Giving 'tender' loving care in business

IF you know nothing about the project or the people involved, what makes you think you can win their business?

IF you know nothing about the project or the people involved, what makes you think you can win their business?

The only tender I really want to reply to is one that I have helped to write.

Tenders, RFPs, RFQs, ITTs etc. are very rarely, if ever, released by companies who have no idea whom they are expecting to work with.

At best, they have spoken to a range of vendors, but have not decided who they want to provide the product or service; at worst they know exactly who they want to work with but have to get three quotes to fulfil political or process reasons, or both.

We encourage sales people to create, value and demand by thinking about “business fit, business value and the development of long-term relationships”.

When operating within this framework, responding blind to a Request for Quotation seems counter-intuitive, particularly when due process typically means a lack of opportunity to fact find, build relationships or compete effectively.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying don’t respond. You may want to do so for strategic or political reasons Just don’t necessarily expect to win. And certainly don’t make tender writing your first or preferred method of prospecting for new business.

The sales training community is working hard to up-skill sales people into business professionals, yet professional buyers don’t seem to want this. They want procurement by numbers without due regard for value creation or best-fit proposals. I do understand the value a tender process can deliver in terms of quality adherence and market evaluation. However, I am uncomfortable with the extensive effort required by so many for only one, often already identified supplier, to be successful.

So, next time you see a tender being advertised, or receive an out-of-the-blue Request for Quotation that you know nothing about (apart from the fact “it’s perfect”, “worth loads” and is “right up your street”), consider the following: Has the tender been written with a potential supplier in mind? Can you compete effectively? How long will it take to respond versus the likely chance of reward?

Finally, when you have decided to go for it and have spent hours responding to a very structured tender, it is easy to lose sight of where you started (eg. knowing nothing and nobody). Maintain perspective – you may not win this time around, but you will be able to start building relationships that may help you to be successful in the future.

Your time is precious. Can you afford to expend it on creating War and Peace for a potential project you know nothing about?

:: Richard Lane is partner and co-founder of Newcastle sales performance company durhamlane


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