A guide to SUCCESS

In her latest blog, Alison Colyer shares her highlights from a recent training session on successful tendering.

I recently attended one of NEPO’s Business Club events on “Successful tendering” – supported by B2B North. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. NEPO did a fantastic job engaging with North East SME’s. The full turn out on the day demonstrated that.

It was wonderful to see people wanting to grow their businesses and learn about winning opportunities with the public-sector. When I was a supplier, I would have jumped at the chance to speak to someone who understood what buyers want. And this event did just that.

A question I hear frequently from our suppliers is how to access more business via NEPRO. The answer is by keeping their Bloom profiles up to date and demonstrating #suppliability (the total capability of an organisation) with relevant case studies. But this doesn’t answer the much larger question about how to win.

The “Successful Tendering” Business Club event covered this in detail and has inspired me to write this quick guide. Therefore, I give you my plan for SUCCESS in seven high-level steps.

Structure – Plan the bid. Bid the plan.

Have a structured process that runs from opportunity identification and pre-engagement through to implementation; with clearly defined milestones and outcomes from each task. This process then becomes your master plan, which you adapt for each opportunity.

It needs to be scalable as the full process won’t be needed for every bid. i.e. a £10K opportunity shouldn’t have the same resource as £10M one. And a reactive bid doesn’t need pre-engagement, whereas a pre-identified customer might.

The point being it takes time and resource to win new business – so choose the activities that will help you win. Use your plan, agree tasks and owners based on the size / value / timescales and stick to it.

Save your plan with your bid collateral – which should always be collated and organised.

Understand – Read the documents.

This sounds basic, but it is key. Read and understand all documents ASAP and catalogue / ask clarification questions.

As mentioned, winning business takes time, so focus on opportunities you want to win / deliver. Being half way through a bid before realising it can’t be delivered isn’t a position you want to be in. It’s a waste of time, resource and will impact other bids. Having a full understanding of the customers requirements and answers to clarifications will influence your bid / no bid decision.

Continue – Not bidding is as important as bidding.

Note: No writing has happened yet. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to create a winning response.

This is an important gate, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. When developing your scalable process, you should also set a bid / no bid criteria to follow.

What’s the risk? Strong incumbent? In line with business strategy? Strategic client? Value? Timescales achievable? Can we deliver? Available resource? Any showstoppers? Impact BAU?

These are example questions that will dictate a bid / no bid decision and help prioritise your opportunities. You can even create a scoring mechanism if that helps. But use the criteria and stick to your decision.

Create – Write the bid.

Remember being taught exam technique at school? Well the same method applies here:

  • Read and understand the whole test: You’ve done this by reading the tender
  • Manage your time effectively and prioritise:
    • Allocate more time to higher scoring questions
    • Answer the ones you know (guaranteed points)
  • When writing your response:
    • Let the word count dictate the detail
    • Be succinct; don’t deviate; only include content that answers the question
    • Check your answers
    • Make sure nothing’s missing
    • Leave yourself time to review / improve / add value

Evaluate – Put your buyer cap on.

Public Sector authorities provide their evaluation criteria as part of a tender. So use it. Give someone who didn’t write the response, the question, evaluation criteria and your answer. Get them to read it and ask:

  • Does it answer the question?
  • Does it meet / exceed the requirements?
  • Can it be improved? (include directional comments to help)

Your response should be so clear that they understand how you will deliver the contract. Remember –answers can always be improved.

Submit – It always takes longer than you think

Check submission requirements.

  • Formatting – some buyers ask for specific file formats, fonts or naming conventions.
  • If online – Visit the authority’s portal in advance. Check you can use it and upload documents.
  • If a hard copy is required, factor in time for printing and posting.

Aim to submit at least 24 hours before the deadline. It allows time to reflect, fix mistakes and add additional information if required.

Once a document is signed off and ready, store centrally ready to be uploaded. Clearly label it as ready for submission. You could even try uploading it as a test. Make sure others have access to the documents and logins in case you can’t submit.

After submission, make sure the documents are organised and easy to access. This will help if you have last minute changes and save time on future bids.


Whatever the outcome, you should bring together everyone involved and ask questions about the bid.

What went well? What went badly? What can be improved? What should happen next time? What feedback did the buyer provide? Was the process right?

These are all questions which will help improve your master plan. Buyer feedback helps you understand the quality of the submitted content, but this is one piece of the review. There will be other areas of development.

So that’s it. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Obviously, there are more steps in a bid management plan but just remember the formula for SUCCESS; be structured, understand the requirement, organise your time and resource appropriately. This will give you the basis for a winning bid management formula. Don’t stress – you’ve got this!

Alison Colyer, Head of Supplier Management