How do you focus the messaging of your tenders? How do you structure the pitch that you present?

If you want to the align to the client’s way of thinking, there are two common frameworks to use: the project objectives and the evaluation criteria.

We always advocate for pitching to the project objectives.

Think of it like this: the project objectives are what the client is trying to achieve, whereas the evaluation criteria are the measures the client will use to assess how well you will do in meeting their project objectives. To say it another way, the project objectives are the end goal, while the evaluation criteria are a means to an end.

When structuring your pitch, it is more powerful and compelling to address the project objectives as the priority, rather than the evaluation criteria. After all, the objective for us in bidding is to win the client’s hearts and minds. The best way to do this is to demonstrate how we align to their vision and will help them achieve their goals. The evaluation criteria is like a checklist we can use to ensure we cover all the bases.

Let me try to demonstrate this with an example.

Imagine the client wants to build a new light rail system. Their project objectives might be to achieve outcomes like:

  • connecting people and places to improve lifestyle
  • urban revitalisation of an important area of the city
  • supporting the city’s growth for the next generation through investment in infrastructure
  • stimulating the economy with long-term and sustainable jobs
  • offering safe, comfortable and attractive transport choices.

Meanwhile, the client’s evaluation criteria might be:

  • customer focussed outcomes during operations
  • integrated design approach and solutions
  • integrated delivery approach and solutions
  • commercial and financial acceptability
  • risk-adjusted cost

In my mind, I can see very easily how to structure a pitch to the project objectives. In doing so, I would align to the client’s vision, show how I will help them achieve their goals and be part of the solution.

On the other hand, while it would be possible to structure a pitch around some of these evaluation criteria, there are others that would be much harder to address directly and meaningfully. What exactly would be in your pitch about risk-adjusted cost? Other than to say you offer value for money, and to summarise your bid price and departures from the contract, what would you be able to meaningfully say in pitching to this evaluation criteria? And would this excite and engage your client, or just lead to a tick in the box?

Even if you could structure a pitch to address the evaluation criteria, there is still the question of whether this would be more a powerful and compelling approach?

When we pitch to the project objectives, we are aligning to the client’s overall vision, whereas if we pitch to the evaluation criteria we’re more focussed on checking boxes. The project objectives will engage and excite the client, while the evaluation criteria is, well, a bit tedious.

In addition, pitching to the evaluation criteria can also come across as disingenuous because it seems like you don’t care about the client’s ultimate goal or their vision, you’re just in it to comply with their requirements so long as it wins you the job. For instance, if you were to address the evaluation criteria of ‘collaboration’ from the list above, what would you say? “We know collaboration is important to you, so we are working together…”

But let me be clear, the evaluation criteria are extremely important. They are, of course, how we are scored so it would be silly to ignore them.

Our approach is to structure the pitch to the project objectives and weave the evaluation criteria throughout. For instance, we would talk about customer focussed outcomes, integrated design and delivery, value for money and collaboration in addressing several of the project objectives. By structuring the pitch this way, we get the best of both worlds – we align to the client’s vision and show how we will help them achieve the outcomes they want, while also ensuring the client can score our approach.