Do you participate in a lot of Tenders? A Best Practices Guide

Introduction

Singapore Business Federation recently released the “Government Procurement: A Best Practices Guide” to help companies with tendering. The guide looks at the tendering process as 3 phases:.

  1. Before Bidding
  2. During Bidding
  3. After Bidding

It includes pointers on what to consider for each phase. While this is a good start, we felt that we could add to the conversation and extend it with our own insights as we have been on all sides - while we operate a tendering platform now, earlier in our careers we worked in SMEs tendering for business, and even before that we had worked in Government agencies tendering for and managing projects.

In general, here’s what we think would make the guide more useful:

  1. Consider the other tendering and RFQ portals: GeBIZ is just 1 of more than 30 websites in Singapore that host tenders. Further, tenders are also advertised in the newspapers. While it is true that Government buyers may have unique characteristics, we believe that many of the tendering best practices apply to all large organisation buyers.
  2. Hacks/Practitioner Tips: We believe in actionable insights and tips that can make a difference. While the SBF guide has compiled some, we believe it is at a basic level. Let’s try to step up the game a little more.

We have consolidated some of our insights and articles here to share with the community. Following the same phases as the SBF guide, here are some things that you can think about:

Before Bidding

  1. Expand your Funnel: Sales can be thought of as a funnel/pipeline (Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross, is a good resource on pipelines and how to keep them full). You can ensure the funnel has fresh leads flowing in by expanding your search for tenders. There are more 30 websites in Singapore that host tenders - TenderBoard is one of them. We also keep track of tenders from GeBIZ, SESAMi, Ariba, SUTD, NKF, SIA and even the newspapers. Ensure that you do not miss out on any opportunity (as well as access our TenderBoard Exlusive Deals) by signing up for an account with us (Free 30 day trial for new accounts).
  2. Pre-Register with every Portal: Related to expanding your funnel, many tendering portals require registration that sometimes takes days to set up. Instead of waiting till a tender is released, register ahead of time to avoid a last minute scramble. Read our tutorial covering the different sites and their registrations processes here (login required): Instructions for tendering at the various tender websites.
  3. Bid-No Bid Decision: Chasing and winning the wrong deal could be worse than not winning at all. Therefore deciding whether to bid for a project is a crucial decision that takes into account many factors, including whether there is a strong incumbent, how price sensitive the buyer is, whether you have the resources to successfully deliver etc. We cover some of these basics in a blog post: Winning tenders in Singapore
  4. Tender Briefing and Site Showrounds: While the SBF guide makes mention of this, it doesn’t go into depth about what you can do at such briefings. We like to think of such briefings or showrounds as opportunities for:
    • Check out the competition: Take a look around at which other companies are present. We recommend being one of the last to sign the attendance sheet so that you can see who else has signed it. If this is a new purchase and there are no incumbents, then it is likely that whoever the buyer has spoken to as part of their market research is also present in the room (if this person isn’t you, then you at least now know the potential competitors and products/services that you are going up against).
    • Assessing the strength of the incumbent: If there is an incumbent and they are present (and they would have to be if the briefing is compulsory), it is an opportunity to assess how strong the incumbent is. Sometimes the incumbent or buyer can be careless and reveal useful information. We also recommend asking questions that allow you to get a sense of whether the buyer is open to considering other solutions. For example, ask if there are any problems with the current system (this is always a fun question to ask. If you can, watch how the incumbent reacts as well) and what features are critical for them.
    • Build familiarity: if you are participating cold (meaning you did not have previous contact with the buyer), the briefing is an opportunity to meet the buyer so that they can put a name and face to your proposal when they are evaluating it. Make sure you introduce yourself to the evaluation team and follow up to ensure they remember who you are. Yes, tenders are designed to be fair and transparent. But being a complete stranger to the buyer does you no good.
    • Look for partners: If you have a product or service that can make a significant difference to the buyer, but you do not have everything to comply with the tender, it could still be useful to attend the briefing. This time, do so with an eye to finding a suitable partner from the other companies who are attending.

During Bidding

  1. Answer the Tender: When preparing your proposal, answering the tender is one of the most important things to do. Yet, we are constantly surprised at what companies are submitting as proposals to projects that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. When the project is relatively large, put in some effort to prepare a targeted proposal for the buyer. A quotation consisting of just a table of line items and unit prices is NOT a proposal. We covered some of this in another blog: How to write a winning tender proposal. Remember, the buyer typically has to produce a justification report explaining why he or she chose to award the deal to a particular supplier. Write your proposal in a way that makes it easy for the buyer to award to you.
  2. Using Past Data and Tender Strategy: We agree with the SBF guide that you should use the history of successful bids for similar projects to inform your pricing and tendering strategy. The question is how? At TenderBoard, we have been tracking tenders for the past 3 years and have a rich database of information that can be used to do just this, and more. We even have ready-made reports for each company that tracks its tendering performance and benchmarks the company to its competition. Here are some articles that we have written on this topic of data-driven tendering:

After Bidding

  1. The most important thing here is to keep up to date on the results. Many tenders are not one-off events, meaning that sometime in the future, a similar tender will be released by the same buyer. Therefore, especially in the event of a loss, put a note in your CRM to keep in touch with the buyer. Send them updates of your product when applicable and especially when you know that the buying window is coming soon. For example, if a school magazine printing deal was released in Oct 2017, you can expect a similar one in Oct 2018 and engage the buyer a couple of months before.

Conclusion

We hope this has helped to take the conversation and guide further. If you found this useful and would like to find out how we can help, do sign up for a FREE TRIAL HERE There are several other topics that are beyond the scope of this blog, such as Forecasting of Tenders, Analysing Buyer Behaviors, and Advanced Pricing Techniques. We welcome comments and suggestions! Let us know at hello@tenderboard.biz.