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Bidding Mythology: How Not to Fall Victim

Jack Bolton
Written by
Jack Bolton
Bidding Mythology

In this blog we are going to look at a few of the myths that seem to persist in the world of bidding. These are:

“Never mind the specification, we already know what you want…”

Sometimes there is a tendency to think that what you offer is so good it can just be put in all responses to potential new customers with no regard for the specifications.

One size fits all is a myth. You may be Perfect Co. The best company to work for. Your existing customers love you. Five stars on every Trust Pilot review. It means nothing when you do the equivalent of saying to the buyer:

“We are Perfect Co. and although you have asked for X, Y and Z we know what you really want is A, B and C. In fact, you should be jolly grateful we are interested in working for you!”

This approach goes down like a lead balloon and is possibly the reason why you may have a high success rate on re-tenders and poor success with winning new business.

Read the specification and then decide how you can meet it. You may even find that what you normally provide may be a way to add value, as your standards may actually be higher than the client’s.

“We can make stuff up, it’s okay isn’t it?”

Eh no it isn’t!

Your submission forms part of the contract documents should you be selected.

Just remember this: If you have said you can provide the service/product as per the specification with no intention of doing so, you will instantly be in breach and could be thrown off the contract. There may even be penalties.

So no, don’t ever tell a client you can provide something you can’t or won’t do.

“They don’t really mean they don’t want any additional information do they?”

Oh yes they do! Read the instructions and follow them. Sending attachments, despite clear instructions not to, could possibly invalidate your tender.

Don’t be tempted to put the information that really answers the question into an attachment if there are clear instructions not to send any or any that have not been specifically asked for.

If you feel that it is vital to include some particular information as an attachment then ask permission first and see what they say.

If your reason is that you have serious concerns about the word/character count impeding your ability to answer the question properly, then it may be worthwhile asking them to extend the limit for this reason rather than including attachments.

“I can just phone my mate in procurement…”

No you can’t, unless the instructions permit you to contact them by phone. Again, read the instructions and follow them. If you try to contact them other than as permitted you run the risk of serious consequences including immediate disqualification.

In addition, even if it is permissible to contact someone directly, it is much more preferable to have a record of the question and the answer. This is particularly important if your question and their answer affects your submission in some way. Asking a question in writing means you can quote their clarification response later if necessary.

“Don’t ask questions it’ll make us look stupid!”

No it won’t.

What will certainly make you look stupid is not asking questions and then your submission failing because you didn’t clarify something with the buyer.

In addition, it can also act as your protection. If you ask a question that is not answered by the buyer this could provide you with a reason for questioning their decision if they fail you on something you had sought clarification on during the process.

“We can just cut and paste can’t we?”

Most tenders are initially the product of some level of cutting and pasting. No tender is ever written entirely from scratch.

However, that does not mean that you can simply cut and paste at will and then submit without reviewing and editing.

So for example, it is true that questions about quality and health and safety management tend to be similar in nature. However, the following are still important:

  • Read the question and the specification carefully.
  • Next, if you feel that the question is similar to a something in a previous tender do a comparison and decide if the response you gave would be suitable as a basis for your answer.
  • Review the old response against the new question and the specification and add or remove material accordingly.
  • Finally, do a name check to make sure you have removed all references to the previous buyer.
“I don’t need to look at the pricing schedule now do I?”

Yes you do.

As with all the tender docs. it is crucial that you review the pricing schedule as soon as you receive it. You should:

  • Make sure that it accurately reflects how pricing is typically provided for the service/product that is the subject of the tender.
  • Check if they are they asking for details of items you cannot provide (e.g. you may not normally break down your overhead costs).
  • Check if they are they asking for costs for items which are not relevant, (e.g. are there cleaning items in a security pricing schedule)?
  • Test any formulae present to see if they work.
  • Check if the pricing document has been provided in a format which is editable.

If you do this review straight away, you then have plenty of time to seek clarification on anomalies and, where necessary, request that the buyer makes amendments. This will be very difficult and may even be impossible to do if you leave it till the last minute.

Leaving your bid ’till the last minute can also mean that you find yourself in a situation where you cannot actually submit the bid on time. If the bid is strategically important to the company then make sure to let relevant parties know you’ll need their approval as soon as possible. Do you really want to have to explain why the bid was lost because you couldn’t be bothered to talk to J. Bloggs, VP-in-charge-of-signing-off-your-bid?

Make sure to engage with your own processes in good time.


Overall, it’s most important to you use your own common sense. Follow instructions to the letter and don’t make general assumptions. As long as you do all this, you’ll stand yourself in good stead.


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