How to win a tender

"Then you end up having 11 top talents on the pitch, but how do you make sure they win games?"

Win a tender? Act like Dumoulin and think like Liverpool

Blog by Lennart

If you want to win a tender, you have to do something for it. Entrepreneurs can be very resolute on this point. For example: 'We'll never do that!' The arguments are invariably the same: takes too much time, too small a chance of winning, too much hassle, not necessary because enough contracts.

At fellow agencies, I nod understandingly and opportunistically: 'Yes, I understand....'. With entrepreneurs in other industries, I suffer from missionary urges. Not participating? Why? Surely it's a waste. You are missing out on great opportunities. In fact, you are closing yourself off to a very large market where fantastic contracts can be won. And especially in periods of recession, the government - unlike many commercial companies - can be a secure and reliable client.

The price is up to you. But how do you get your story right? 4 tips.

1. Make choices.

If you want to win a competition, think Tom Dumoulin first. He does not start a cycling season thinking: I want to win the Tours of Italy, France and Spain this year. He makes choices. He looks at the stage schedules, the course and makes an assessment of what suits him best and where he has the greatest chance of winning. Even he cannot win everything. The same applies to tenders. There is no point in tendering for everything. Choose those tenders with those specific questions that fit seamlessly with your company and services. The ones where you think: we really are the best. These are the must win tenders.

2. Put together the best team.

Think: Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool always had teams with excellent attackers and lots of goals. But yes, all those goals against don't help if you want to win prizes. That's why Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker came to Liverpool to strengthen the defence. That helped: last year's Champions League winner and this year's English champion. 

That's how you build a team and that's how it works when winning a tender. For your must win draft your best people. Look in your organisation to see who is most knowledgeable about the products or services being demanded. Of course, these are needed and in demand everywhere (Virgil van Dijk was not free either), but free them up and facilitate them to make their valuable contribution. Set up a tender team with the best specialists capable of winning your must win.

3. Hire experts to facilitate your top team.

Think again: Liverpool. Then you end up with 11 top talents on the pitch, but how do you make sure they win games? That doesn't happen automatically. That requires other specialists, who boost fitness, analyse opponents, work out tactics, provide structure. Those are hired. So too with tenders. Because how to get your top team to the winning offer? Your specialists know the best solution, but how do you make sure it is written up in an appealing, understandable and customer-focused way and handed in on time? That is the role of bid managers and copywriters. They can challenge your specialists in the right way. 

4. Provide structure.

Think again: Tom Dumoulin. When Tom finishes after a stage in the Tour of Italy, does he have to look for a hotel room? No, of course not. Everything is planned, everything is arranged so that he can perform at his best. There is structure in which everyone has her/his task and that is how it should be in bid processes too. The best bid managers use the Bronze-Silver-Gold methodology, with fixed moments of coordination and involvement of, for example, those who ultimately have to sign. 

...and get a kick out of it!

I often say to clients: one of the most fantastic experiences in my profession is winning a tender. Then they often look pityingly, but I do mean it. Winning tenders gives a thrill, especially because it is a team effort. See Tom Dumoulin, see Liverpool, see the tender teams that my colleagues and I myself have been part of.  

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