Online tendering is easier than you’d think

The importance of the tendering process for the profession has never been
greater than during the last year, as firms try to cling on to clients.

Those looking to put work out to tender are increasingly turning to
electronic questionnaires and bidding proformas. Online bidding’s popularity is
growing for several reasons. The first is environmental. With a concern for
‘green credentials’ and costs, many companies are switching to online tenders to
reduce carbon footprints. The second is to standardise the pitch process, as
online bids give a consistency to the submissions an organisation receives.
Finally, online bidding, with its easier comparison of proposals, enables
organisations to divide up particular sections for review by different decision

When facing online tenders, many firms complain about a lack of space to
elaborate on answers and a restrictive format. There are sometimes requests for
irrelevant information and it is often difficult to differentiate a bid from

Online bidding can take a number of forms ­ from a simple request to submit
all materials electronically (using Word or PDF documents), to the completion of
specific online questionnaires. In extreme cases we have seen firms facing live
online tenders for packages of work. This situation needs both experience of
online bidding techniques and nerve in order to be successful. In essence firms
face a reverse auction where the lowest priced bidder wins the package of work
(and agrees to prescribed service, delivery and reporting standards).

In this process, competing firms need to know in advance what their initial
bid price should be, what their best hoped for figure is, at what point they
will start to make a profit and what their walk-away figure is.

This is where nerve is crucial. It really does take professional backbone to
make real-time decisions and keep a cool head when competitors are bidding
against you.

Test your submission’s format is compatible with the client’s systems ­ they
may not be able to open your documents or you may even crash their computers.
Get your submission in early and answer all the questions succinctly. Focus on
the key points.

Prove your points with hard facts and figures and focus on the benefits you
can bring. Get someone senior to read the submission. What messages do they get
and are they the ones you want them to receive? If not, keep re-writing and

John Timperley is managing director at the Results Company

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