To Tender or Not to Tender?

To Tender or Not to Tender?


An old adage says; “only bid for business where you have an 80% chance of winning”. Don’t waste time and money on tenders you can’t win, rather wait for the tender opportunity that is right for your company.

Related: How To Make A Success of Tendering

You need to take your bid-vs-no-bid decision on a factual and logical basis, not an emotional one. Tying up expensive resources on responding to government tenders with little hope of success is pointless. 

Can you meet the buyer’s requirements?

Read the specifications and Scope of Work carefully and establish if you can do most of the work. If there are gaps, how will you fulfil these? If some of the work is not your core competence, will you bid as a joint venture or using sub-contractors?

Look at where they need the product or service, its geographical locations and access routes. Do they insist on any compulsory accreditations or licences? Consider their timeframe and your available resources. Make sure you can match the technical skill requirements asked for.

Do you really want this type of work?

Winning a tender and announcing it a success will ring empty if you are going to make a loss on it. Review the tender requirements against your company goals. Is it in line with your strategy or does it just look like it might be prestigious or fun to do? How much will it cost you to prepare your bid?

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Make sure you factor in all the expenses. Assess how the contract would affect your other work, staffing and ability to take on other new business opportunities.

Can you show relevant experience?

The buyer will want proof that you can do the job. You will need to supply references and/or testimonials from organisations where you have delivered a similar solution.

A verifiable track record in the field will impress. Start-ups may have a challenge here but if you can demonstrate the required level of expertise and have a plan to offer on how you will deliver, it can work. The size of your company usually dictates the maximum size of contract you are likely to win, so be realistic.

Do you know what the buyer really wants?

Make sure the buyer is serious and is not just testing the market (also known as benchmarking!) You’re not there to make up the numbers. Always go to the supplier briefing or site meeting even if it not compulsory.

Ask the right questions, pick up new information and get to see the competition. There are usually a few days for questions and answers during the tender process, make good use of this facility and get clarification.

Related: Are Tenders Timewaster or a Great Business Generator?

Do you have the capacity, time and skill to complete the document?

It is easy to underestimate the effort needed to complete tender documents. Most bids are completed somewhere between midnight and breakfast time on the day the tender is due in.

Designing and printing the document is time consuming and it must be 100% error free if you hope to have a winning bid.

Get your staff trained in proposal preparation or use a consultant or other resources to help. Your competitor will be using infographics, video links and other gizmos to wow the buyer.

Even if you don’t win the work this time, writing and submitting a tender can clarify your aims, strengths and weaknesses and you can learn for next time. Ask for feedback on your bid. Getting the process right improves your winning bid ratio.

Elaine Porteous
The author, Elaine Porteous, is a business writer and commentator on procurement and supply chain issues. She also writes on human resources and career topics. For more details, see her website

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