What can we learn from each other?

If you’re a Kiwi company bidding for work in Australia, or an Aussie company tendering in New Zealand, it would be tempting to assume the rules are the same on both sides of the ditch. But you couldn’t be more wrong.

Last week, the Lift Your Game tender training courses that I ran in Sydney and Melbourne confirmed the significant differences on both sides of the Tasman in procurement practices. So, what do you need to know about bidding on the other side?

Australians, watch out!

You may be in for a shock when you tender within New Zealand. Maybe it’s because (let’s face it!) New Zealand is a village, and the chances of bias in a procurement decision are high. But Kiwis are a principled lot, so – at least in some sectors of government spending – they’ve put in place robust and tightly process-driven rules for selecting suppliers.

If you have a plan to schmooze the evaluators, you’ll very likely be turned back, and a black mark maybe recorded against your company’s name for your efforts. To win tenders in NZ, you’ll have to jump through the hoops set out in the RFx document perfectly. If you miss something out of your tender, most likely there won’t be a second chance.

Clever tenderers carefully analyse the weightings in the RFx documents (which are most often included, at least in the government sector). They learn how the scoring systems work, and spend significant time developing and stress-testing their strategy.

Then, they engage their brightest and best to write compelling and compliant responses. Ordinary copy-writers simply don’t cut the mustard – what’s needed is in-depth understanding on the way the bids are marked, then application of that analysis to your content. Not a simple or an easy process, but ultimately, one that delivers a robust and defensible decision on contract award.

Kiwi companies – what happened to the tendering rules?!

You need to recognise that the rules are far less clear when you’re bidding in Australia. The chances of having clear weightings and processes are slight, which makes it harder for you to figure out where to put your efforts.

An established presence in Australia may well be a bottom line requirement. Logistics get harder, compliance standards are different and often tougher (especially in areas like Health and Safety). You’ll need to demonstrate familiarity with local standards, supply chain relationships and logistics, and both State and Federal legal requirements.

A bit like the NZ environment was a decade or two ago – relationships play a bigger part in many procurement decisions in Australia. That makes it more worthwhile to spend time and effort on capture planning as part of your campaign approach. You may need to identify contract opportunities years in advance and work a well-planned strategy to be noticed (in a positive way of course!) by the future decision-makers on that contract.

The market place in most industries is more internationally competitive, partly because Australia has a different view on international trade obligations and partnerships to NZ. So, proving your winning edge against global competitors will be important.

On the positive side, procurement in Australia is more likely to take notice of social and environmental impacts and the implications of procurement decisions in those areas. There is a greater awareness in some sectors that those factors count, and there’s far greater acceptance of the concept of protecting your domestic and local economy by buying local. That’s a hurdle that takes serious planning for a foreign company to overcome.

What’s the take-out learning from this?

Whichever side you’re on, it’s important to understand the differences and plan your approach to tendering with that in mind. Time and again, we see companies dumb-founded on why they didn’t succeed in a tender, but not understanding the rules change ‘on the other side’.

If that’s happened to you, please share your views – we’re keen to hear them! We’ll be following up this article with some additional commentary about tendering styles and requirements in other countries. We’re busy tapping into the experiences of our 18-strong international Plan A tender specialist team, who have written tenders in over 40 countries. If you have an experience of bidding for working other countries and cultures, we’d love to add that to our next article. Get in touch.