Incumbency and an honest look at performance

The closer you get to the end of your service contract, the more likely a tender opportunity is about to hit your inbox. In the current environment, contract extensions and roll-overs are rare. Don’t say you didn’t see it coming!

As an incumbent provider you need to be humble and realistic about what you are currently delivering well and those areas that need improvement. Both of these areas need to be addressed in your tender response. A response that speaks to only one of these areas will not provide you with a positive outcome.

Whilst it can be daunting to take a slice of humble pie, a well written and structured tender response will translate your areas for improvement into strengths for your client. Being honest about what you can realistically deliver will strengthen your relationship with your client.

To put your organisation in the best position to win, it is imperative to plan ahead and look at your performance against contractual KPIs across the term of the contract. It doesn’t have to be time consuming and you won’t need to cut down a forest to document it.

Set yourself regular reminders at least 12 and 6 months out from the likely bid release time to evaluate and ask yourself (and the colleagues around you) the following questions:

  • Are we currently delivering on all of our contractual KPIs?

  • Where are the areas we need to improve on, and what short, medium, and long-term actions can we take to improve performance?

  • Are there any pain points for the client? If so, what actions can we take to address them?

  • Are there KPIs we are currently not meeting that are out of our control? If so, what opportunities do we have to discuss these with the client?


Keeping in mind that probity conditions will kick in as soon as the tender is released (at the latest), maximising early discussions with your client about how you can meet their needs will greatly assist your tender response development. Map out the client’s journey to ascertain a clear understanding of the direction they are heading and get thinking about how you can meet their current and future requirements.

Simple actions like this will help you maximise the short time you have to transcribe your response on to paper.

Happy bidding!

by Lauren Jesberg, Senior Tender Specialist

Go ahead... underestimate me

I was approached recently by an organisation that wanted to tender with me for a skills development program interstate. They are a large training organisation with the backing of a university, so I was quite chuffed that they got in contact. And the program is in my niche – tendering.

So, I suggested a Joint Venture – their track record with the client, their stakeholder engagement person, and my team as the subject matter experts. But all they saw was a new small business (as most of you know, I only founded Tender Plus Skills last year). Their strategy was to play to their size and existing track record and just wack my name in as one of the CVs because of the Diploma I designed. That’s what they offered, and I turned it down (much to their surprise).

And the result? They ended up with another competitor in the field. I found another partner, completely willing to enter into a win-win arrangement and tendered against them, even though I had no intention of doing so prior to their approach. But hey, they underestimated me, and it peeved me.

Underestimating your competitors or offering a partnership which does not represent a win-win for both partners is a mistake made by many companies when tendering. It most commonly results in lesser bids and lost opportunity. In this case it led to an even more competitive field.

It’s happened twice now on bids the Tender Plus team has been involved on to Defence.

Most people in the industry talk about Defence as “risk adverse” and “hard to crack”. Often companies tendering underestimate their competitors because they have the existing track record and experience that Defence “wants”. But Defence is a multi-faceted animal with many different decision makers, influencers and drivers. It proved that in both of these instances.

In one, Defence awarded the contract to a first-time player on Defence construction work, but with an inventive methodology. In the other, a race seemingly between the incumbent and a JV with combined track record and Defence experience, they awarded it to a third tenderer. The supposed “underdog” did not underestimate their competitors, worked through every element of their solution until it was the right one, and came out on top.

If you don't ask, the answer is always "no".

I sometimes have coffee with the real estate agent that sold me my house almost 9 years ago. I know, shock and horror, right! But I liked him. He most certainly was not acting in my best interest, but he acted so well in the vendor's best interest (which is his job), that I liked him. Hi, Brad!

Brad has inadvertently become my business development mentor - and he is not even aware of it. That is because over coffee one day, I asked him what made him fearless when it came to real estate. And his answer was that he thinks to himself, well, "if you don't ask, the answer is always "no"!

And when I am feeling reluctant to pick up the phone or send that email, ill-at-ease contacting someone that I have no pre-existing relationship with, of two minds as to whether I should ask for an introduction or referral to someone, or second guessing myself as to whether a particular organisation or institution will want what I am "selling", I think of Brad.

I make that call and send that email. I contact that person I have never met. I ask for the introduction or referral. And I make that offer. Because, if you don't ask, the answer will always be "no". And when you do ask, you would be surprised how often the answer is "yes".

What is the real crux to rapport?

I had the privilege of being in a room with 11 amazing business development and tendering professionals on Friday last week for a new cohort of the Diploma. Some participants had just started out in their careers in the field, some had dabbled in tendering but wanted to understand more, and some had spent the majority of their working lives winning competitive business. They came from a myriad of organisations - civil contractors, a major super fund, a global transport rollingstock provider, a medium tier law firm, a builder/developer, and an industrial engineering company owned by a global infrastructure company.

We were exploring the concepts and skills surrounding how to develop, grow and maintain client relationships and business networks and the impact of effective relationships on success in competitive business. We focussed for some time on the concept of rapport - what it is and how you build it.

What struck me was how often the discussion kept returning to a particular philosophical approach to relationships. That is, that the most effective, resilient, and enjoyable relationships we build in business (both internally and externally) are those based on empathy. For a chick that harps on and on about "kindness" in business - this was really exciting!

So what is the crux of establishing those sorts of relationships?

Definitely, approaching the exercise as one of mutual benefit - there is nothing worse than feeling "used" by someone. Also being willing to engage in robust and constructive discussion without necessarily reaching agreement. And creating a climate of trust - always fulfilling expectations and following through on your promises.

But the one thing that the room was in violent agreement about was that their most effective, resilient and enjoyable business relationships were dependent on them. Not the other person. Them. They were dependent on them coming to the relationship with a genuine and authentic willingness to be open. A willingness to share themselves, share information, share experiences and share need and benefit. To open themselves up to the realms of possibility that a business relationship might bring - the expected and the unexpected.

Gee, I hope that they include all of that in their assessments! :-)