We frequently talk about the bid mindset: understanding that a tender is a competition, not a test. Once the penny drops that a tender is a competition, with only one winner, it totally transforms the way bid teams behave during the tender phase. Instead of focussing on compliance and ticking boxes, they step up their game to deliver the best possible solution to the client, position themselves as the best option for the client to choose, and prepare a submission that maximises their score.

On a recent bid, we had the opportunity to demonstrate this mindset in action during a fun team event and it presented an unanticipated teaching moment.

The event was an ‘amazing race’ activity where the team had to get out and about in the suburbs where we would be working, using a combination of walking, cycling or public transport. Throughout the activity, they had to collect points for going to particular places, reaching certain milestones, finding specified objects, collecting information and answering questions along the way. The teams had to stay together for the entire race and work as a team to score as many points as possible. On completion of the race, the team had to hand in to the judging panel a completed questionnaire and items of evidence that they had collected.

The objective of the activity was for the team to learn as much as possible about the area to enhance their understanding of the client and the project’s challenges and opportunities, and of course to help with team development.

What wasn’t anticipated was the opportunity to show how the teams’ competitive mindsets affected their performance in the race; which is where we had the opportunity to show the impact of the bid mindset on our tender performance.

The judging panel had published a scoring regime as part of the rules of the race, and it was against this scoring regime that each team’s questionnaire and evidence were assessed.

What immediately became obvious was that some teams had done the bare minimum to ‘tick a box’ in the questionnaire, with the briefest answers and minimal evidence. These teams gave the impression to the judges as being barely engaged and a bit lazy. While they completed the tasks, they didn’t even score full marks. If it had been a test, they would have passed, but with the barest of margins.

Most of the teams put in a lot more effort, and this was obvious to the judges. They gave more comprehensive answers, included more evidence, and went above and beyond the requirements in some areas. They completed the tasks to a much higher level of quality and detail, and consequently they scored much higher.

And then there were the top two teams… These teams excelled and clearly stood out above the others. Their effort and enthusiasm was palpable. Every question was fully addressed, with additional information included that went well beyond the test question to cover multiple angles and additional areas of relevance to the project and the activity. Their evidence was comprehensive and detailed. And they clearly had fun and worked together as a team, which was one of our objectives. The judges couldn’t help but award these teams bonus points for their additional effort and creativity.

These two teams were well separated from the rest of the pack, but they scored identical marks to each other so choosing just one of them was a difficult decision. In the end, it came down to one piece of evidence that showed that one team was willing to do whatever was necessary to succeed.

To give your team the best chance of winning, you need to maximise your score – for every question, in every document, against every criteria, and you need to take every opportunity to demonstrate to the client that you will help them achieve their objectives, minimise their risk, maximise their opportunities, and be the best partner to work with. You need to win on the big ticket items, and also on the one-percenters as these might be all that separate you at the end of the day.