Authors: Peter Terwee and Hannah Cui
This is a guide to help you work through crafting a bid response- with all the questions we'd ask if we were bidding!
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” Peter F. Drucker
What are RFTs?
A Request for Tender (RFT) is an opportunity for potential suppliers to submit an offer to supply goods or services against a detailed tender or set of requirements.
Who’s involved in an RFT Response?
Most people assemble a bid team to respond to RFT’s. Depending on the breadth of the request, teams can range from 1 part time person, to a distributed multi-national team made up of 50+ people for large, complex bid responses.
Let’s first view the Response Guide through the lens of PMLogic’s five Strategy Implementation Principles – Purpose | People | Practices | Platform | Performance:
PURPOSE – We need to understand the scope, the business case for responding, and that we can meet or exceed the bid criteria
PEOPLE – We will need a range of people’s expertise to coordinate and collaborate on development of the bid response
PRACTICE - Methods or processes we will employ to prepare the tender response (repeatable process, re-usable content, a project)
PLATFORM – Which Office productivity tools will be needed? eg SharePoint, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project, Visio etc
PERFORMANCE – How will we ensure we provide a quality and timely response that has
Now, let’s use PMLogic’s award-winning DELIVER approach to walk through building our compelling bid response:
Understand the customer:
What's their organisation trying to achieve?
Clear understanding of the selection criteria
If applicable- what have we learnt from working with them in the past?
Research the organisation and speak to people who have worked with them in past.
Understand your organisation:
What is your organisation’s purpose- and is there some overarching strategic alignment in taking on this assignment with your business plan?
Are you well placed to help them? I.e. meet the technical/functional/architectural requirements and solution scope, as well as timeframes being stipulated?
SWOT analysis time! Brainstorm your company’s strengths and weaknesses against their requirements, and any opportunities and threats to be considered.
Strengths and Weaknesses- consider your resources (time, money, people-power, technology), your strongest assets and expertise available.
Opportunities- potential for value add, longer term work, branching out.
Threats- competition that is significantly stronger, cost, potential fluctuations in market.
Other things to examine:
Are we well placed to develop a creditable program/project planning to deliver the solution? And do we have a sound approach to sustainment and operation of the solution?
Can comply or closely comply to the requested commercial positions (including various draft contract terms and conditions, liability clauses, Intellectual Property, insurances, and how risks may be managed and shared).
What has your organisation learned about responding to bids in the past?
Review previous or similar bids, check lessons learnt from them, have a read/review of them, and see if you can re-use relevant material from them (doing this will hopefully save you some work!)
Which past bids have won, and why? (extract, so you can replicate)
Have you dealt with this company (or similar)- what did you learn from those experiences?
Can you improve on your bid timeline? Don’t be complacent about that deadline- all bids teams have a habit of doing a lot of work in the last week which can sometimes compromise your response. Think about how you get more done early leaving time to review and improve the quality of the bid
Make a plan- failing to plan means planning to fail.
Appoint a bid manager/coordinator to oversee the bid to completion.
If you have a team- assign roles, and engage experts for any gaps in expertise.
Set up a timeline or schedule for the writing (implementing) the bid - noting important milestones
Break down the bid response into trackable sections e.g. Section 1 due dd/mm, Full Draft 1 due dd/mm etc with due dates and assigned resources
Create draft content that must answer the questions and selection criteria – again, here you can check that you either meet or exceed their needs
Using the diversity within your team, brainstorm and design a compelling technical, delivery and commercial offer. An offer that:
Demonstrates value for money – is an efficient and effective solution response to the requirements of the tender
Highlights the strengths of your products and services, and the reasons why your company, partners and people are best placed to serve the interests of the purchaser
Demonstrates your understanding of the risks and how your proposal will manage customer risk and your delivery risks.
Validate that you’re still on track with answering against the bid criteria, and that your solution is going to achieve their desired purpose or outcome.
Validate the schedule and their written deliverables with all the key stakeholders, make sure they know what’s expected of them by when
Regularly check on progress to bid completion- we recommend setting up regular slots when the bid writing team or key leads meet to update each other on progress and important decisions being taken, and to adjust the plan as needed.
When the bulk of your response is written up- final steps to completion!
Keep it simple (stupid)- make sure the reader will understand what you’ve written! - Be clear and concise – “less is more” [let’s avoid boring the assessors with long-winded explanations that add little value] - Language- assume the reader is not an expert- avoid jargon and acronyms, check spelling and grammar - Add visual elements to help clarify: diagrams, graphs or infographics to break down complex ideas use some colour- highlight strengths and key messages to make them pop!
Ask for feedback to quality-check the response from: - Other team members or managers- are the questions answered to the level of quality expected? - Independent reviews- ‘fresh eyes’ who can respectfully challenge your assumptions - if the response is no longer looking ROI-positive or doesn’t answer criteria, consider stopping it.
Make sure you leave adequate time to submit the tender - we recommend the day prior to the deadline just to be super safe and avoid panic!
Keep an eye on that ROI- make sure you stand to make a profit from responding
How’s the team responding to following the DELIVER approach, as a way of working?
Could DELIVER be replicated for next time? Which elements could be tweaked? Capture lessons learned and adjust your Practices as needed.
If you’ve got all these key components checked off, you’re well on your way to writing a competitive response that will win you the job. Good luck!
Need some advice or assistance writing an RFT Response, or the deadline is coming up VERY SOON and you'd like a hand (we've all been there too-panic mode!)?
Let PMLogic help you out.
With decades of experience, particularly in dealing with Federal Government RFTs, we are well equipped with expertise to help you understand the typical requirements as well as the drivers behind the specific selection criteria or commercial terms.
We can support you:
Coordinate your bid team
Write/review the RFT response
Lead or participate in any Competitive Dialogue process
Prepare and conduct presentations and workshops
Craft a compelling Executive overview or summary
Participate in Offer Definition Improvement Ativities (ODIA)
Done for you- write a complete and compelling RFT response.
Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our capabilities and availability.