When Times Get Tough, the Tough Get Tendering

By Nigel Dennis and David Lunn, BidWrite Co-Founders

In our previous article, we outlined a range of buyer behaviours that contractors and suppliers can expect to see during these uncertain times. We also looked at what this means for them as they plan their own response.

In this second of two articles, BidWrite co-founders Nigel Dennis and David Lunn share their views on practical ways contractors and suppliers can implement a two-step strategy to enable them to win, be ready to win, or retain more contracts through the tendering process.

These views have been shaped by more than 60 collective years’ experience on both the seller and buyer sides of the tendering process.

What good companies do when times get tough

The GFC of 2008/09 and general downturn of 2011/12 taught businesses that have been performing well to be more prudent during tough times. These businesses then have the means to survive and even thrive.

In this current environment, once cash-flow has been shored up and staff are calm, an immediate first step for many businesses is to implement the remote working element of their business continuity plans. Much has already been written about this, but if you need guidance, we recommend this best practice piece on remote working, published by our global industry body, Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP).

Tendering activities to focus on in an economic downturn

Once remote working systems have been implemented, good companies are then directing any spare capacity or time to focus on the following tendering related activities:

  • Researching opportunities: Whether it be registering for free online tender alerts, subscribing to a more comprehensive paid notification service or viewing published summaries of planned upcoming procurements, business development professionals are scanning for every opportunity to build a healthy contract pipeline by researching tender opportunities in advance.
  • Influencing buyers: Smart companies are spending their time convincing buyers that cancelling or delaying planned buying activity is not in anyone’s interest right now. They are telling the market that it needs to maintain momentum, that employees need the income and that their company has the capacity and the capability to deliver, remotely if need be. Interestingly, some buyers are now questioning whether the savings generated through non-diverse supply chains are properly balanced against the risk to ongoing supply (read more from CIPS here). Accordingly, now is also a good time to query buyer priorities around supply chain diversity, particularly in relation to critical supply items. Resulting buyer-side efforts to de-risk their supply chain may provide new supply opportunities and calls for increased inventory.
  • Positioning brand: Many good business leaders argue that marketing spend is one of the last activities that should be cut in a downturn. Positioning is a key element of marketing and one of the proven ‘Four Key Factors’ to winning bids. Spend time distilling your areas of true competitive advantage and build your relationships, well ahead of any tender request coming out to market.
  • Improving tendering capability: In quieter times there is a tendency to supercharge sales activity, often at the expense of capability building. While it’s all well and good to unearth sales opportunities, you’ve wasted your time if you don’t have the capability to win them. Smart companies work counter-cyclically, improving tendering capability before they need it. This includes things like up-skilling staff (with on-line tender training), developing more effective and efficient tendering processes, and building or enhancing bid libraries items such as testimonials, project sheets, CVs, graphics and flowcharts.
  • Sharpening competitiveness: With competition for tenders likely to be much more intense, it makes sense to seek the external support of experienced, specialised bidding professionals. They can benchmark your capabilities, teach you practical tips and tools and provide hands on support to give your bids the winning edge. Just make sure they are aligned to the best practices of the APMP.

Now is the time to invest in tendering

Don’t get weighed down by the sea of economic pessimism.

There are good reasons to be optimistic about tendering opportunities. But for many companies it will take some adaptation and strategic investment to be truly competitive when times are tough.

The double pay-off is that companies who do this will also be much better placed to take advantage of the wave of tendering opportunities that are likely to be released once more normal business conditions return. Will you be one of them?


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