In tendering, every client is concerned with certainty of delivery. They are asking themselves: “Is this the best product or solution for me?” “Will this company deliver what they promise?” “Is this the best team to work with me and deliver what I need?”
Whether they are in the market for a new fleet of frigates, or a tunnel to cross underneath a city, or a fleet of vehicles, or a panel of insurance lawyers, the questions in the client’s mind are the same. “Which bidder gives me more certainty?” “Which bidder will give me greater value?”
Depending on what is being tendered, sometimes the client can inspect an identical product to what they are buying and know for certain if the project is right for them. This would be the case, for instance, with a stationery contract or medical supplies or vehicles. But the client will still have concerns over the certainty of delivery of the contract, such as whether the organisation will be reliable in delivering on time, accurate in reporting and accounting, accessible and contactable for client engagement etc.
For other contracts, the client may be able to inspect a similar project, such as a similar frigate recently delivered to another client, or a similar tunnel recently built under a similar city. In these cases, the client needs to extrapolate whether the similarity is enough to provide certainty for them in their circumstance.
Throughout all of this decision making, the client is trying to assess the reliability and quality of your offer. The challenge for them is that most tendering is highly intangible – even if they can touch and hold and feel your product, there are still the intangible elements of the service delivery, such as whether you can deliver the order on time, be accurate in your reporting and accounting, be accessible and contactable for client engagement etc… And a project such as delivering a fleet of frigates or a tunnel under a city is almost entirely intangible.
The psychology of buying is that the client subconsciously assesses the tangibles in your tender as an indicator of reliability and quality, and the more intangible their purchase, the more emphasis they will unintentionally and subconsciously place on the tangibles of your offer.
Imagine this: the client is assessing a tender for something complex and high risk. One tender is well-prepared, well-written, includes good graphics that assist in understanding the team’s approach, and sends a ‘vibe’ that the team is interested and excited to be working on the project. The other tender is ok, but includes occasional grammar and typos, is a bit haphazard in its presentation, and sends the message that the team was rushed in preparing the proposal. Which one would the client have more confidence in? Obviously the first tender.
Subconsciously, even ‘minor’ errors like grammatical and spelling mistakes undermine the client’s confidence in your capability. While grammar might not be very relevant in the engineering requirements for a frigate or a tunnel, it still leaves an impression of being unprofessional and sloppy. Subconsciously, the client is thinking “If they can’t deliver a quality proposal, can they deliver a quality project?”
To make a good impression and build confidence in the reliability and quality of your proposal, smart tenderers pay special attention to the tangible elements of their tender, such as:
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Page layouts, including use of colour and fonts
- Document structure, including matching the client’s structure
- Logical file names for electronic copies
- Graphics, diagrams, images and photos
- Quality and resolution of printing
- Quality of folders, binding, slipcases and / or delivery boxes
- Fly-throughs, architectural impressions, physical models and prototypes
- Handouts that you distribute at presentations or workshops
- Dress code and personal grooming of the team at presentations or workshops.
In a meeting just yesterday, an experienced evaluator was talking to me about the importance of the tangibles, particularly fly-throughs, artist’s impressions and physical models. He said that the solution “becomes real” when you include these items. I thought his wording was particularly interesting because in his mind the solution is so intangible without the tangibles that it doesn’t even feel real.
Importantly, saying that you need to pay special attention to the tangibles of a tender does NOT mean that you should automatically create a fancy-smancy bells-and-whistles sort of submission. In fact, quite the opposite. For some clients, the most effective submission will be a low-key salt-of-the-earth sort of submission. And it does NOT mean that you need to invest a lot of money, especially if you are innovative, thorough and well-organised.
The key is to send the appropriate message to the client, depending on what the client is looking for. Smart tenderers understand their client and align to their expectations. What is their vision for the project? What are their hot buttons? What are their concerns? What is their budget?
You can usually get a good taste of what the client wants from their tender documents, public briefing information, press releases, observations of how they interact with the potential bidders and personal insight in to the evaluators if you know them.
For instance, a client that has issued a full-colour brief with advanced document formats, and issued multiple public briefing documents with full architectural renderings, fly-throughs, videos from the project team about the project’s objectives etc… is a client that is trying to achieve an exciting vision and generate interest and support for the project. In this case, a smart tenderer would respond in kind and show that they share the client’s vision.
Comparatively, a client that is running an understated, run-of-the-mill project and has issued a standard letter of request with very little fanfare would be looking to see a subdued but professional response. Too much razzle dazzle will send them running for the hills.
The goal is to align to the expectations of the client and reflect the positioning you are trying to create with the client (which are presumably closely connected anyway). If you are positioning your solution as high quality, reliable and professional, then the tangibles need to reflect that. Alternatively, if you are positioning your solution as innovative, world-class and unique, then the tangibles need to support that. Or if you are positioning your solution as cost effective, proven and low risk, again, the tangibles need to tell that same story.
In closing, here are our top tips for ensuring your tangibles send the right message to your client:
- Reflect the client’s tone of language, design style and colour palette (but never use their logo or elements of their branding without permission)
- Align to the client’s expectations of quality, such as resolution of images, type of paper and production of folders etc
- Follow the same structure as the client’s request (this is the Golden Rule (link))
- Do a thorough proofread for grammar, spelling and punctuation
- Check all calculations, facts, figures and drawings, and
- Consider investing in the items that will set the client’s first impression of your offer, such as delivery boxes, slipcases and folders.
The value of tangibles is in the subconscious assessment the client makes of the reliability and quality of your solution, and ultimately the certainty of delivery of your offer. Don’t underestimate how crucial this subconscious confidence (or doubt) can be.
For help in developing appropriate and targeted tangibles that create confidence in your solution, call us on 07 3211 4299 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.