Understanding the Tender Question

Posted: 06/05/21 06:00

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Sometimes, the mere thought of producing a compelling and professional tender is enough to send
you into a fit of resentful stress and perhaps even move you to throw in the towel, call it a day and
get a job doing anything else.

You are not alone. Tendering can be a stressful and often confusing process, compounded by the pressure that tenders are vital to securing a pipeline of revenue and ensuring a successful future for
your company.

My business, Tender Relief, is specifically designed to help Australian companies submit better tenders. Here, I will share three of the most common concerns tenderers have when responding to a bid.

“I don’t know how to answer this question.”

It’s 9 pm the night before your tender is due, you’re seven coffees down, and a question you don’t
have an answer to is taunting you. You understand what the question is asking, sure, but you don’t
have an answer.

Perhaps you’ve been asked to talk about a policy or procedure your organisation doesn’t have, or
maybe you need to comment on an initiative you don’t do or provide a qualification that you don’t
hold. Take a breath. This is normal. You are not expected to have the world’s most compelling
answer for every single question. But there is a right and wrong way to go about answering. Let’s
explore. Instead of panicking and:

1. Lying
2. Subjecting your reader to death-by-1000-words
3. Not answering and pretending the question doesn’t exist

Try this instead:

1. Honesty: “Although our business has not yet developed this policy; we recognise its
relevance both in our industry and within this scope of work...”
2. Exploring Alternatives: “...in practice, we address policy framework and objectives within our
organisation by XYZ.”
3. Committing to a solution: “We are currently developing this policy in line with our operating
model and commit to having it implemented before tender award/mobilisation/whenever.”

Remember, buyers are savvy, directness and honesty are always best.

“I totally get it….actually, no, no, I don’t.”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever read a tender question, instruction, or term/condition and thought to yourself, "Righto, I have no idea what that means".

*Everyone raises hand* Thought so.

Multiple choice, what do you think the right thing to do in that situation is?

A) Guess
B) Ignore the thing you don’t understand. Wait for it to go away magically
C) Ask the client
D) Assume and double down
E) Google it

Drumroll… the answer is ‘C. Ask the client’.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the client for clarification. No, this will not make you look stupid. In fact, in most cases, it is encouraged. Remember, buyers want your best submission, which cannot happen unless you confidently understand the request.

Now, don’t just jump on the blower – be sure to understand the instructions regarding submitting clarifications. There is usually a portal or specific communication channel you must use. Once you’ve found that, ask away!

“Wait, haven’t I seen this question before?”

At some point during your bidding life, you will undoubtedly mutter the phrase “you’ve got to be kidding, I’ve already answered this damn question” under your breath. This is usually followed by a dramatic walk to the coffee machine telling anyone who will listen that the people who put together the tender request are clearly nutjobs. Frustrating as it may be, remember this:

Always answer the question in full where it is asked. Always.

Never respond with “Please refer to our answer to question X on page X”. Why? Just as tender responses are not always written by one person, they are equally not always read by one person. This means that your bid could be split up among several people for assessment.

Imagine now you are the reader, and you are asked to refer to the answer to a question that you don’t have. Do you think you might walk dramatically to the coffee machine telling everyone who will listen that you wish bidders would answer each question properly? Probably.

Don’t make it harder for your reader than it already is. Remember, they’re the ones dishing out the
work. Tender Relief is a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), which
means our advice is backed by globally recognised best-practice expertise (i.e., we don’t make this stuff up). I hope, having read this, you can go into your next bid response feeling more confident. Perhaps even relieved, if you will.

Stuck on a Tender Question?

 

Eliza Carbines

Written by Eliza Carbines

Eliza Carbines is a qualified bid proposal expert and the founding director of Tender Relief, a tender support agency helping Australian businesses submit better tenders. Eliza sits on the board of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals and has over ten years experience in professional business development and corporate strategy.

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