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When tendering as an incumbent, don’t take anything for granted

Time pressures aside, tenders are a great opportunity to reflect on the achievements, successes, breakthroughs and new offerings we bring to existing or potential clients. So, it always surprises me when we’re assisting with a tender for an incumbent, and I hear them say ‘Oh we don’t need to include any information about (insert service or product offering)’ … the client knows about it already.

It’s important to understand that the tendering landscape and requirements have changed significantly over recent years. It’s the job of the procurement team (who are often independent and therefore have no relationship with you) to make sure the tender process and submitted documentation comply with principles of transparency and equality, no one group is unfairly advantaged.  This means procurement processes are now more robust and much more structured. What it also means is that each time you make an assumption that the client knows what you can offer, what you stand for, your point of difference, your experience or your added value, you are providing an invaluable opportunity for your competitors.

With that in mind, I have a list of key Do’s and Don’ts that I use to approach each tender I work on with my clients.


Don’t be complacent. You must be willing to retender as if you are a new competitor, or you are wasting your time. Just because you are already offering a great service or product, if you aren’t clear about this in the submission, you can be sure that there is someone else who is.


Don’t assume anything – from who is on the evaluation panel to what they know about you and your company.


Do make sure to include any of your ‘added value’ offerings. A few months ago, I worked with a client who was worried that as the incumbent they were seen as safe and reliable, but that the client didn’t know much about their more recent research and development efforts, and therefore they weren’t seen as being innovative. The tender process is a great opportunity to make sure you are seen as competitive on all levels.


Do tackle each tender response with a fresh approach. Avoid copying too much information from past tenders, especially if you are not going to take the time to edit properly and make sure all content is relevant and up to date.


Do tell the client everything that’s relevant and required in the submission. For example, on really large tenders, it works to identify the preferences of the adjudication panel members. What are their hot buttons and make sure you include those, somehow.

If you really want to be successful and retain your position (or even better, add to your offering), you must approach the tendering process with the expectation that your key competitors will claim their product or service is better and cheaper.  It’s your job to make sure your client doesn’t agree.

Feel free to “Pick Our Brains” for 15 minutes. No obligation… we just want people to communicate better.

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