It doesn’t matter so much whether you answer a tender, RFI, or RFP; the phasing is always the same. And because of that, you can set up a bid response process just fine. All bids go through the following steps:
Before the official document arrives on your (digital) doormat, you usually still have the opportunity to influence its content. Most companies have a strict communication protocol when a document is sent. The importance of influencing and tips on that can be found here: Causes of low winning chances on bids
In this phase, before we engage in the answering process, you’re doing more than just influencing. It is also an excellent time to pitch your ideas for solving the client’s problem, get in touch with all the stakeholders for the project, and find out what they think is essential.
Internally, you will start working in advance to assemble the team that will answer and determine with them the broad outline of what work needs to be done.
Before we can begin the actual answering process, we will need to qualify. Many companies do not have a process for qualifying bids. At least, not officially. It’s not that convenient. Learn more about how to qualify for a tender. This step need not take long. Especially not if you are already aware of the arrival of the tender at the pre-bid stage.
Send the complete team the documents and schedule a joint session to do the qualification. Ask the following five key questions:
- Can and will we deliver what the customer demands?
- Do we have or can we get enough information to do the answer?
- Do we have a relationship with the client, and have we influenced the content?
- Do we have the right people available to do the answering?
- Is the time frame that the client requests sufficient for us to make a quality response, or can we influence it?
With more than 2 x a “No,” qualify him out and thank the sender for the invitation. Check for how long the customer wishes to enter into a contract and subtract at least 9 months from that period. Put a trigger in your CRM system to then contact you again. Of course, having more frequent contact in the intervening period doesn’t hurt. How often depends on the client and your market.
Planning and strategy
When you’ve decided that you’re going to answer a tender or RFP, it’s time to pause for a moment. Within the answering process, creating a schedule and establishing a strategy help you have a good overview of what needs to be done. Most companies quickly divide the questions, formulate the solution and get to work. You can do much better.Step 1:
Creating a high-level backward schedule (learn more about creating a good bid schedule). So start with the end date. After all, that one is hard. Late submission means exclusion from participation in most cases. Roughly speaking, there are three phases in the planning:
- Strategy and questions
- Checking and formatting
Establish the strategy. The customer sets up requirements and wishes. You can read where the priorities are and what people care about between the lines. Create a list of three focal points. All answers must reflect at least two of the three focus points.
Then you determine the WOW factor. This doesn’t necessarily cost the customer more money but offers a lot of value. Ask yourself: what does the client not ask but is a significant obstacle or concern? Or: what can no competitor offer but has a lot of added value for this customer? Devote an extra chapter to this if you have that space, or weave it into a section where it fits.
In this section, it is often clear that everything is not yet evident in the customer demand. So also set the questions together. Learn more about asking questions.Step 3:
The final step is to divide the work. Now that it is clear where the focus is and what things need to be written, the division of labor begins. Make clear agreements about who answers what question and when it must be finished. That way, you are always in control of the bid-answering process.
Replying and submitting
The strategy has been determined within the bid response process, and the work has been distributed. Getting started on answering. Here it helps to have a solid knowledge base of answers you’ve written before. That saves an incredible amount of time. If you don’t have that knowledge base, rummage through previously written offers, bids, and marketing copy. These very often have a good angle. At least then, you won’t start with a blank sheet.
The bid leader (bid manager, sales manager, or account manager) speaks to all individual writers regularly to hear if there are any obstacles and follow along. Working together from one digital location helps. Toward the deadline, these updates follow one another more quickly.
Many bid teams set up what is known as a War Room. That’s a place where they work together on the bid. This can, of course, be done digitally. Especially for essential bids or when your team doesn’t answer recommendations very often, this helps tremendously.
Step by step, the bid is now forming. Every answer created is checked. These are the checks you make:
- Spelling and grammar errors
- Tone of voice
- Content correct (i.e. not a BS story)
- It answers the customer demand (all components are in there)
- All focal points are included
Only then can the answer enter the document. Once all documents are ready, one final round of checks for formatting and content will be done. And then you submit it. That filing also has a few ground rules. Learn more about submitting your bid.
The client evaluates you, and you assess the process. Customer evaluation is the most opaque process for you. They will work with their team to review all the entries. In many cases, they have created a measuring stick for that. In tenders, this is even mandatory and included in the document. This helps you understand in advance what people are judging by. Yet it is still a subjective process. Especially if the assessment takes place on quality. Awarding points is then up to the reader. And they by no means always read the text as you intended.
This is why evaluating your bid process and the response is so important. When you win and when you lose. One can learn from both. Which parts received good ratings and which did not? Were there significant differences between readers? And what can you find out about those particular readers? Therefore, an evaluation conversation with the client offers many insights. So always try to come to the table after the results.
While the client is busy reviewing, you can sit down with your team. Take a look at which parts went smoothly and which did not. Ask what they liked working in the approach and what bothered them. This will help you work together even better next time. And incorporate these new things into your bid answering process, so it is also well secured next time.
A good response process gives you a foothold and allows you to correctly evaluate and adjust each time. In this way, you ensure that your odds of winning increase, and you become increasingly influential in answering.
Want to learn more about bids? Below each links to articles: