Whether you’re running a business, in a partnership, a sole trader or contractor, tendering for work can be time consuming. But it can also bring great rewards. You should think carefully before, during and after the process. Finding the right opportunities, doing the prep work and being vigorous during the tendering process will increase your chances of winning contracts.
Tendering is the process of responding to an RFx* — a request by a potential client for information, a proposal or a quote. If you or your business supplies goods or services to other businesses or to the public sector, this will be an important way for you to get work.
Tendering lifecycle (external link) — New Zealand Government Procurement
An RFx can come in many shapes and forms. If it’s for a small amount of work, it will be fairly straightforward. But applying for larger and/or long-term contracts will require a significant amount of time, thinking and resources to complete. You’ll need to be strategic when you decide which tenders to respond to.
Going for every RFx you come across is a waste of time and energy. If you work for yourself, you may have to hire someone to work on your business while you work on an RFx.
You’ll have more chance of success if you only respond to ones in the area of your existing services and expertise.
Even if the contract is relevant to your business or skills you should first think about how much prep will need to go into the application process, and whether your business is able to sustain that effort — especially as winning the contract isn’t guaranteed.
Losing a tender can be disappointing, but it can be an important business opportunity. Always ask for feedback from the buyer on why your application wasn’t successful. You can use that information to help you learn what to do, and what not to do, the next time you apply.
Winning a tender can lead to exciting opportunities and growth, but it will also affect your business in other ways. You’ll need to think about the day-to-day and long-term effects on your business.
Before going to tender (external link) — New Zealand Government Procurement
Do I have the people and resources to fulfil the obligations of the contract, or will I have to hire new employees or buy new equipment? Will the amount of work I win justify the costs of carrying out the work?
Once you decide to apply, you should:
Get a thorough understanding of what is required and how you’ll be evaluated before you start the application process.
To develop a winning proposal, research what the buyer needs. If possible, meet the buyer to get a better understanding of what their needs are. Talking to the buyer’s other suppliers and customers will also give you important insights.
The more you know about the buyer, the more you will be able to demonstrate how you can meet their needs and solve their problems.
Look at the factors you’re being assessed on and craft your answers in response to these. Follow all the instructions and page limits, and address each question clearly.
Your finished proposal should be well organised and presented using the RFx layout. Make sure it’s proofread. Don’t let sloppy layout or typos be the reason you lose out.
Persuade the buyer you/your team are right for the job. Instead of rattling off a comprehensive list of everything your business does, focus on the buyer’s needs and how you’re particularly equipped to meet them.
Understanding your potential competitors will also help in the tendering process. What are their advantages, positions in the market, strengths and weaknesses? What makes you stand out above them?
Industry Profiler tool (external link) — Stats New Zealand
How to successfully respond to tenders (external link) — New Zealand Government Procurement
Maintaining good relationships with your current customers and developing new ones with potential customers, is the best way to be in the know about new contract opportunities and to gain a competitive advantage. If you’re contracting, this could include your employment agency and key people you’ve worked with.
GETS is a free service designed to promote open, fair competition for New Zealand Government contract opportunities. Explore current tenders on GETS (external link) .
This is a comprehensive online system with about $319bn worth of projects and more than 70,000 suppliers listed, covering Australia and New Zealand.
This is one of the largest electronic procurement systems in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a central gateway for Australasia for the advertisement and management of tenders and other business opportunities.