Your sales team has come back with the detailed needs assessment and now the company has the opportunity to make its best shot.
In more complex sales there is a collaborative aspect to this and the efficiency in which the specialists in the company can produce their responses will very much guide the success or otherwise of the bid.
In my experience the sales person usually ends up as the unofficial chair of the project team, as he is most aware of the timelines, he has made the promise of the response, and he is most aware of the subtleties of the brief. Everyone else other has other priorities and pulling together a successful bid, if it is complex, is quite time-consuming.
A vision for the proposal usually needs designed and this may well be designing a combination of benefits for the customer and the special features that have been built into the solution to achieve this. This vision ideally should have the buy-in of all contributors to the bid and their departmental response should be dovetailed to the wider vision.
Often I find the best document to write first is the executive summary, as this encapsulates the salient points of the bid. It is the only document that is closely read by all the members of the purchasing team – alongside the pricing section. It might also be the only document that is closely read by all the members of your project team! Getting this document tight and right guides the rest of the submission.
As mentioned in the accompanying article on needs assessment little concessions from your perspective can have a big impression on your prospective customer. For instance managers want an easy life and want this contract to run smoothly with little worry or aggravation feeding back to them. Offering a robust reporting system that summarises all the issues on a periodic basis provides them with a document that they can use internally to demonstrate mastery of the details of the project to their peers. In effect you provide the performance monitoring and save them the chore of having to replicate the system. Incidentally it also provides key data for your relationship manager to have concerns flagged up early. Much better that he phones to warn of delivery deficiencies rather than being phoned by his counterpart to be informed of deficiencies.
The proposal document usually has several general elements to it. These can be classified as
- The summary document
- The pricing document
- Credentials materials demonstrating experience in this particular domain
- Operational issues on the running and fulfilment of the contract including training, back-up, support, reliability, day to day management, reporting and compliance with KPIs
- Quality materials demonstrating a commitment to excellence, safety and continuous improvement
- Contractual issues being aired
- Certification documents demonstrating legal and regulatory compliance to trade
- Some other documents can personalise the submission. Something on the personality and values of the company usually does not go amiss and also some career biographies on the key players in the fulfilment of the contract helps reassure and personalise. I personally like to incorporate diverse photographs and relevant case histories to once again personalise and humanise the submission and subliminally demonstrate breadth of experience.
I have produced an aide memoire on responding to tenders which may be helpful for companies considering bidding for more complex work. Ideally you need a literate wordsmith to help as spelling, punctuation, grammatical mistakes and poorly expressed sentiments can be very detrimental to the credibility of any organisation. A thorough check for such typos is well worth the effort before document despatch.