Working as a bid consultant helping companies tendering for contracts, I live and breathe tenders. I see a lot of people who really don't want to work on tenders and wish they didn't have to.
But the reality of procurement these days is that using a "request for tender" to procure goods and services is an excellent way to get better value for money in the market.
Tendering is, therefore, an excellent way of growing your business if you know how to submit a professional tender.
The public sector market in Ireland alone is worth around €13bn a year, with requests for tenders advertised daily on www.etenders.gov.ie.
If you wish to sell goods or services to a state-funded agency, you'll have to complete a tender submission.
If you consider the EU market, or International Financial Institution (IFI)-funded projects, there are billions of euro of contracts advertised annually for tender. But before you think about these, you need to know how to tender.
So here are my Ten Commandments of Tendering to save you money and win valuable contracts through your tenders:
1 Thou shalt not submit a late tender, particularly when bidding to public sector buyers -- they cannot open late tenders under any circumstances.
2 Thou shalt read the question and answer the question. What has the buyer asked for, what does the buyer want, what are the buyer's requirements and how are we going to meet them?
3 Thou shalt pay attention to the marking criteria. The % marks available tells you what is most important to a buyer -- is it price, methodology, quality of product or quality of service? Pay more attention to that which has the highest mark.
4 Thou shalt make yourself known to buyers. Don't tender for work if you have not met a buyer already and introduced your company, product or services to that buyer.
5 Thou shalt pass the qualification criteria. If you don't pass the minimum requirements the buyer won't even look at your award criteria responses. That means having the minimum turnover, insurance requirements, previous experience, whatever is required.
6 Thou shalt submit a professional tender. A well-designed cover or folder, with lots of images and a professional representation of your company. No typos, no grammatical errors, no sloppy text, your appendices should be well referenced, all showing how professional your company is.
7 Thou shalt tender for work that thou has a chance of winning. Don't bother tendering for contracts you have no hope of winning. Only bid for work that you have a 50/50 chance of winning.
You should know the market well enough to know if you have a chance.
8 Thou shalt write clear answers to questions. Buyers need clear, concise answers in order to provide marks to them. If they don't clearly know what you are saying, they will find it difficult to give you marks. Remember, public sector buyers have to comply with public procurement rules in awarding marks and contracts to suppliers.
9 Thou shalt make it as easy as possible for buyers to read your tender submission. Follow the numbering scheme of the request for tender, follow the structure of the question with headings and sub-headings. Explain with the use of diagrams, graphs and flow charts as to why your solution is the best. Gauge what the criteria and sub-criteria is so you are complying with the marking scheme.
10 Thou shalt not leave tenders until the last minute. Yes, they take time, and you have to plan your responses to meet the award criteria. Tendering is a skill that requires a very high level of attention to detail, and should be managed like a project. You need a strategy to work out the best approach to win the contract, and this takes time.
Wayne Dignam is managing director of Tender Team, which helps clients manage and improve their tenders. www.tenderteam.ie