Why include external experts in your tender team?

"Part of our job is to stay focused on that original question. Otherwise, you will get compliments but no deal."

4 reasons to put external experts on your tender team

Blog by Lennart

My speech on winning tenders was not yet finished. In my first blog I pointed out the need for good preparation: making choices, building the right team. In the second blog mainly about the approach: from inspiration sessions, through bronze, silver and gold versions to the platinum offer.

One piece of advice was to include experts in your tender team. Like Voxx, which of course is unashamedly a 100% case of WC duck.

Yet I say this for a reason. Of course, outside procurement specialists like Voxx are not going to win the tender for you on their own. Your own subject matter experts will do that. But external specialists can be of decisive added value in the tender team that has to win the tender for you.

How then? I limit myself to four contributions.

1. Demand analysis

The direct question is usually clear and so is the answer: provide me with product, service or solution A. You can leave it at that as a bidder. Yet, especially in the larger tenders, there is always more, a larger connection. That is why we challenge account management and the subject matter experts to look for it. Why is the contracting party asking for this? Where and how does this fit into the bigger picture and the long term? Those backgrounds are interesting and are often not in the call for tender. They are in the strategic objectives and ambitions and sometimes even in blogs of C-level directors and strategists and visionaries. Tenders from existing clients are, at their core, about: how well do you know your client and their market? Show that; immerse yourself in their world. If you don't actually know that, see the tender as a prime opportunity for overdue maintenance in customer and market knowledge.

2. Answering the question

Yes, a great open door. Yet it is here for a reason. Content specialists in many tender teams have a lot of knowledge, which is necessary and crucial in the inspiration sessions in which the team lays down the contours of the tender. In the implementation, we see that while thinking and writing, they still tend to deviate from this. With the best of intentions, of course, but still. Then, somewhere along the way, we start a dialogue like:

Us: A heartfelt story, but I think this is different from what we had imagined?

Expert: Yes. This is much better.

Us: Only they don't ask this.

Expert: This solution is really better and is going to give them much more. I would advise them to do this.

Us: I believe you directly, but we have to deliver what they want.

Expert: Ok, I get you, but why do they want this? We really have much better solutions that will benefit them much more!

Let's face it: it is precisely because of that knowledge and that search for even better solutions for their customers that it is so great to work with content specialists. However, it is partly our job to stay focused on that original question. Otherwise, you get compliments but no deal.

3. Out of the comfort zone

Every answer starts with the standard solutions. No sustainable house without solar panels. Everyone does and so does our client. But winning is about surprising. So step outside your comfort zones of solutions. What are those surprising extras and innovations that make the requested solutions even better? As a tender team, look within your own field of expertise, but also outside it. This shows that you understand the customer's question-behind-the-question and that you know its market. We challenge our document owners in the tender team to schedule extra inspiration sessions for this very purpose. Also possibly halfway through the process. Surprising ideas and insights often develop along the way.

4. Customer-focused writing

Our 4th added value is the craft: writing an appealing and convincing tender. I can say a lot about that and above all: no boisterous marketing story, no techie story, no story about solutions, but a story in which we tell the contracting party how our offer alleviates their worries and work while keeping them in control. A warm story, because facts + emotion = winning.

Risk/reward model

There is another 5th added value that characterises Voxx: our commitment. We make this visible in the risk/reward model that we introduced over 10 years ago and (he spoke immodestly) is quite successful. "A good analysis of our need and a creative solution outside your comfort zone of the traditional hourly bill", our client responded to our proposal at the time. 

The risk/reward model assumes must-win tenders in which we work for a reduced rate. If our client wins the tender, Voxx receives a reward in the form of a factor of 4 on the rate. If he loses, he pays us nothing extra. Advantages for our client are the low entry rate and the fact that he only pays us extra in case of guaranteed turnover (because the tender is won). The mutual benefit is that client and Voxx invest in each other, with the aim of winning tenders. And as a professional, few achievements are as much fun as winning tenders. I've written that before.

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