The First Rule of Winning Public Tenders
“Look Forward and Reason Backward.”
Schmoozing clients over dinner and drinks is great fun but it’s no longer the key to winning major contracts. In today’s transparent business world you are more than likely going to have to tender for large contracts in both the public and private sectors. If you’re serious about building your business you’re going to have to submit excellent bids and develop a strategy in order to do so.
Most companies have a haphazard approach to tendering. They usually don’t prepare for a bid response in advance of the Request for Tender dropping. More often than not it takes them by surprise. The subsequent activity to produce a compliant response is chaotic resulting in a substandard bid which comes nowhere near winning.
The first rule of strategy, according to game theorists Dixit and Nalebuff, is to “look forward and reason backward.” As an owner or CEO you are ultimately going to have a vision and ambition for your business. It could by anything from becoming a market leader within 5 years to building the business in order to attract a suitor within the same time frame. Either way you are going to have to articulate what the business will potentially look like at the end of that period.
At the outset of large business transformation projects executives often make large ambitious declarations in order to transform the future of their organisations. According to Tracy Goss, a well-known U.S. consultant, “a declaration is an act of speaking that brings forth a future the moment it is spoken…Once you declare a specific impossible future, your way of being now operates in relationship to that declaration.”
From John F. Kennedy announcing that the U.S. would put a man on the moon and bring him back safely to Earth by the end of the Sixties to the reading of the Proclamation of Irish Independence outside the G.P.O. in 1916, the power of making a declaration should be obvious. Aussie swim coach, Brenton Ford, hit on why it’s important to make declarations in one of his Effortless Swimming newsletters when he wrote:
“A friend of mine has registered for next year’s Melbourne Ironman. It will be his first one. The small act of registering will set in place an entirely different twelve months than if he hadn’t registered. Why? Because he now has a reason not to hit the “snooze” button. When it’s cold and wet outside, the challenge he has coming in March 2014 will be pulling him out the door and to the pool like a persistent child nagging to get what he wants. When you set a big goal it sits in the back of your mind with every decision you make. “Should I eat this donut?” ….”If I skip this session I promise I’ll make it up tomorrow.” When your big goal is set, it’s easy to make those decisions.”
Once you’ve finished “looking forward” you can then “reason backward” and look at the following issues.
• Portfolio of Services: What mix of contracts does your company need to win in order to achieve the projected growth?
• Buyers: Who are the key decision makers who award these contracts and how do you build strong and ethical relationships with them?
• Competitors: Who are your competitors? What do you know of their capabilities and pricing? How do you find out more about them in order to beat them?
• Internal Capabilities: What about your own internal capabilities? Does your company have services, systems and processes that are fit for purpose? If not, what do you need to do to improve them?
• Alliances: Do you need to partner or sub contract with external companies in order to win contracts or enhance your own capability?
Hopefully this piece has helped you get a firmer understanding on the first step regarding winning public sector tenders.
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