6 ways to understand what a tenderer wants

To provide a sophisticated and winning tender proposal you must demonstrate more than just technical expertise. Your proposal must satisfy the client’s needs at the strategic level and demonstrate what a tenderer wants. When you are writing a proposal it is most important that you understand what your readers really want. This is a fundamental communication principle that is not always front-and-centre when proposals are being developed.

Understanding what is described in the tender documentation (the design, specifications and procedures, etc) is only the first step. The tender document will be very clear on specifications and outputs (the whats, wheres, hows, and whens) and will provide a framework for response (returnable schedules) but sometimes will not be clear on outcomes (the whys). You must work out the outcomes the tenderer wants to be able to write a standout proposal.

The outcomes (whys) sought from large projects are usually not included in tender requests (RFTs) for several reasons: the tender documentation is prepared by technical people and middle management who sometimes do not recognise or understand the role of project outcomes in designing efficient and effective service delivery.

With an understanding of the outcomes you can tailor your proposal to better deliver a value for money solution.

How do you identify the client’s required outcomes?

Here are a six important tips:

1. Outcomes sought

Beyond the output or specification of the proposal you should look for what outcomes the tendering organisation is wanting. These are not often included in the documentation but can be found in an organisation’s corporate material, for instance, their annual report. What a tenderer wants may include an emphasis on ethical procurement and protection of the environment.

2. Selection criteria—what a tenderer wants

Understand the selection criteria that are listed in the document. These specify how the proposal will be judged. This, unfortunately is often vague and open to interpretation. The criteria are given weightings but it can still remain a price decision.

3. Tendering history

Understand the recent history of the organisation’s tendering. You should be aware of their recent procurement history and any problems that they might have particularly in the media (for instance with probity; modern slavery; work, health and safety, etc). Negative publicity affects an organisation’s share value so the tenderer will be more positive to proposals that improve its public profile.

4. Market position

Understand the market position of the organisation. On one recent job the organisation was going public within the year and thus greater transparency was appropriate. What a tenderer wants in this situation is to be able to make an uncontroversial decision.

5. Risk profile

Understand the organisation’s risk profile. Their risk profile is something that may take into account all of the items above but will help you focus the proposal on minimising business risk.

6. Assessors personalities

Find out about the people who will be managing the tender assessment. Knowing the personalities of the people on the assessment panel will help you understand their likely behaviour or at least give an idea of the focus of the individuals on the assessment panel. Don’t forget that large tenders will have to be signed off by senior people and the largest by the CEO.

Understanding these differences in your clients’ needs will allow you to tailor your proposals to best meet your clients’ tender requirements and improve your chance of success.