Winning the tender process

After the brain-ache of creating a tender that gets shortlisted, you are invited to present/interview.  A frisson of excitement is followed by a fairly large black cloud as you think of the amount of work required to prepare.  Yet my guess is that most bidders focus on writing slides and don’t even do a run through to sharpen up their pitch.  That’s like going from reading a play straight to performance without the rehearsals.  If you’ve spent 50 hours developing your response, isn’t it worth 10 hours to develop a knock-thier-socks off pitch?

Here are some tips on how to increase your chances of winning in this vital stage of the tender process:

  • Put a date in the diary, even before you know you’ve been invited, to save being beaten by the clock.
  • Know your evaluators.  If you can.  Figure out their particular interests and needs and add them to your checklist.
  • List the criteria the evaluators are working to.  If it is given, work it out in more detail.  Create a scoring framework and use it as a checklist.
  • Assemble the team with a rough cut of any support materials you are going to use.
  • Decide on the mood you want to create in the room.  People remember how you made them feel.  It will count.  You need to feel the way you want them to feel.  If you want them to be highly engaged, you need to be highly engaged.
  • Show them your structure at the beginning – it will settle down those who need to know where they are in a process.
  • Don’t waste too much time recapping your bid.  You’ve scored those points already.  A short reminder of the key features and benefits of your bid is enough.  Use 10%-20% of the time for this.  Slightly longer if there are people who you have good reason to believe don’t know your bid well.  Ask them, if in doubt.
  • Focus on how you will solve their problem or get them ahead.  That’s what they are buying.
  • Predict how your competitors will present.  You can’t know but it will help you to realise how much you need to raise your game to win.  You may be able to place some strategic messages that under-mine them.  For example, a business I am involved with emphasises agility because we are competing with a company with a reputation for being slow.
  • Refocus on your competitive advantages, your bid winners.
  • Address your weak points.  Are you less experienced than one or more competitors?  Is your product specification narrower?   You need to provide at least three cogent arguments to show them you have your key weaknesses handled to reassure them.
  • Work up your proofs and examples.  Most of us use stories.  They are often delivered badly.  Work on them using the four step STAR process:  Situation, Task, Actions, Results.  It stops your over-talker from over-talking.
  • Communicate through all their senses.  Hand things out, show video (more below), show working models or prototypes – they are great convincers.  You need to make your bid stand out by using all available senses.
  • Don’t overdo the PowerPoint.  There aint’ much power and there ain’t much point.
  • Show videos of others you have solved this problem for or video of your product/service in action.  Video is cheap to produce these days and there is nothing like having three talking heads explain how brilliant you are.  Research shows that a third party saying how great you are is much more convincing than you saying it yourself.
  • Make the language concrete.  People don’t remember abstract words.  They do remember pictures you have helped them create in their heads.  Vivid stories and examples do this.  Characters, plot, place.  Make it a story.
  • Emphasise your bid-winners.  These are the unique ways in which you address their problems.
  • Choose 3-5 key messages – the critical success factors – and focus the presentation on them.  Recap at the end.
  • Brainstorm questions you anticipate.  Make them relevant, nasty, toe curlers.  That way, you will be ready to deal with whatever comes up.
  • Write the running order and the key moments of your pitch out.  Time it.  Don’t leave the room until you have the time emphasis where it is needed.
  • Rehearse the hand-overs.
  • Score yourselves rigorously.  Where are your weak points?  About what do you feel vulnerable?
  • Aim for three perfect run throughs.

Then you’re ready.

If you want an outside facilitator to help you, give you some objective feedback and ways to strengthen your bid, I’m your man.  Call me on 07931 382676.