Winning Tenders – Even If You Have Never Tendered Before
Welcome. Watch the recorded How to Win Tenders Webinar below.
I recently gave a masterclass on winning tenders where I share some of the secrets to a great tender response. This video will demonstrate how to win tenders.
Due to popular demand, I have decided to share this with the visitors to my website. I share a few things I know about winning tenders and proposals. Knowledge that has been gained over a 15 year career as a project manager.
During this career as a project manager, I have issued and evaluated millions of dollars worth of tenders, and I can say without a doubt that most tender submissions fail to hit the mark.
The “How to Win Tenders” Webinar Recording Can Be Played Below.
I hope you enjoyed the How to Win Tenders Webinar. If you would like to discover more and register your interest to the Advanced Winning Tenders Workshop then please register now. Remember, this is a limited offer and I will only be running this workshop if there is sufficient interest.
Winning Tenders Masterclass Transcription
Chris: Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning this webinar. I know it’s a
Friday afternoon and you’ve all dedicated your beer time to
this, so I’ll make it quick. I’ll do my best to add some value
and I really hope that you’ll be able to put some of the action
steps from this video, or this webinar, into action and,
hopefully, win a lot more tenders than ever before.
The premise of this webinar is secrets to winning tenders, even
if you have never tendered before. What I hope to show you is
just give you some inside tips and secrets of what I look for in
tender responses and also what the tender evaluation panel is
looking to see. We’ll get straight into it.
How To Win Tenders Overview
What I’ll be covering in this session is I’ll give you a bit of
- an overview of the opportunity in tendering
- We’ll look at some of the different tendering strategies that are out there
- and how you can really look to optimise your tendering solution
- Understanding the Key Selection Criteria
- Common mistakes to avoid
- Free resources available
I know a lot of you will be thinking that tendering is hours and hours of work, and it can be, but, with some of these strategies, hopefully you’ll be able to keep that down to a minimum.
I’ll go through some of the key criteria that you really need to
look at and make sure you nail it down because they’re really
the key selection criteria that you must get right. I’ll also go
through some of the common mistakes that I see quite often. If
you can avoid these, you’ll also reduce some significant
penalties. I’ll share some tips that will help you win, these
are my big secrets, and a little bit of resources. Maybe you can
find some additional resources that will help you in your
About Me – Chris O’Halloran
Just a bit about me, so you know where I’m coming from, I own a
project management company called Striking Project Management. I
have an office in Brisbane and Shanghai. Basically, I sit on the
client’s side. That means that, in that role, I’m helping the
client to get the best value for the money in their project.
That starts with early planning of their project, putting
together the scope document, looking at how we are going to
procure it, whether it be through a tender process or an RFQ,
and then right through to delivery and hand over.
It’s the procurement process where I’m going to focus on
tonight, in this webinar. Obviously, a key impact in that
procurement process is the tender evaluation. I’ll speak a
little bit more on this later, why this is so important.
We work with small- to medium-sized businesses and larger
governments. A lot of our SME work is in helping them structure
their project management systems through our project management consulting services and delivering project
management services on their behalf. With that client-side work,
I have had a lot of experience in the tender evaluation,
particularly both chairing the panel and designing the tender
responses. Typically, the project manager plays a fairly key
role in the tender process.
I’ve been involved in about $35 million worth of projects, both
small, a couple of hundred thousand dollar projects, right up to
tens of millions of dollars’ worth of projects.
Why I am sharing this information
Why am I sharing this information? Well, basically, there are a
lot of tenders out there that just really don’t hit the mark. It
doesn’t do me any favors on the client side and it certainly
doesn’t do you guys any favors by not getting it right.
Basically, all I want to see is the best company delivering the
work for my client. From what I see, most companies are good at
what they do. They just don’t demonstrate it in their tender
The other side is maybe a little bit selfish, in that I hope
that if you win a tender, you might call me to help you with
your project management side in delivering that project for that
tender. It’s a bit of a two-sided coin there. If not, I know
that my clients will get a better result and hopefully I might
get some business out of it.
Now a view of the tender opportunity. Basically, we look at
there are huge opportunities in federal tenders. By that, we’re
looking at the main government, top tenders, things like your
AusTender, eTender portals. There’s stuff that handle direct government and they can be:
- Australia-wide tenders,
- fairly big multimillion dollar projects
- Right down, we can go to local government tenders.That’s Queensland, New South Wales,Victoria, through their own tendering portals.
- We have government agencies also. The larger utilities, things like the NBN and various others, or right down to the councils, like council websites, and larger companies are also offering tendering.
You see this a lot in commercial cleaning, advertising, construction. They all tender out for these larger projects.
Now, if we talk strategy in tendering, basically what we want to
try to do is plan tenders in advance. I know most people get
onto a tender quite late. They normally have two to three weeks
putting a tender response. To be honest, that’s not enough time.
What you can do, especially for larger tenders, is look at that
six- or 12-month horizon and plan in advance which tenders
you’re going to bid for and prepare for those well in advance.
What you can actually start doing is pulling together recent
relevant information and even resource up for that tender
A good tool for this is looking at the forward procurement
plans. You’ll see these on most of the government websites. Go
through the tendering portal and look for procurement policies,
forward procurement plans. They call them different terms on
different websites but if you look for something around
“procurement planning” and “forward procurement planning,”
you’ll get a long-term view of what tenders are in the pipeline.
These will be broken down by category. It could be an IT project
and it might say, “In 24 months we’ll be looking at rolling out
a new SAP system,” or, “The current commercial cleaning contract
is due to expire in eight months and that will be rereleased,”
or it could be a new panel of providers being raised in six
months. This gives you a fairly good indication of the upcoming
What you can then do is start to plan these ones out. You don’t
want to bid for all tenders in the same month because, if you
get them all, if you win them all, you’ll be in a lot of trouble
trying to resource up and deliver them. You’re much better off
picking one, two, three strategic tenders that you know you need
to win or you must win and really putting in a great response
for those. Then, you can do a couple of others in between those.
You don’t want to be in a position yourself where you can’t
deliver on the tenders you put forward.
Once you put together your tender responses, and I’ll go through
some of this tonight, basically most of it will be standard
documentation. What you want to try to get to is a point where
you have 70% of your tender documentations ready to go and
that’s through having standard templates, standard response
questions pre-prepared and really have this tender portfolio
ready to go.
You want to target only relevant tender opportunities. If you’re
a construction specialist, don’t go looking at an IT project,
for example. If you specialize in residential construction,
don’t put in a bid for commercial. You’re not helping yourself.
You need to only go with relevant tender opportunities. You’re
far better off to wait for the right ones and bid on the right
ones than trying to put in a response where you don’t have the
relevant experience. Even though the aim here is to have 70% of
the material pre-prepared, you still need to tailor it all for
Common tender writing mistakes
Some of the common mistakes that I see in tender responses is
noncompliance. Basically, if the tendering authority wants you
to submit two hard copies, one electronic, one in color and one
in black and white, you need to do that. Quite often, I’ll see a
company that will just submit one tender or send it on a USB
stick, even though it’s been requested that it comes in hard
Straightaway, if you get a lot of tenders and if you’re trying
to evaluate 30 or 40 tenders, you’re just going to call out
those nonconforming ones straightaway. It’s simple stuff and a
lot of it is commonly missed. Compliance to all the selection
criteria is critical and most of the stuff is hidden in plain
sight. It will tell you in the tender response requirements,
“Submit it on this date, in this format, with this information.”
The next big mistake that I see is tenders failing to
demonstrate their capability. What we’ll see is a provider
response to the tender questions and responses and they’ll tell
us that they can do it but they won’t prove that they can do it.
Every time you say that you can do something you need to
demonstrate it and you do that by showing relevant examples of
how you did in the past, how you would do it for this particular
tender, what’s different about the other tenders or what’s
different about this tender and how you will change your process
to suit this one.
The other one is failing to demonstrate the understanding of the
scope of the work of the project. Now, this is a little bit
different than capability. In capability, you’re trying to
demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to deliver
the project. When you’re trying to demonstrate your
understanding of the scope, you need to prove to the evaluation
panel that you know so much about this type of project that you
factored everything in, you understand the project so well.
…The least risky tenderer of the evaluation.
Nonconformance submission is another big one. When we say
“conforming” and “nonconforming,” a conforming bid is if I ask
for a brown table with a black leather insert, for example, but
you know that you build white tables with a blue leather insert,
a far superior product, in your belief, you might send a tender
in for that, a white table with a blue leather insert. That’s
what we call a “nonconforming bid.” It doesn’t conform to the
requirements of the tender because the tender may have asked for
a black table or a brown table with a black leather insert. You
need to submit a conforming bid, otherwise the tender evaluation
committee cannot evaluate the tender and it will get thrown out
as a nonconforming.
Another big mistake is that there’s no innovation in the tender
response. It’s a great opportunity to show innovation, how your
product or service is better than the competitor’s and
demonstrate that. You will get points for innovation in your
approach, innovation for your product, and you want to
demonstrate that. Now, in order to demonstrate innovation, in
most cases, you need to submit a nonconforming bid. It may be
slightly different to what they asked for but the result could
be a lot better or should be a lot greater value to the client.
The important thing when you’re submitting a nonconforming bid
or highly innovative approach, you also need to submit a
conforming bid. There are two responses then. You submit the
conforming bid, as exactly how the client asked for it, and then
you might back up and say, “However, we believe we can offer
superior value with this nonconforming bid.” That allows a
tender evaluation panel to review your bid, the conforming bid,
in line with all the others and they can measure apples against
apples, and then evaluate, on the basis of innovation, on your
Key criteria, again, you need to get all these right in order to
win a tender. Number one, as we touched on earlier, compliance,
and that is compliance with the response criteria and the
submission criteria. Really read through the tender response
What I strongly suggest to the clients I work with is that you
read through the tender response documents two or three times
and then take out an Excel spreadsheet and start writing down
all the requirements, everything from due date, how they want
the answers responded to, what format, the timing of the
project, everything to do with the tenders. Just write it all
down and you’ll come with a list and list of a couple pages long
of all these key selection criteria. Then, in the next table
over, just start writing down some of the support documents that
you might be able to submit to demonstrate that. If you can do
just that step, you’ll be so far ahead of most other tenders, it
won’t be funny.
The next key criterion is to show an understanding of the scope
of works. I know in a lot of cases it sounds simple, but if I’m
asking you to build me a building that’s going to be 13 stories
high and residential in nature, type out half a page explaining
some of the material you might use, some of the similar projects
that you’ve used, and some of the issues that have occurred on
similar projects and how you manage those. Really show a depth
and breadth of understanding of the scope of works. Repeat back
to me what you believe the project is about.
Approach and methodology, this is probably one of the hardest
ones to get right. In most tender responses, you’ll have key
criteria that ask you to demonstrate your approach to
methodology. These are open questions deliberately because we
want you to prove to us that you understand how to go about
delivering the project and that you can think methodically in
your approach. The only way to do that is by not giving you
closed questions. Basically, you need to come back and really
create a word picture around how you propose to go about
delivering this project and how you’re going to keep it on
You can do this in a number of ways. You can create a series of
word pictures or show a Gantt chart. You can show a process flow
or a workflow diagram. You can show all three, if that’s
required. You can show templates of how you’ve done similar
projects of similar scope. You need to walk through, from start
to finish, how you’ll go about doing the project and how you’ll
go about maintaining its scope and its time and budget
Risk management is quite often forgotten. It’s a great area to
grab extra points. It can be quite a simple process. List out a
dozen to two dozen key critical risks that could occur in a
project. If you’re experience in that scope of work, you’ll know
you’ve got to put this together quite quickly. You may even have
it already recorded. Certainly, all my clients do.
What you want to do is, again, list some of the key risks that
could occur. It doesn’t matter if they don’t or if it’s
unlikely. If it’s key risk, put it down. There’s a good chance
that the evaluation team, or certainly the project manager, is
aware of those risks. If you provide those same risks back, it’s
going to show a great level of understanding and it also will
support your understanding of the scope of work.
Once you capture those risks, you then also need to document how
you’ll mitigate and manage those. This is just in a simple Excel
template. What’s the risk, how likely is it to occur, what the
impact could be, and how you’ll go about managing that risk.
Value-for-money, most government tendering bodies will tell you
they’re after a value-for-money approach. What that means is it
gives governments and organizations a bit of flexibility in how
they go about their selection criteria. Value-for-money doesn’t
mean the cheapest tender bid. Value-for-money does not mean the
cheapest tender bid wins. It means the bid that shows the
highest value for money. What that is, is normally a way to
select some criteria. Money, dollar value, it ranges depending
on the project, but it’s normally around 50% or more. The money
normally has a 50% weighting but this is, again, very dependent
on the project and don’t use that as a gospel. It’s only a
guide. Some requests for tenders will actually show you the
selection criteria weightings, but if not, if you work 50%, it’s
probably not a bad starting point.
You demonstrate value-for-money by really proving that you’re
the least risky tenderer. By that, I mean you may not be the
cheapest but your response, your approach and methodology, your
understanding of the scope, and your risk management all give
you higher points and a certainty that you can deliver this
project on time and on budget.
If you can prove that you offer the least risk to the evaluation
committee and if you’re still within the ballpark of price,
you’ll certainly be shortlisted. If your price is way out, then
you will be discounted because either it was seen that you
didn’t understand the scope or you’re pricing into much risk.
That’s the same, again, for if your price is too low. You’ll
quite often be discounted. I’ve seen some tender evaluations
where they discount the highest and the lowest bid or any bid
that’s out of a 30% range. Depending on the project, depending
on the evaluation committee, you need to be in the ballpark, but
certainly you don’t need to be the cheapest.
Quite often, there will be bonus points for innovation. If you
can come up with an innovation or an innovative solution, put it
in there. It can only increase your score if the tendering body
is looking for innovation in their response. If they’re not,
you’re still going to get a better score because it only shows
that you know what you’re doing. If you can prove that, you’re
going to be in a lot better response.
Basically, all these criteria come down to a scoring sheet. They
all have different weightings and the total of the scores is how
they rank the tenders for value-for-money.
Tips to win more tenders
How do we win? That’s the key question. Well, basically, I said
it a couple times in this webinar so far. You win by
demonstrating that you are the least risk, that your tender is
the least risk to the client. You demonstrate a sound
methodology. Throughout your entire tender response, you need to
prove that you understand how you’ll go about delivering the
project. If you can tie it into a project management framework
or process, great. If you can tie it back to a best practice or
a standard, great. You need to understand the methodology and
then prove how you’ll do it and how you’ll keep it on track.
You demonstrate understanding of the risks. We talked about this
again before. List out the risks. I know it may seem simple, but
the fact that you’ve thought about those risks, you’ve planned
for those risks, it all shows that you understand the scope, you
understand the approach. You’re providing the least risk
approach to the market or to the tenderer.
Understanding of scope, you need to tell me that you know what
you’re talking about. Tell me that you understand what I’m
asking you to apprise. I need confidence that you know what
you’re apprising. You do that by showing similar projects that
you delivered. Show me that you done an on-time. If you went
over time, show me why and show me how you’ve learnt from that
Yes, you want to try to keep your tender responses positive, but
if you don’t have a positive demonstrable piece of experience,
even if it was slightly negative, but you showed me that you’ve
learnt from that and these are the process changes you put in
place into your business so it doesn’t happen again, it can only
add value. If you haven’t learnt from that experience and you
haven’t changed your process, obviously don’t put it in. If you
don’t demonstrate any of the key criteria area, you’ll score
poorly. In a number of tenders, if there is insufficient
information, you’ll fall below the minimum acceptable criteria
and you’ll be out automatically.
Unidentified key personnel, this is another one where people
tend to shy away from experience. They’ll put in one or two of
their own personnel. If they don’t have internal personnel,
they’ll tend to shy away and leave this one out. Not having the
internal personnel isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows far
more value if you identify that you don’t have one or two key
personnel but then you show me how you’re going to get that key
personnel. Maybe that could be through a subcontractor or it
could be that you will hire additional staff. It doesn’t really
matter. What’s more important is that you’ve identified that
skills gap for this particular project and you’re mitigating my
risk by finding a suitable candidate.
What I think most tender respondents do is they go, “Oh, we
don’t have a PRINCE2 project manager, a certified project
manager, so we’ll just leave that out,” and that doesn’t do any
favors. What they’re better off doing is identifying that they
have that gap and saying, “We don’t have a project manager with
this capability. However, we will subcontract this component out
to Striking Group, for example, who specialize in project
management.” That type of answer will get good marks. Then what
you do is you go to your subcontractor and you say, “Send me
your CV. Show me how you will deliver on this project.” For
example, a project manager or any other key personnel, get them
involved in the tender process upfront. You want to demonstrate
that you can deliver.
For me, as a client-side project manager, all I care about is
that I get it delivered on time, I get it delivered on budget, I
get it delivered within the quality criteria that’s required,
and it meets the needs and the benefits of the business. If I
can do that, then I’ve done my job. I’m going to pick the
company that is going to assist me to do that.
Demonstrate that you can deliver. You do that by demonstrating
that you know through your sound approach and methodology,
through your understanding of the risks, through your
understanding of scope, and your key personnel. All of this ties
together into demonstrating that you can deliver. This might be
key criteria that you’ll see. This is all stuff that comes
through when you combine and read the tender response in its
entirety. You study in the sense of who can deliver. How much
certainty is there in this contractor that he will deliver on
time and on budget?
My last little tip is read between the lines. Sometimes,
especially in high-risk tenders or projects, I won’t necessarily
tell you what those risks are or what some of the potential
issues could be because I want to see if you know what they are.
Quite often, it can be a little bit sneaky but read between the
lines, try to understand what some of the key risks are for the
client, for their business, and for the project, and just think
about what are some of the things that they can be concerned
If you’re building a building, for example, and there’s a new
standard coming out in the next couple of months, you may want
to identify that you incorporated some of those, what you
foresee those changes to be, if you’ve been involved in that
panel discussion, or how you will change the plan to suit that
new standard if it comes out and if it does impact. Certainly,
just try to think about some of the underlying issues that both
the project manager and the client could be concerned about.
Free tendering resources
Just some final resources that you might want to look at. The
AusTender website is great for some of the larger federal
governments. Most council websites also offer some registration
for tenderers online. Also, on these tendering portals,
AusTender and the local governments, a lot of them have forward
procurement planning policies that you can download.
There’s also paid searches. Things like Cordell TendersOnline,
TenderLink, eTenders, Tender Bulletins. They’re all basically a
paid service. You pay a monthly subscription or an annual
subscription and they email you out any relevant tenders that
are in your category. It’s all public information anyway. It’s
just there are thousands of different points were tenders are
released and these guys aggregate them and send them out. If you
don’t want to spend the money, you can register at each state,
federal, local, on all the respective websites.
Another great resource is local governments. They usually have
some great tender schedules and templates for free. If you dig
around, some of the governments, SA Government, Brisbane City
Council, Victorian government, they have some great tender
templates, a free download.
Also, another thing to consider is that, quite often, tenders
are open publicly. You’re welcome to go along and listen to
those opened up. What they’ll actually do is open up each
tender. They’ll open up the envelope and they’ll read out who
the tenderer is and what their submission bid was. If you’re
just starting out, you’re more than welcome to go along and just
listen to the tender bids that are opened up and what their
prices were. It’s a great bit of market research.
Also, local, state, and federal governments will normally post
the winning bid prices on the websites. A couple of months
later, you’ll normally find that ABC Company won the bid for
$1.2 million. That’s just a good bit of feedback if you did a
tender response and your bid was $1.5, then you probably know
that you’re a little bit out of the ballpark and you can look at
where you could have saved money or where you overpriced risk or
anything else in the tender process.
If there are any questions, just please send me an email
directly. I can’t seem to get the chat room working up tonight.
I’ll post an opportunity where you can send through some
If you want to learn anything, go the next step in this, I am
considering running an advanced workshop. It’ll probably be a
series over six to eight weeks. What we’ll do is probably the
same format but I’ll probably open up a chat room forum just so
we can continue the questions. It will be an hour to an hour and
a half each week, online, delivered like this. I’ll run through
all those steps in detail and many more that I didn’t get a
chance to cover off tonight. I’ll only do it if there’s
significant demand and it warrants it. If you’re interested,
just sign up and just leave me your name and email address. If I
hit the numbers, I’ll get in touch and we’ll organize it.
As I said, I will go deep into each key selection criteria, how
you could answer it, some of the example demonstration criteria
you may want to submit, and some key things to think about in
that’s selection criteria. The key point is I’ll show you how to
demonstrate everything. I’ll show you what you need to submit in
your tender, what it needs to look like, how it needs to be
formatted, and how you prove to be the least risky tender
submission. If you can get that right, you’ll be in a very good
position to win tenders.
Like I say, once we’ve done this once, you’re 70% there for all
future tenders. You just take that same information and put it
in. You may tweak it for different projects, but for all intents
and purposes, you’ll have this portfolio of tendered documents
that you can just submit.
It will be interactive weekly sessions. You’ll get out what you
put in. Given that it’s interactive weekly sessions, I will keep
it restricted to, I’m not sure of the numbers yet, maybe 10 or
20 people. I’ll keep it quite small so I can field questions
directly on the night. Again, it will be through an online
delivery. If you’re interested, I’ll put up a link and just let
me know via email if you want or wait for the link to come up.
As I say, I may not do it. I’ll only do it if I get enough
numbers that warrants it.
I hope you’ve got some value out of tonight. Unfortunately, I
didn’t have a lot of time to go really deep into some of the
topics but I really did share with you some of the most
important factors, I think. If you get those right, you will be
well and truly underway to tender success. Like anything, I hope
you put it into practice and I hope you win from it.
You can get in touch with me through Twitter @StrikingGroup. As
for my website, it’s StrikingProjectManagement.com. Email me
directly [email protected]. Thanks for listening and
I’ll speak to you soon.