When we started to write tenders responses back in 1998, you could win a tender simply by answering all the questions – mainly because nobody else did. How things have changed! To win a tender in most industries today you need to go the extra mile to show added value in areas that your client values.

As the message to client organisations starts to sink in, they’re beginning to realise that the cheapest price is seldom the best. Little by little, we are seeing crazy imbalances of price weights around 70% being moderated. As the quality of your proposal becomes more important in their decision, the way you explain the benefits of your offer to your client gains clout.

What’s important today is making your proposal stand out from the pack – in ways that your competitors can’t match. Here are five possible ways that you can give your proposal that extraordinary boost that wins you the contract.

1.Show you understand your client’s priorities better than anyone else

A tender is a technical marketing document. It shouldn’t be full of marketing fluff, nor should it respond in a purely factual manner. Your aim is to impress on your client that you understand their key issues better than anyone else.

Start by analysing the big picture of what your client is trying to achieve through the contract. For example, while the contract may be asking for a supplier to build a bus stop, your client’s aim is to get more people into public transport, reduce congestion, and make our roads safer. If you’re able to get your client to see that you’re on-side with their wider aims, then you can set the scene for what it will take to deliver the work (in a way that only your company can achieve)

2.Show-case your alignment with their values, objectives and aims

Use of your client’s key words breeds familiarity and a level of comfort in your response. Be careful however not to over-step this effort. For example, don’t use their logo without their permission (the risk of infringing their branding rules is too great). Where possible, demonstrate this alignment using positive quotes from their project managers (if you are the incumbent); or from people and organisations that they regularly do business with.

You’re sending a message that you’re part of their family; that you will work cooperatively and harmoniously with them; and you know what it will take to deliver.

3.With each response, don’t [just] answer the question

“Seriously?” I hear you say, “that’s what the evaluators tell us to do!”. Fact is, you need to do more than that. Of course you need to answer the question, but before you launch into your direct answer, show that you understand why they asked it in the first place. What key risks or fears might they harbour, that prompted your client to ask about this?

Once you have shown you have thoroughly understood what’s important in delivery of this aspect of the contract, then you can dive in to describe how you will cover off each one of their concerns with your exceptional solution.

4.Show them the evidence

Most tender responses answer the questions with what they are going to do, and most will stop there. A few good ones may expand on this, to explain in more detail how they will do it. Outstanding proposals go even further – they explain why their solution is the best one to meet the client’s needs, and they also describe where they have done this before, so they provide proof of the successful implementation of this method. A case study or third-party client endorsement is a powerful way to button down the credibility of your offer.

5.Look for, then demonstrate added value that matters to your client

To push your tender so it’s head and shoulders above the rest, you’ll have to offer something extra. If you can offer a tangible benefit, that’s helpful. If your approach has been proven before, even better.

How about delivering the project within a shortened timeframe? That usually translates directly to cost savings for your client. Will your solution provide lower whole-of-life costs (such as reduced power consumption, lower maintenance frequency, etc.)? Can you offer a finance solution that lowers the burden of upfront costs to your client (especially valuable if they are battling high costs)? Can you provide greater automation in future or a software interface that could save them labour costs? Speed up response times? Reduce customer complaints? Have you got a better grasp of construction risks and a clever solution to mitigate them?

Sometimes it takes an independent view to identify the factors that could differentiate you from the other bidders. From where you sit, your offer may either seem unremarkable (when in fact it’s quite unique); or alternatively, seem amazing until someone tells you that that’s the kind of thing that all your competitors will be routinely saying anyway. Either way, it’s better to be told this while you can do something about it, than in a debrief for unsuccessful tenderers.

Whenever it’s possible for you to provide something that your competitors can’t, you have the potential to distinguish yourself from the pack. And that’s what it takes in today’s environment, to win tenders.

There’s an old adage that if you find that winning tenders is painful and expensive, try losing them! If you’re going to the bother of preparing a tender, there’s no point being an ‘also-ran’ – be in it to win.

And that means you have to do more than just go through the motions (like all the others in your industry do). Invest the time and the effort – go hard to uncover and explain what sets you apart as their very best partner for the job. When you win, you’ll know it’s worth the effort!