If you’re in the business of selling to the government, then you know that the tender process can be long, complicated, and frustrating. But the good news is that there are some strategies you can adopt to increase your chances of success. Here are six tips for winning government tenders.

1. Know the customer

The first step is to understand the needs and wants of your potential customer. What are their priorities? What are they looking for in a supplier? The better you know the customer, the better positioned you’ll be to win their business.

Even if you don’t already have a relationship with the customer, read the tender document thoroughly and ensure that you understand what is being asked – take the time to read the background, the objectives and purpose. This usually provides excellent insight into the key drivers and the possible problem, issues or challenges facing the agency.

2. Do your planning

Before you even start working on your bid, make sure you know everything there is to know about the tender process. What are the requirements? What is the timeline? Who is involved in the decision-making process? The more prepared you are, the smoother the process will be.

Creating and sticking to a bid plan is essential for meeting deadlines and reducing the risk of low evaluation scores or worse – non-compliance and disqualification. Effective bid plans should include the identification of tasks, the order they will be done in, required resources and review cycles. Time should also be set aside for regular bid plan reviews so any risks can be identified early on in the bid process, allowing a team more time to come up with contingencies or solutions if needed.

3. Make it personal

One mistake that companies make when bidding on government contracts is that they treat the process like a numbers game. They submit a generic proposal that could be used for any customer, without tailoring it to the specific needs of the government agency they’re trying to win over. But if you want to win, you need to make it personal. Your proposal should be tailored specifically to the agency’s needs and requirements.

Focus on the value proposition. This is what tells the story about what is unique and distinct about your company, and the goods or services it provides. It will give you stronger alignment to your brand personality.  By this we mean the tone and character you are conveying; your positioning, which is your differentiation in the marketplace; and your promise – which are the claims you make.

Another one is to have a stronger, demonstrated understanding of the customer’s needs or requirements versus your competitors. This extends to showing how you understand their business issues as well as those of strategic significance facing them, and their own customers or clients.

4. Think outside the box

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your proposal. The government is often looking for innovative solutions, so if you have something unique to offer, make sure you highlight it in your bid.

Help the customer by coming up with ideas – from alternative ways of doing things to how to tackle possible worries about future resourcing and staffing implications, or the impact of restructure on their business. Remember, people do the evaluating so reducing their perceptions of risk (whether this be resistence to change, or insecurity about their own job security) can sometimes come into play. By building trust this positions you more effectively as being a strategic adviser. Consider offering value-added services such as additional advice, training, products, or even unique partnerships that may benefit your customers in some way.

5. Support your claims

Whenever you make a claim in your proposal—for example, that your product is better than the competition—be sure to back it up with evidence. Whether it’s customer testimonials or independent research, supporting data will go a long way towards convincing evaluators that your bid is worth considering.

Differentiating through the use of evidence-based reporting. If you have statistics or Key Performance Indicators that demonstrate successful outcomes, use them to back up your claims. If you’re allowed to include graphs or charts, this can be a powerful visual to convey metrics very succinctly.

 6. Pay attention to detail

The devil is in the details when it comes to government tenders—if you’re not careful, small mistakes can cost you big time. So before you submit your proposal, take some time to proofread it and make sure all of your information is accurate, relevant, and in the correct format.

Read all of the documentation, including the background, scope of requirements, the conditions of contract and the selection criteria.  It is really quite amazing how easily a company can be disqualified from the evaluation process even if they’ve done so much work. All it takes is the wrong font, or a non-compliant or off topic response to lose marks or be eliminated altogether.

Make the document easy to navigate. Use the “follow the bouncing ball” principle. Follow the structure of the tender, and mirror the same headings and sub-headings back in your bid response. Don’t expect evaluators to have to dig around and make sense of your submission. When they evaluate it, they’ll carve up your submission question by question. Make sure you follow the same format of the tender to make this easy for them.

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