Sorry senator: ‘inappropriately’ influencing your customers gives your tenders the winning edge.

By Natalie Schroeder and Nigel Dennis

'Power Map' or bid stakeholder mapping represented by a network of lines connecting people icons on blocks

Responding to bids and tenders, whether to government or enterprise, is a critical activity for many businesses large and small. It’s an industry worth $600 billion annually in Australia alone.

The bidding budget for a large corporate or government contract can be millions of dollars, and there is no guarantee of success. As such, it’s a high stakes game. Those in the know use every (legal) advantage they can get.

Which is why the team at BidWrite were surprised to read ‘Consultancy firm used power maps of Australian officials to help win government contracts’ in The Guardian1. It quotes a Labor party senator referring to ‘power maps’ as an inappropriate attempt to influence government officials during the tender process.

Is that an accurate assessment? We don’t think so.

To know your customer is to understand their motivation

While ‘power maps’ is not the usual industry term, the description in the article is familiar to the bidding industry.  It’s a tool, used by teams in responding to a tender, that provides an overall view of the key influencers who may be involved in the evaluation of a tender response.

More commonly known as relationship or stakeholder mapping, this is part of the standard pre-tender preparation or ‘positioning’ process. It is a reflection of the strength of the organisation’s relationship to their target. It is an essential requirement to preparing a persuasive, compelling response that scores highly and is more likely to win.

A successful mapping exercise generally involves the bidding team measuring their understanding of their prospect. This includes analysing a stakeholder’s influence within the prospect’s organisation, their motivations, likes and dislikes, their perceptions of the organisation responding to the tender, and any relationships with competitor organisations. All of this helps to shape the ultimate strategy and approach of the tender response.

It’s like the marketing industry’s concept of a buyer persona, a representation of a company’s ideal customer, based on extensive research of many factors. It includes studying existing customers and their motivations to buy. You therefore put effort into making your product or service as attractive as possible to your customers so they will do business with you.

This is accepted practice and just plain common sense.

Common sense is often effective, it’s just not always common

In the competitive world of tendering, when millions of dollars are on the line, you are selling yourself way short by not extensively researching your customer. The proviso is that this research complies with privacy and legal requirements, and probity guidelines during the tendering process.

Knowing that a member of the evaluation team is motivated by meaningful sustainability initiatives, achieving efficiency gains or longer-term investment payback, for example, is all information that can be used to your advantage when preparing a tender response. It could then be the difference between winning or losing a multimillion-dollar contract.

Stakeholder mapping gives you that edge – so why not use it? Welcome to bidding smart, if not bidding normal, senator! Far from suspicious or inappropriate, it’s something that professional bidders spruik every day of the week – because it’s practical, logical, and it works.

1 Belot, Henry 2023 ‘Consultancy firm used “power maps” of Australian officials to help win government contracts,’ The Guardian, 1 September.


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