The seven deadly sins of tendering | Advice | Small Business Connect

IT takes a lot of effort preparing a tender or bid. From studying the bid requirements, to collecting the needed information, to determining your capacity needs, to costing, to confirming the source of supplies, to writing a compelling document, to collecting all the needed certificates and compliance documents, to presenting it all in a tender pack.

In taking all the effort, it is important to ensure that you indeed have a good chance of being awarded the tender. But it is seemingly very common for business owners to make mistakes in the preparation of their bids. There are some common shortcomings and mistakes that can cost you a tender, which business owners repeat over-and-over. So if you’re going to take the time to prepare and submit a tender, look out for these things to avoid, which we can call the “seven deadly sins of tendering”.

1 – Not attending to the tendering brief

Many tenders require you to attend a tender briefing, and sign a register to confirm you were there. The purpose of this is to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what the organization is looking for. You can usually pick up valuable background information, as well as see who else is planning to tender. Most organisations will check, when they are evaluating your tender, whether you attended the briefing – and disqualify you if you were not there. So make sure you are there, get as much useful information as you can, and sign the register.

2– Not having the required documents

Most tenders ask you to submit your company registration documents, tax clearance certificate and possibly other documents as well, depending on the nature of the tender. Make sure you have submitted every single document requested, and if certified copies are required, make sure that is what you submit. A tax clearance certificate is essential to be able to tender to virtually every government department and agency. It is worth your while to keep a few extra copies of your tax certificate on file for future tenders and make sure the certificates are still valid.

3 – Late submission

If the tender specifies 11am on a specific day as the closing date, you need to make sure your tender is in the tender box, or handed to the appropriate official, in good time. You cannot beg for an exception if you are late. If the tender is in another city, you need to make special arrangements with a courier company, or get a reliable associate to deliver your document. Also ensure your tender documents are in a suitable envelope, and not loose.

4 – Poor presentation and layout

It is very frustrating for anyone who is evaluating and adjudicating a tender to have to try and decipher poor handwriting, or make sense of pages which are not in order. A clear and logical presentation of your submission, with everything legible and in the right order, creates a positive impression. After all, if you can’t get your own document right, how are you going to get the project right that you are tendering for?

5 – Misrepresenting your company or capability

Avoid making untrue statements about your company, the people working in it, and your capabilities and experience. Either you will get caught out and harm your reputation, or you will take on more than you can handle. Either way, not being transparent is not a good start. At worst, you could be accused of misrepresenting your business and that could be the last tender you get from that organization. The tender might even be taken away from you if the misleading information is serious.

6 – Nor following the tender requirements

Most tender documents have very specific requirements in terms of the information that you need to provide, both financial and functional. There is also usually a specific order in which this information must be presented. This helps to allow the tender adjudicators to compare “apples with apples”, as it is difficult to compare proposals which are formatted differently. This structure is also there to ensure that you cover all the bases, ie give all the information needed, without missing any key aspects. Make sure you follow the exact structure!

7 – Not triple-checking your document pack

Tender documents are complex and by the time you have finished preparing yours, it’s easy to miss any gaps or mistakes. You need to double check that everything is there and in the right order. Then check again. And then ask someone in your company, or a trusted friend or family member, preferably someone with business experience, to go through it carefully as a final “fresh pair of eyes”. Only once you are 100% satisfied should you get it ready to submit – preferably in a suitable, strong envelope, clearly marked with the headings as specified in the tender document.

Bonus tip

Even if you have the tender document, it’s always a good idea to keep a copy of the original tender advert from the newspaper, as sometimes the requirements for delivery of the tender, such as the relevant official and what it must say on the envelope, are only mentioned in this advert and not on the actual tender document.