The No.1 Way to Achieve Consistent Success in Tendering

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The No. 1 way to strike a consistently high win rate with your bids andhigh-stakes proposals is simply this:Make it a top priority to understand why you...

The No. 1 way to strike a consistently high win rate with your bids and high-stakes proposals is simply this:

Make it a top priority to understand why you won, or why you lost, all those that came before the one you're currently working on.

Clearly, the client-delivered debrief is the most obvious way to achieve a first-hand understanding of whether and where a submission hit the mark, or whether and where it didn't - and (also, hopefully) how it stacked up against the competition.

The value of the information and insights obtained from such an exercise, however, is almost always directly proportionate to how effectively each side prepares for, and participates in, the debriefing session.

The "trick" to using the debrief as your "secret weapon" in your quest to consistently pip the competition at the post, lies in extracting high-potency intelligence; frank, no-holds-barred, painstakingly detailed commentary . . . "news you can use" to mastermind quantum leaps of continuous improvement in your processes. Even when you're already submitting winning bids.

Assumptions Make Dangerous Allies

Don't let a successful bidding track record blind you to the merits of working hard to extract valuable feedback on all aspects of your most recent bid: To repeat success wilfully, you must know exactly what created it. Assumptions make dangerous allies.

In my opinion, one of the greatest quotes of all time was uttered by Napoleon Bonaparte, when he said: "The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory."

When being enlightened as to why it won, many a jubilant winning team has had its proverbial bubble burst by learning that it was a completely different factor that won it the bid, than that which it had assumed.

(It goes without saying, of course, that if you're on a losing streak you have an even greater incentive to find out all you can from a debrief, to help steer you towards success.)

How to avail yourself and your team of a high-value debrief, then?

Corral the Horses: You Want It from Their Mouths (Not Third-Hand)

First and foremost, you want the feedback to come from "the horses' mouths" i.e. the members of the tender evaluation panel . . . not second-hand, from personnel who weren't directly involved in the evaluation, and who (worse still) may never had read your submission in detail.

Getting the right people at the debriefing table is critical. You'll greatly increase your chances of this by targeting your (formal) email request/s to the most senior client organisation representatives, conveying the importance, to you and your team, of the debrief.

If the client has engaged the services of an independent probity auditor, ensure the relevant parties from that organisation are included in, or cc'd in on, these communications.

Don't try to achieve this objective through phone calls, or "whipped off", informal emails. This risks downplaying the significance of your request and of the debrief per se. Don't be timid on this point.

You should (politely, of course) state that you'd appreciate the client-side debrief participants include those directly involved in the evaluation process. This transmits the message (in an acceptable manner) that you'd appreciate the client-side preparing adequately for the debrief, as you'll be expecting accurate and detailed feedback.

This latter point is particularly important. In the case of a major project, it could be four or five months post-decision before a debrief is held. Thus, the evaluators need to be prompted to refresh themselves with regard to the detail of your bid documentation.

In my next column, I'll cover - in detail - the specific planning processes I recommend you undertake when preparing for your attendance at the debriefing session. 

Jordan Kelly is a bid strategist, writer and trainer/coach. She is author of 'Think & Win Bids: Winning High-Value, High-Stakes Bids through Superior Questioning, Listening and Thinking Skills'. Claim your free subscription to her newsletter - 'The Bid Strategist' - at


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