Michael McCormack, the minister for small business, declared the awarding of more government contacts to SMEs to be a key goal of his ministerial portfolio in January. Still, many SMEs find it difficult to navigate the tender process.
Having advised hundreds of small-to-medium-sized businesses on tenders and strategic procurement, here are three tips to assist you in positioning to win and increasing your success rate:
Whether you are tendering to provide cleaning services or IT solutions, you need to be organised in advance. Once a tender lands, you’ll generally have only two to three weeks to respond. The last thing you need is to be scrambling to get your house in order.
Are your insurances current? Are the certificates easy to locate? Depending upon what sector you’re in and the size of the contract, you might be asked for audited financial statements. How quickly could you produce these?
If you are in the professional services, you’re essentially selling your people. That means each of your team members will need to have an up-to-date CV that captures their experience, education, memberships, key projects and accreditations.
Certainly, you will want to customise these to each opportunity but maintaining high-quality generic CVs will save you both time and anxiety.
Once you have made the decision to tender for a contract or piece of work, it’s important that you manage the project carefully and efficiently.
Think about what skills and resources you’ll need to complete your tender. If there are financial questions, your CFO might be required. If there are work health and safety questions, you might need to engage someone from HR. If there are data or privacy-related questions, you’re going to need input from IT.
You’re almost certainly going to need someone with strong Microsoft Office skills. Their role will include pulling all content together and ensuring your response is compliant.
You would be wise to include communications expert on your team. Business writing is a profession in its own right, and you need to ensure you are communicating concisely and with clarity.
Also, allow plenty of time for proofreading and editing, particularly if multiple people are contributing to the document. You want to make sure you are speaking with ‘one voice’.
In most cases, you’d be wise to produce your tender in Word, and then submit it as a PDF file.
However, remember tenders are essentially marketing documents. Think about how you can convey what you need to in ways other than text. Diagrams and charts will add colour and interest to your document.
Once you have assembled your team, allocate responsibilities and deadlines.
One of the challenges faced by SMEs is they often do not have the credentials or capacity to tender alone. Partnering with other businesses or contractors may bolster your prospects of success.
As an example, perhaps you are a roofing contractor responding to a tender that requires both roofing and carpentry. Or you are a physiotherapist and are responding to a tender for combined physiotherapy and occupational therapy services. Put relationships in place now. Don’t wait until an RFP lands.
Jason Cooney is the director of The Tender Team, which provides tender and bid writing support to small and medium-sized businesses across Australia.