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How can partners win competitive tenders?

Robyn Haydon | July 11, 2016
Competitive tenders are no longer a numbers game, and the channel must change with the times.

Back when relationship selling was king and deals were done on a handshake, sales were a numbers game.

The more people you talked to, the luckier you got, and the more business came your way. Now, things are different.

We've moved from a time when people and personal relationships had a lot of power, to a time when deals of any size and value are transacted through formal procurement processes like competitive tenders.

Since the 1980s, competitive tendering has grown quickly. In 2014-15, one of Australia's largest buyers - the Federal government - spent $59.447 billion buying goods and services through Austender, and issued 69,236 supplier contracts.

The game has changed, and our thinking needs to change too.

Submitting competitive tenders is like feeding coins into a slot machine; your chances of winning don't get any better as your supply of coins goes down. In fact, the opposite is true.

The more tenders you invest time and effort in, but don't win, the more discouraged you're likely to get.

Buyers don't give you good feedback - or any feedback. All you're really doing is depleting your most important currency, the energy, enthusiasm and engagement of your team, for absolutely zero return.

Responding to tenders is a tough way to win business:

  • Tenders are time consuming - You can spend anywhere from one day to many months on a tender response. This sucks resources from other valuable activities
  • Tenders are unpredictable - The tender was due out in June, but it arrives in September. This makes it impossible to plan for and resource
  • Tenders are relentless - You're constantly going from one tender to the next, or juggling multiple bids at once. This creates burnout and ill will among your team
  • Tenders can cost a lot of money - none of which is recoverable if you lose. Or, as one exasperated client of mine said recently, "it's like buyers have a blank cheque to spend our money on their tenders"

People will try to tell you you're not winning because you "didn't write the tender", meaning the buyer didn't go to market based on the specifications you gave them - this is baloney.

Buyers are smarter than that; they won't deliberately favour one vendor. And plenty of people have won competitive tenders without any prior relationship with the buyer.

So what is the solution to this problem?

It is possible to win more tenders just by being more selective, and therefore directing your energy and enthusiasm to the opportunities you are best placed to win.

This starts by realistically analysing your chances of success according to three different perspectives; internal, external, and opportunity fit.

The internal perspective considers how well the opportunity suits us. Is it a good strategic fit for us? Do we want it? Can we bid confidently in the timeframe without risking our other customers or business?


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