all.
Why do you need to avoid those mistakes?
It’s simple really – money, income, revenue. Government procure largely through tenders. And they are big spenders.
The NSW Government is understood to spend about billions on goods and services each year and a large proportion of these are awarded to SMEs (entities with 200 or fewer employees). The remaining smaller proportion of these contracts are awarded to non-SMEs (i.e: large entities with 200+ employees).
In each jurisdiction the state or territory government is the largest single source of contracts.
It is not just government that procure through tenders. Businesses do also. The larger the business the more formal will be its procurement processes.
There are some differences of course. The bigger the government decision, the more likely it is to drag. The private sector is less averse to risk and typically makes their decision in a much shorter timeframe.
But the more formal the private sector’s procurement processes the more likely the same mistakes are likely to creep into respondent’s submissions. So, learning how to avoid the tendering pitfalls will make a significant difference to your business.
Preparing tenders and quotations can help you to win big orders, but it can also be time-consuming, cost money and tie up valuable resources. If you don’t get the contract the money and time spent is lost, so you need to weigh up whether a tender is worth bidding for.
So, let’s have a look at the first of these mistakes and what steps you can take to avoid it.
Mistake Number 1 – Not allowing sufficient time to complete your response.
The later you leave the preparation of your response, the more rushed you will be. And the more rushed you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes.
The more complex the tender the longer period the agency will give you to respond. Typically Commonwealth Government tenders allow 25 days. State and Territory governments often allow 14 days.
And that is where the first mistake pops up. People think they have plenty of time and so they delay their initial analysis and planning. Perhaps they might have a quick read and then put the RFT to one side. But time flies in business and chaos can happen. Those weeks you thought you had suddenly become days.
So the rush starts, and with the rush:
- Analysis of the RFT is cut short;
- The opportunity for clarification is missed;
- Assumptions are made; and
- elements of the response get overlooked or forgotten.
Perhaps there is information required from another area of your organisation or from a supplier or sub-contractor. Now they now haven’t time to respond properly, to your detriment.
You may know you need some additional information and say to yourself “I’ll come back to that later.” But of course, you forget to, and there is now a hole in your tender.
And here is a small example where I made such a mistake. Referees were requested in the tender and I had an excellent referee to put forward. The only problem was he had recently been promoted and had a new telephone number, which I didn’t have. I’ll come back I said, didn’t, and missed the hole in the final check. We lost the tender.
In the debrief (always get a debrief) the main factor referred to was that missing telephone number. The assessors said that it indicated “a lack of attention to detail”. Now I suspect we were fairly close and the assessors were looking for factors to differentiate us from our main competitor. That doesn’t help much. Small leaks sink big ships.
Why did I make that mistake? Because I ignored our tendering procedure (yes, we had one) and didn’t allow enough time.
But wait, there is another critical tripwire associated with not allowing sufficient time to respond.