Three things to think about before dismissing that tender opportunity

Place North West 4 Previous Experience Required

With relevant experience a significant requirement of most bids, some companies are understandably reluctant to tender for work outside of their ‘normal’ scope, even when looking to diversify or grow their business in newer areas. But how do you get the experience you need without winning the work? Or do you already have it?

A client recently approached me as they were keen to tender for a project they were more than capable of delivering but they didn’t have much ‘relevant’ experience. It was a sector they were hoping to break into but they were worried about not scoring highly enough in the tendering process. We talked through the experience they did have and their approach to delivering a project like this and soon found that they actually had some very relevant, transferable experience.

Rethinking the way you present your business can put you in a stronger position than expected when it comes to winning work. Although, qualifying tenders is important to focus your efforts, it’s worth considering these three points when deciding whether to bid for work in a new sector:

Your people

Whilst your business may not yet be recognised as specialising in a sector, your team may have significant experience from previous roles, particularly if you have recruited with the intention of growing in that sector. It’s perfectly valid to talk about the past experiences of your staff without professing to be experts as a business. An obvious way of doing this is within your team CVs, but a more impactful approach is to weave their experiences into your response.

Examples include describing and illustrating:

  • How their successful approach has been adopted within your business, including any relevant tools and techniques that will be used on the project
  • How your existing skills have been enhanced by their experience and what benefits that brings
  • How they have transferred their knowledge internally to develop your business and employees
  • Any sector-specific processes and protocols they have implemented within your business that can be applied to the project.

Your projects

Whilst the obvious choice is to include case studies that are directly comparable to the tender project, if you have a limited portfolio, it’s worth considering the strength of your other projects. Case studies are traditionally categorised by sector. However, whilst the end product on a health or education project may be different, the process to reach that and the environment in which it is created and delivered may present some similarities. The key is to demonstrate your transferable skills and experience by highlighting these similarities and focusing on the value you bring in those areas.

An example might be working within a live environment; most projects, irrespective of their sector setting, will pose similar health and safety, risk, security and access issues with some site-specific challenges. The value is in your approach to recognising, managing and mitigating those issues. Illustrating where you have successfully done this previously, and how your proven experience will be enhanced through sector-specific considerations, is a powerful message.

It’s also worth considering innovative ideas that you have tried and tested in other sectors and which can be adapted to suit the project – these may not be obvious to the client but can offer unique benefits that your competitors cannot deliver.

Your purpose

When you consider the core reason your client is tendering the work, it’s likely that you will have worked to a similar purpose. Although the end result may have been different, property and construction projects are generally focused on transforming or creating places and spaces that improve lives; whilst the design, delivery and building fabric are fundamental to its success, it must also deliver the intended user experience.

The ability to understand the wider context of a project and to interpret and deliver on the client’s vision is hugely important. This often comes down to culture and ways of working and, for some organisations, working with a company that demonstrates the same behaviours is just as important as their capability. Consider whether your purpose and values are aligned to those of the client. If you recognise a good fit between you and them, make the most of it in your response. Talk about your culture and provide evidence of how that manifests day-to-day. How do you work better, smarter or more innovatively than your competitors, in a way that is in tune with the client, and what benefits will that bring to them and their project?

Being creative with your writing doesn’t mean being creative with the truth. It’s important to be authentic about your experience and, whilst it may not have appeared relevant on the face of it, your unique offer might be just what the client is looking for.

To talk about winning bids and proposals and discuss how you can be bid ready, email

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