When we work with companies, they often ask us what a good business proposal or bid looks like. Normally, they ask what a well produced document might look like but this is not as helpful for many as they initially think it might be. A good works (construction) bid looks nothing like an office supplies bid.
What good bids have in common is that they demonstrate insight and understanding of the buyer’s needs. These needs fall into a few scenarios however so a good bid needs to reflect what the buyer is looking for from the market.
Things a bidder should know
- What are the drivers behind the organisation going to market? In simple terms, what is the current situation and why are the organisation seeking to change things?
- What is the objective of the tender process? Are they seeking an assessment of what needs to be done, a plan for change or the implementation of change?
- What are the desired outcomes? Are the buyers seeking insight, a plan or implementation of an objective?
Good bids accurately and appropriately address buyer needs. This only happens however when their needs are met in a clear and logical manner.
Applying logic to a proposal / bid
Buyers are looking for the prospective vendors to logically address their problem and outline how their proposed solution will deliver the desired benefits. The following framework applies to all tendering scenarios and buyers are looking for:
- The current situation and its effects to be outlined and framed by the vendors;
- The solution to the situation to be expanded upon by the vendors; and
- The desired result and the attendant benefits to be identified and explained.
Building on this framework, all high quality bids ensure:
- The interpretation of the problem, the effects and benefits are aligned;
- The proposed solution (deliverables) aligns with the desired result and overall objective;
- The proposed solution (deliverables) align with the benefits; and
- The desired result and overall objective aligns with the benefits.
To some, the four bullet points might look like repetition but they are anything but repetition. These essential principles are a bid’s equivalent of the balanced equation in mathematics. Integrating them into a bid design ensures there is a progressive, complementary logic to the narrative put forward by the bidder to the buyer.
This process helps vendors developing bids to identify their value proposition in a specific context. The context directly relates to how they are resolving a business challenge for the buyer. The vendor can develop their pricing on the back of this work more readily and easily link their pricing to the proposed benefits and overarching project objectives.
The use of themes
Good bids often deploy themes in their narrative structure. Themes highlight the essential, compelling nature of the vendor’s story and how they are going to deliver what the buyer wants from them. The themes should align to both the award criteria and ideally (where a bidder knows the decision makers), the issues that matter most to the people making the decision. This means ensuring aspects of the bid stand out at certain points to those people that will be making the final decision.
Where possible, bids should be focused and meet the needs of the buyer in as few pages as possible. For the public sector this means ensuring bids are kept under a maximum of forty pages unless otherwise indicated (there may be other documents required that run to multiples of this but the core bid should be less than 40 pages where possible). For the private sector, a good bid can easily be shorter than this again. In most cases, it can and should be.
Applying these disciplines or working with companies like Keystone Procurement ensures bids conform to these principles while laying a path towards greater success in formal tendering processes in the private sector or the public sector.