Business Development

Tendering for Work - 17 Mistakes You’re Making

By Hudson Procurement Group
November 2020

No one says bid management is easy. However, with dedicated bid management training, you can maximise your chances to be successful at tendering. The road to get there is full of challenges, pitfalls and mistakes with each step in the process bringing its own challenges. Great bid management means recognising that one mistake can often mean the difference between a win and a loss.

But what are the mistakes you’re making?

1. Bidding for what you can’t win

One of the easiest mistakes to avoid comes right at the start of the bid management process. Making the right bid / no-bid decision is key. If you can’t deliver all the requirements of the contract – Do not bid.

Or – partner up with another company who can deliver the parts your missing.

2. Bidding too big

Whilst it can be tempting to bid for the biggest contract you find, it is an easy way to lose. Good bid management training teaches companies to bid for contracts no more than 50% of the value of their annual turnover.

3. Not Checking Compliance

Not checking you meet the compliance requirements is an easy way to lose a bid. Before starting the tendering process, your bid manager’s role should check the specification for compliance requirements including Policies, Procedures, Training, Turnover, Accreditation, Experience.

If you don’t meet requirements, you’re not compliant so there’s no point carrying on.

4. Not being able to complete the Work

This is obvious really; you need to decide if you can deliver the works required. If you can’t comfortably manage the work, you may not want to bid. You should also consider if your staff are able to complete the work. Are they suitably trained? Is there adequate management in place to deliver the work?

5. Not Answering the Question

It’s tempting to rush ahead with a tender response and write what we think a buyer wants to hear. But it is vital, even under pressure, to take the time to reflect and ensure you understand the requirements, and what the buyer is looking for in an excellent response. Tender writing training will help you understand the key parts of the documents such as the specification and to digest this in such a way as to inform and improve your response.

If there is one spectre that haunts bid managers, it’s submitting responses that don’t answer the question.

This mistake happens far more than it should and is a sure-fire way to lose vital marks.

To avoid this, read the question and break it down into its keywords, then respond to each key phrase, terminology and requirement. Sometimes this takes a little training to do well, bud it’s a skill bid managers quickly pick up.

6. Misreading the question

We’ve heard many stories in the past about clients with other priorities ploughing ahead and answering a question based on an improper understanding of what it is actually asking, costing themselves valuable quality marks. It’s easy when you’re under pressure to, for example, answer “how” you train your staff instead of “why”. Mistakes like this will cost you vital quality marks, but tender writing training will give you the tools to quickly digest question requirements and conceptually assess what is needed for an excellent response with speed, accuracy and efficiency.

7. Missing key information

It is easy to miss key details and important information when you’re unfamiliar with a process or working under pressure. This is especially true considering the mountain of often superfluous information that comes with a tender pack. It is easy to overlook a key date for a site visit, change to a submission deadline or other such important piece of information. Tender writing training will help you to understand how to quickly digest tender documentation, scan them for information and pull out the facts and figures you need, without being distracted by other, relevant but less important information. Tender writing training will also show you how to keep on top of regular information updates from the purchasing organisation, known as “clarifications” to make sure you have all the information at your fingertips when approaching a bid.

8. Using too much technical language

It is good bid management practice to show the buyer that you’re an expert in your industry. However, be careful not to overuse jargon and technical terms. Acronyms, technical information and product details are second nature to you, your reader may not be as knowledgeable.

For example, do you know what a Rubber Duck is on a construction site?

Technical details can add a lot of value, but your response must be clear to all readers.

9. Not relating your proposal to the Specification

Great bid responses manage to answer the question whilst demonstrating how they meet the contract specification.

Without training in this skill, you can add some great information into your bid, but it may not be what the buyer wants to hear. Focus your response on the core requirements of the contract, then add in additional details, once you’ve made sure you meet all the requirements of the contract.

10. Copy and Paste

If you’ve completed bids in the past, re-using your old responses can be a useful starting point.

BUT…you need to be careful; consider the following points:

Does that previous bid response answer this bid question?
How relevant is that bid response to the requirements of this contract?
Have you triple-checked you have removed the last client from this response?

Here at Hudson Succeed, our bid management practices avoid copy and pasting. We choose to create bespoke responses for our clients based on individual needs, thereby avoiding this mistake altogether.

11. Invaluable Value Adding

It is good bid management practice to add as much value as possible to your responses. Go beyond the scope of works and specification to show why you’re the best. Tell the buyer what you can offer beyond the contract requirements– social initiatives, additional services, innovations, recruitment and training, etc.

The ‘added value’ arguments you make should be relevant to the service. If they don’t, then either rethink them or remove them from your response. You should read the contract specification and think of initiatives which complement the requirements.

12. Focussing on you not the buyer

A common mistake in bid management is talking about your offering as a ‘we’. If you use ‘We’ at the start of every sentence, consider that you’re talking about yourself more than the buyer and their needs.

Successful bid management includes the ability to clearly tell the buyer how you can benefit them. How you can recognise their needs by identifying how you can provide benefits to the client above and beyond contract requirements and explaining how you would address them.

13. Not having enough details

In bid management, detail is key. Every sentence you write should refer back to the question but be packed with facts. Each statement you make must have evidence to back-up your arguments. If the buyer knows they can trust you, they will be more likely to hire you. Not backing up your statements with evidence is a costly mistake resulting in wasted scores.

14. Waffle

One of the biggest bid mistakes is waffling. Evaluators will no doubt have lots of bids to evaluate, the last thing they want to see is blanket information and irrelevant detail.

To avoid this, keep your responses succinct. Pack in detail wherever possible and make sure that everything you say has a point to it. This way your evaluator will take in all your points and award you the top scores more easily.

Ensure you avoid making this mistake with proofreading. Getting a second opinion will help separate the winning work from the waffling work and will improve your final product.

15. Dull as a Dodo

Bid Managers understand that writing bids for ‘provision of services to a specific company’ isn’t going to win any awards, but you should nevertheless try to make the bid interesting. Support your arguments with diagrams and charts to add appeal and break up block text. Even such small additions as subheadings, lists and tables can make a big difference. An engaged reader is less likely to miss your key points.

A boring bid will result in a disengaged evaluator and lower marks!

16. Overlooking word counts

We often hear of clients who are new to tendering talking of having previously fallen foul of word counts. These are something to carefully look out for. Write too much and any words you write over the limit simply won’t be considered. Write too little and your answer risks looking ill-thought through, rushed, or somehow otherwise wanting. Tender writing training will help you understand the information you can be realistically expected to convey within given word counts, and where to look out for sometimes hidden or ambiguous word limits.

17. Time management

It’s hard to fit in writing a proposal, or sometimes several proposals, while running a business, hitting sales targets and managing staff. Time management is, however, key when tendering. Tender writing training will help you understand how to break down the whole tender pack into a succinct list of requirements and how to plan out the workload and assign specific responses or duties to your team, accordingly.


Different Types of Training

There is a variety of support available for businesses who are struggling to see success with tender writing.

Consultancy support

You can outsource your tender writing efforts and also receive some comprehensive tender writing training depending on the package you select if you outsource your procurement and tendering endeavours to a consultancy like Hudson Succeed.

Workshops

Many companies run tender writing training days and workshops for executives looking to improve their tendering efforts or to get started in tender writing. Beware though, these are useful sessions but often come at significant cost and involve business owners and directors sacrificing vital office time to attend.

Conferences

There is a multitude of national procurement and tendering conferences, many of which are free to attend. Procurex, for example, is a free of charge series of lectures, conferences, workshops and networking events run across the course of a day, dedicated to helping businesses see more success in tendering.


Tender VLE

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a one-stop-shop for all your tender needs?

How about a shop that doesn’t charge and provides access to ongoing training, advice and guidance weekly?

3 words: LOOK NO FURTHER.

Tender VLE is the UK’s first, free of charge, online, tendering and procurement-related, virtual learning environment. Tender VLE provides comprehensive tender writing training in a blended format with a mixture of videos, links for further reading, blogs and very soon, quizzes, questionnaire and interactive exercises.

Tendering can be extremely difficult, off-putting and stressful. After decades of working in tender-related activities on both the buyer and the supplier side of the table, our experts are here to cover all aspects of tendering, from basic to intermediate, to expert. Complete with everything you need, Tender VLE will set you on your way to tendering success.

Moreover, if you are in need of additional support, contact Hudson Succeed where our experts will be happy to talk about how we can supplement your tender writing learning and development endeavours.

Why was Tender VLE developed?

With hundreds of subscribers using our innovative sector-specific platforms, one thing became clear to us and that is the majority of our customers require additional tender support from time to time. Our platforms allow customers to view opportunities that are not only specific to their sector, but specific to their exact service, through daily bulletins manually created by internal staff, meaning opportunities are scoured across the country daily to ensure exact matches are ALWAYS listed.

This was proving extremely successful and highly desired by all clients, but it was time to start acting on these opportunities and dealing with what most would describe as the ‘pain of procurement’ – writing a winning tender!

We formerly launched Tender VLE in 2018.

The video-based e-learning platform allows YOU to get up to speed with how tendering works and how YOU can maximise these opportunities by developing knowledge further in this field. It’s important, now more than ever, to develop your skillset and embrace tendering rather than shy away from it.

We knew that video content was at its height and there was a surprisingly low amount of knowledge-based tendering information available online. For these reasons, we used highly engaging video material in all learning sessions, accompanied by a written ‘how-to’ guides so that we cater to the masses.

We invested in the development of this product because our customers need it. We also decided to provide this content for free!

Start – Bid Writing for beginners

We know that the bid management process can be overwhelming – even if you’re used to it. As bid writing professionals we understand the value that bid training can bring to an organisation who isn’t so familiar with the tendering process. And that’s why we’re giving this vital bid training away free of charge.

At Hudson, we are passionate about helping everyone and understand the importance that a helping hand can be that will help give a business the push it needs to break into the tendering and procurement industry. Drawing on decades of experience working in tender and procurement-related services from both the buyer’s and supplier’s sides of the table, our team of procurement experts have developed the “Start” package, which contains the most important pieces of information for anyone looking to break into tendering, in the most accessible format possible.

Develop – Develop your proposal writing skills

Coming soon, our develop package will allow businesses to build on the key, fundamental skills and lessons presented in the “Start” bid training classes. This package is designed with those in mind who have a good grasp of the basics, but who still require some bid training to develop their service offering and take their proposal responses to the next level. If you’re interested in letting our team know what you’d like to learn more about or if there are any particular questions you’d like to be answered, get in touch today.

Excel – Advanced Bid Writing Training

Our excel package will provide bespoke, advanced-level bid training to develop bid writers and managers and those who’d like to refine, streamline and organise their tendering endeavours. Our advice is being designed to support you to develop in your tendering efforts in the most efficient way possible. If there are any burning questions you have or anything, in particular, you’d like our experts to cover, get in touch with our team today and let us know.

Q+A with your instructors

We have managed to sit down with the Tender VLE instructors to allow them the chance to introduce themselves and to pick their brains about all things bid-training-related!

Daniel Hall – Head of Bid Management

Dan has shepherded the Tender VLE project from its humble beginnings as a few online tutorials into the national, online, bid training platform it is today. It is part of Dan’s role to coordinate the content on Tender VLE to ensure the advice we provide is focused, relevant and concise. Dan’s masterclasses will take prospective bidders on a journey from the very basics, to advanced tender tips, ensuring that suppliers are ready for whatever challenges the industry throws at them.

“Dan, what’s the most important lesson anyone looking to tender can learn?”

Dan: “Oh goodness me…where do I start? I guess that a good first step is to appreciate the value of planning. Taking your time, digesting the requirements of a tender, factoring time into your diary accordingly and delegating appropriately will pay dividends in the long run.”

Watch Dan's masterclasses at www.tendervle.co.uk

John Hudson – Group CEO

John helps Hudson’s client to capitalise on technological advances in the tendering sector as well as helping them use these to increase efficiency in tendering and elevate their tender responses. During John’s bid training masterclass he will provide a unique insight into the differences between public and private sector tendering and how you can adapt content to suit different audiences.

“John, what are the barriers to tendering for small businesses?”

John: “I think it’s clear these days that a lot of small businesses are put off by the apparent complexity of the tendering process. It’s true that tendering and procurement is a complex industry, filled with seemingly unending regulations and hoops for prospective suppliers to jump through. But, our bid training through Tender VLE aims to provide help and advice to make those hoops more manageable.”

Jill Hudson – Founder and Managing Director

Jill oversees our wider Hudson Group and is responsible for its growth and sustainability. Through the production of video masterclasses, Jill ensures the content we produce is always relevant, unique and of exceptional quality. Drawing on her core value and motivations for setting up the Hudson Group in the first instance, Jill hopes to take small businesses on a bid training journey through her Tender VLE masterclasses to win new work, grow and prosper.

“Jill, why is bid training important for small businesses?”

Jill: “Well, bid training gives prospective suppliers a new perspective. It helps them look at a tender and its requirements form a buyer’s point of view. Having worked on both the buyer’s and the supplier’s side of the tendering process, I know how important it is to buyers that bidders understand what is being asked of them and deliver in their responses accordingly, and I know how seldom this occurs. Bid training not only gives suppliers helpful hints and tips and expert guidance but a fresh perspective on their tendering approach.”

Kathyrn Johansen – Head of Creative

Kathryn’s Tender VLE masterclasses focus on the importance of brand consistency when tendering and will provide prospective bidders with ways to maximise the potential of branding, formatting and presentation when tendering for work.

“Kathryn, what’s the biggest mistake people make when tendering?”

Kathryn: “In my experience, it’s sloppiness. Prospective suppliers need to understand the importance of presentation. Whilst nobody is suggesting that style matters more than substance, my masterclasses will give an insight into often overlooked ways for suppliers to improve their presentation, to ensure the right message is conveyed not only in the content but in the tone and imagery of a bid, and to optimise the effect of a piece of work on an evaluator.”

Watch Kathryn's masterclasses at www.tendervle.co.uk

What Next For Tender VLE?

At Tender VLE we are looking forward to the future. We are excited to be embarking on the following:

- Our own bid writing and tendering accreditation for suppliers to showcase their tendering prowess in future bids.
- The launch of new, interactive activities, quizzes and more immersive online and digital content to open up new and effective ways of conveying tender writing training, to make it as accessible and engaging as possible.
- The launch of channels, playlists and videos and content from even more experts.
- The launch of our excel package, giving advanced tender writing training.

Bid management training

Hudson are experts in delivering a successful tendering approach. Our Succeed team are trained in strong bid management approaches. We avoid these crucial bid mistakes.

You can also check out our free to use learning environment called Tender VLE for more bid management training and guidance on how to avoid making these mistakes.

For more information on how to succeed in tendering, visit our website to book a free consultation.

Visit Hudson Succeed