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The simple secret to winning tenders

The simple secret to winning tenders

On Tender

The other night I watched the sequel to that funny video that made the rounds a few years ago called The Secret.

I say funny because it somehow implied that our physical anatomy has something to do with how successful we are, and that a positive outlook on life will attract a rich and fulfilling existence furnished with handsome people who live in large houses that only seem to be filmed using a soft-focus lens filter.

The sequel was equally ridiculous and I don’t believe for one second that my mostly negative molecules have anything to do with the amount of money that I earn, or rather don’t earn. Hang on a minute. Excuse me while I bash my forehead on the table with my now exhausted sense of irony over that last statement. As of tomorrow, I’m re-thinking my entire lifestyle.

If you watch closely, The Secret reveals itself about half way through. If you don’t wear perfectly white cheesecloth trousers while driving a convertible BMW filled with supermodels in low-cut tops, you only have your miserable molecules to blame.

I’m reminded of The Secret because a sense of exhausted failure wafted up the lift shaft of Reseller News Towers last week. We were left with the impression that responding to any large tender request is now considered by some to be as pointless as an anti-drink drive ad on telly.

Using my new powers of molecule manipulation I wholeheartedly disagree that there is no point in responding to tender requests because you might not win. Winners fail all the time, the video says so. And it has to be true. The rule of thermodynamic interstellar cheesecloth pants says it true.

To prove my point, I tracked down a man whose job is compiling RFPs, a few of which New Zealand-owned companies have bid for and won.

Chris Jones, manager of procurement at New Zealand’s own oil company, Z Energy, says that locally-owned New Zealand companies have the ability to provide what Z is looking for. All they need to do is to spell out their added value: local market knowledge.

“[One] successful respondent to our RFP initially suggested that the RFP processes in general were a waste of time and effort," Jones says. "He admits now that he was wrong, as he in fact provided a really compelling response which we agreed to accept, and have created a great relationship as a result.”

Maybe that guy watched The Secret .

“I can appreciate why resellers are struggling against the internationals if the requirement is volume," Jones continues. "My suggestion to resellers would be to get really clear on client outcomes and key drivers for their project, and really look to distinguish the 'added value' they can bring to the table that an international probably couldn’t, such as speed or local market expertise.”

And here’s what surprised me: Jones says first impressions really do matter.

“There’s a hell of a lot to be said for that, to be quite honest. It’s like those Lynx adverts where they say first impressions last. There’s a lot to be said for presentation, but more importantly, has that response actually answered the questions that we originally created?" Jones says.

"Quite often people have a set format that they just populate and perhaps they’ve missed a lot of the questions. And maybe just the methodology on how they could answer.”

Jones is not the only buyer out there telling responders to smarten up. One procurement specialist with experience in large corporate IT and government tendering in Australia and New Zealand reminds us that the only way to win is to play the game.

“The complicating factor is that there is a process that all government departments have to follow," says the expert, who preferred to remain anonymous. "Originally the process was developed to deliver transparency, governance, demonstrate fair value and deliver the best possible outcome."

"What has happened over time is that the process isn't delivering the best possible outcome for the government department that has put out the request. What IT resellers need to realise is there is a due process that must be followed and like any game you must play within the rules. I have run several tenders for government departments and what I find astonishing is that the reseller might be a fantastic company, a thought leader and innovative but their responses to the RFP are, frankly, shockingly poor, which causes them to fail in the initial request. If they had paid a professional to spend one hour looking through their response, they would obtain a much better outcome.”

So it appears that my quest to discover why I’m not wearing a Rolex on a tanned wrist is that the universe is not deep at all. In fact it is very, very shallow.


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