Does your business model require you to bid for work? Is your success rate as good as you might like? This podcast is all about writing bids. We pose the question – how do you create a winning bid?
Writing Bids: How to Create a Winning Bid
This podcast is all about writing bids. The Next 100 Days Podcast often covers generating leads and closing sales. For many businesses, generating leads isn’t what they do. Instead they are responding by writing bids to opportunities that have been published somewhere.
So how do can you be compelling and win more often when you are writings bids? Kevin Appleby explains.
Are you looking for contracts? Where the process for getting that sale is writing bids. Lead generation doesn’t really come into it. It is more important how you create a winning bid.
First, Get On Frameworks
Kevin’s experience is largely based on consulting within the public sector. The way you get in is by being part of various ‘frameworks’. Normally you find yourself writing bids to get onto those frameworks. A framework is part of the public sector procurement rules. If you are doing a full tender in the public sector, you have to follow a process called OJEU. That’s all about the European Journal for Opportunities. (Read more on this link)
A public sector contract should be advertised in OJEU. Advertised to the world and anyone can apply. But, beware, it is a horrendously long process. A public body would have gone to OJEU and put a framework out, saying over the next 5 years, we are going to let £20m of work of this nature – finance, IT contracts etc. Various people will bid to be ‘on the framework’. You qualify by showing that generally you are capable of doing a lot of things.
There might be 10 or 20 or 30 suppliers on a framework. So when the proper opportunity comes out, maybe valued £50,000, the public body can then contract MUCH QUICKER. By issuing an opportunity to the framework and asking people to respond. Then rather than being a 6 month process, that most OJEUs end up in, it can become a 3 to 6 week process.
Also in the UK, there is something called Contracts Finder.
These are for lower value contracts that are advertised and anybody can go into the Contracts Finder website, browse through the opportunities that are on there and can if they wish submit a bid.
Managing a Bid Team
Earlier in Kevin Appleby’s career, he managed a bid team. Writing bids for some of these contracts can expensive. Kevin recalls bidding for contracts valued between £10,000 and £5-10m. The bigger the opportunity the more effort goes into it. You are investing more time in this process. His consultancy found that while they were winning enough bids to keep going, they were writing bids for a huge number of tenders.
Their win rate wasn’t fantastic! They were winning between 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 bids.
Obviously, they were bearing the cost of the 6 that they didn’t win. Their business decided to do something about moving the bid rate from 1 in 7 to nearer 1 in 3. Kevin was asked to sort that problem out.
They did two things:
- More careful about which tenders they bid for.
- Evolved a process for writing bids that meant they presented compelling and winning bids.
Free Bid Proposal Template
Kevin designed a BID PROPOSAL TEMPLATE. This is what you can get your hands on right here! It is Free. It is very similar to the original. If you are writing bids this template will help you.
It allows you to think through:
- The story you are telling.
- The problems the potential client has got.
- What is special about your solution?
- What will you emphasise as your unique selling point?
- Who are your competitors and what will they say.
- What are your strengths and what are your competitors weaknesses?
- How will you structure your bid.
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Are You Writing Bids For Opportunities You Shouldn’t?
We understand it’s difficult when you are chasing work. It’s an unwritten rule:
If you are not busy, you get the clients you deserve,
if you are busy, you get the clients you want.
So what are the criteria you need to have in a good qualification system? When an opportunity comes up, ask yourself these questions?
- Can we do the work?
- Do we have a relationship with the client? (the ones you’ll win will tend to be those where you have an existing relationship, because you’ll have a deeper understanding of their issues. Under the skin? In your response, you can talk more directly about solving their problem.) Do you know people at the client?
Another issue Kevin found was that a bid manager might write the response, and a bid director would review it. That would generate loads of changes, because the reviewing person hadn’t been involved in the writing bids process. Last minute panic. You have to engineer this OUT of the system. It will stop you win work.
The Bid Proposal Template
Additionally, Kevin introduced a bid proposal template. They went through the template to figure out how they would respond. How they would go about writing bids. BEFORE they wrote a single word.
So, instead of the finished bid prompting a last minute review, the strategic discussion came first. Now that is smart! It is a decision gate, get through it before you waste time on the proposal. Just imagine HOW MUCH TIME IT CAN SAVE YOU.
The template splits into 2 parts:
B: Storyboard – how will you tell the story about your strategy.
The template captures a number of things that are important to help writing bids.
- What are the key facts? Be clear what you know about it. Start and finish dates. Scope, Deliverables. Reports. Priorities. Most and Least Important.
- Who will write the bid? Who will review the bid.
- Capture customer intelligence – add it and put it down on the page. What is their evaluation process. Who are the key decision makers. What are their worries and concerns. What questions will they ask. If you cannot write a decent response, and you dont have extra intelligence, it is another gateway to help you say DON’T BID.
- Who else will be bidding? Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of competitors? Do you know of projects that have gone wrong?
- Define your winning strategy, max your strengths and your competitor’s weaknesses. Can you discredit their abilities? Subtle, not cutthroat. Emphasis the value from your bid. What’s your quality and price? Minimally compliant, low cost. Fully compliant, high price.
Decided on these things, you can start thinking about how you’ll tell your story.
- What are you are win themes. You are answering the USP question. Why choose you, versus other competitors. Add detailed case studies. Track record of doing this before. Methodologies. Client lists. Choose according to your win theme, choose quotations. Reference sites – name and phone number of a particular client. Check with the client before you write anything. Focus on their themes. Short and NO MORE THAN 3 per proposal. 3 big reasons you should choose us. Evidence what you will do.
- Graphics – a picture can paint a thousand words. But good pictures take time. What do you want to show? Get a graphics design expert sorted upfront, using your initial sketch.
Then to the key stakeholders, you can ask them to decide a GO, NO GO on the bid.
How long should be the document? As long as it needs to be to cover the strengths and benefits that the client will find attract to them.
Remember, above all, solve their problem.
Kevin got his firm’s winning bid outcomes to 1 in 3. It was roughly 50:50 – not bidding and improving the quality of bids.
Not bad, not bad at all!