Gareth Bryon Consultancy was approached in September 2017 to assist a small business in preparing for a crucial business tender. The company works in the insurance sector providing claims investigation services to a large UK leader in motor insurance provision. Helping take the company through the tender process was an interesting and rewarding experience and here are some of the lessons this company has learned which will be of value to other businesses thinking about responding to tenders.
- Pre Qualification Questions. Often PQQ’s will be extensive – as they were in this case, and the lead in time for submission of answers to a stringent deadline may not be very long. So be prepared to work very hard on getting this completed and don’t be complacent. This company had been providing investigative services to Admiral for 23 years and there was a sense from some staff that the tender was just a formality. Wrong! Our team worked long hours to do this and as the consultant I worked closely with the team until the MD was satisfied with the submission. It is vital that you read and understand the questions and rigidly stick to what is being asked for. Don’t waffle or provide unnecessary data or background. You will not be scored on this. Often questions may be slightly ambiguous and perhaps not well worded. Don’t be scared to ask the procurement people leading the tender submissions for clarity. This won’t be regarded as weakness. Lastly – have confidence in those staff with specialist knowledge to prepare answers to questions. Delegation of effort is very advisable and no one person knows everything. If you can’t trust your staff to be involved in this then you probably aren’t going to be able to deliver to the requirements asked for in the tender should you win it!
- Know your Competition. This is really important. There may be numerous companies bidding to win the tender or the tender may be split into lots. Only bid for the work if you are absolutely certain you can deliver to the specifications required. Knowledge of your competitors is key intelligence gained from years of experience in the market. The company I worked with were asked to demonstrate how they differentiated themselves from other businesses and this was an opportunity to tell Admiral about their key strengths. This business has been embracing digital technology in order to improve service timeliness and had a programme of CPD training for all of their investigators in the field. They were also developing innovative software to support the management of all aspects of their work and had new systems ready to be offered to the client. We wrapped this up as a competitive advantage as the MD knew the competition weren’t as innovative or proactive in developing their offerings as he was.
- Pricing Your Services. This can be very tricky especially in the services sector. Insurance giants despite their size have always priced investigation contracts very keenly indeed. My client like many others involved in this work only survives through volume as price paid for each investigation barely covers their costs. We knew that raising prices in our submission for the core work could be catastrophic to chances of winning the business and any reductions in volume of business to be awarded by the customer would affect the workforce commitment to their employer. The MD decided to keep pricing the same but to lay out a scale of new charges for the innovative and proactive services that added value to the customers needs. He included a caveat that once a contract was agreed in principle that pricing should be discussed by both parties to be agreed upon. The key decisions here have to be taken with the company financial director or accountant. There is no point in pricing low in order to win business. This will only be one of many parts of your tender evaluation by the customer.
- Be Prepared for a Second Tier of Questions and Requirements. The manager leading the procurement decision for the client will often be responsible for determining shortlisting of the suppliers. He or she will often ask for further documentation in support of claims you make in your submission. You must be prepared for this. Don’t be caught out. If you say you have policies and procedures in support of certain business processes you must be able to produce them at short notice and they must be up to date with evidence that they work. My client was asked to provide evidence that they were prepared for the new and impending Government Data Protection Regulations. They had proactively attended seminars on this and were able to demonstrate this but needed to quickly amend and update their existing Data Protection policies to show that the understanding of the changes were now embedded into the company. Importantly my client was ahead of the curve with this because of their commitment to BS/EN ISO standards and the requirements of these for their ongoing certification, and the compliance team were already working on it. However if not prepared they could have easily been caught out.
- Prepare for Shortlisting Before the Decision has been Made. Don’t wait to be contacted in order to start preparing for a site visit, or for a presentation or interview. If you really want to impress the customer, you should prepare in advance. You may not be shortlisted….but the time spent preparing won’t be wasted. My client has spent time building a bespoke presentation and working with key staff to perfect it even before knowing if they will get chance to deliver it. The key here is that if they are shortlisted they will be confident and seamless through practicing its delivery. Just as importantly the staff feel valued and involved and the preparation has reinforced such important things as the company values and the core principles of the business that makes them so successful. If the customer wants a site visit then they will undoubtedly wish to speak to staff in the workplace. Put a focus group of trusted employees together and talk through likely questions and their answers. You won’t be able to cover off everything but all staff should know what to expect when the customer visits.