How do we win a $$$ tender?

This article first appeared on June 6, 2008.

Help me Aunty B,

We’re preparing a tender for a city council at the moment to be on their design services panel. It’s a two year contract and could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to us.

We are a relatively small business (talented team of 10) and we aren’t even located in the city, but we honestly believe we can service the account as well as anyone.

We’ve prepared four other tenders in the past and haven’t won one yet. We want to win this tender bad.

What will give us the best chance of getting our tender noticed and getting an interview for this panel?


Dear Wannawinbad,

There are three things you can do:

1. Form an alliance with someone in the city – an architect or builder – so they can be a partner. You need to show local knowledge.

2. Provide a specific example of how you will tackle a task in the city, and give specific examples of some work you have done.

3. Follow word for word the criteria used in the expression of interest. Uncle Colin has won many tenders in his long life. He says if they want three toenails give them three toenails. No more, no less.

Small businesses lose tenders because they are too general and not specific enough.

Why be so specific? To make it as easy as possible for the tender committee to check and put you on the panel.

Now you mention it is for design services. Don’t get too creative at this stage, OK? The time to get creative is when you are on the panel.

So go win!

Your Aunty B

Some handy additional advice

Cassandra Scott from Laurus Enterprises writes: One of the actions that many private businesses fail to undertake when responding to government tenders (state, local or federal) is to seek post-tender feedback (whether they are successful or not). Tendering within government organisations is [generally] undertaken within cleary defined processes and activities, of which one is the requirement to provide feedback to tenderers on how their tender was assessed, and where it succeeded/failed.

Once you have been notified of the outcomes of the tender process, contact the contracting authority/project manager/tender contact, and formally request post-tender feedback. Aim to do it face to face (rather than over the phone or in writing). It’s a great way to find out why you didn’t succeed, and where for the next tender you should focus your energies. The feedback process should not divulge commercial in-confidence information about other tenderers, but asking the right questions at the debrief can glean some great information that may give you a commercial advantage next time around.

Many businesses fail to address all the mandatory tender compliance requirements. Simple phrases such as “comply” will not be sufficient. You need to be able to demonstrate how you comply with their requirements. Similarly, you should respond in the format that is requested, and not include any alternatives as your main option, as tenders will be assessed on the actual requirement stated, not what you think is really needed. If you have an alternative proposal, highlight this, but cost and annex it separately to your response to the stipulated need.

What are you waiting for? Email your questions, problems and issues to [email protected] right now!

Aunty B is kicking back on holiday, but her advice is timeless, as evidenced by this Aunty B classic from 2008. To read more Aunty B advice, click here.




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