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Bid Management: How Not to Outsource

Jack Bolton
Written by
Jack Bolton
Outsourcing: It's not that Simple

Outsourcing your bid management is by far one of the most valuable and cost-effective tender strategies (For more on the reasons to consider outsourcing, click here). Outsourcing however, is not that simple. To ensure you get the best deal from your chosen provider, there are certain aspects that you must therefore consider.

Flat-Rate Pricing

Be wary of consultancies who offer a flat rate for their bid management services, especially if this is inordinately high.

If a consultancy quotes you at a flat £10k for example, for what seems like a relatively simple bid, the chances are that they don’t really want your business. If you are ever quoted something suspiciously expensive, it’s certainly worth shopping around. You may just find a more cost-effective company that actually wants your business.

You should be equally as careful when receiving suspiciously low quotations. If a company offers a flat £300 for a bid review, you should seriously consider how meticulous they are likely to be.

Excessive T&Cs

Be extremely careful of any hidden T&Cs, especially if you’re being promised the world.

If a prospective company offers you a deal that seems too good to be true (e.g. 100% win rates, or guaranteed success) the chances are that their T&Cs are enough to cover them if/when they don’t deliver. While there’s not technically anything wrong with this approach, we find that dishonesty and coercion is rarely a good recipe for a healthy client-consultant relationship.

Quoting Too Soon

Some will feel that the sooner they quote, the more likely you are to choose them. While this may be true, be careful.

If a consultant offers you a quote on your first contact with them or without first asking to see any bid documentation, tread carefully. The chances are that they may significantly over-quote to cover themselves if the work is more than expected.

If they are that quick to send a quote, you must also consider that they probably aren’t too invested in procuring you as a client. It is most likely they will not have reviewed the documents properly and may over-quote or under-perform at delivery as a result.

Boilerplate / Template Responses

Before committing to a consultancy, make sure to ask whether each response they write will be bespoke.

It is important not to enlist the services of a writer who will simply use boilerplate and template responses in your bid. No matter how ‘tried and tested’ they are, these rarely win. Bespoke is always best.

Inexperienced writers

Experience in tendering is absolutely invaluable both from a writing and service delivery perspective. Many consultancies take on large volumes of work or quote cheaply simply because most of their writers are junior.

The depth of industry knowledge that an experienced bid manager can bring to a project is invaluable. They may have the next Shakespeare in their junior ranks but unless they have first-hand procurement experience, their value as a consultant will be limited.

Conflicts of Interest

Consultancies should guarantee you exclusivity on any competitive opportunity. If anyone is unwilling to do so, or openly admits to representing multiple companies on a single opportunity, you should look elsewhere. This point is especially pertinent to single supplier contracts and frameworks with limited available spaces.

True In-house vs Outsourced Freelancing

The depth of knowledge that an experienced in-house bid team offers is one of the key benefits to outsourcing. A team of experienced bid management professionals working together ensures that any knowledge gaps are always adequately covered.

If your chosen consultancy simply subcontracts their work to freelancers, you lose out on this benefit. As the name implies, freelancers work alone. Beware also of terms such as ‘partners’ or ‘associates’ as more often than not, these are just freelancers in disguise.

A key consideration here is the mark-up that the consultancy may put on your quotation to cover against the additional costs of sub-outsourcing. We always recommend going straight to a purely in-house bid consultancy to ensure that you bypass the middleman. Not only will this improve the quality of your bid, it will also save you money.

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