Managing the tender process – are you in fight or flight mode?

You’re jumpy, with raised heartbeat and blood pressure…fear, tension and fatigue consume you.  And then, the impulse to move and be busy transports you to a hyperactive state; followed by a collapse into an alert tiredness again.

If this ‘episode’ sounds strikingly familiar then chances are you’re part of a tender or bid team.

This is called “fight or flight mode” (at Thought Bubble we also name it “the tender bender”) when adrenalin kicks in and the body and mind goes into auto-drive to deliver on that all-important, non negotiable deadline that just so happens to be laced with a dose of ‘win or die’.

The key issue here is that the body-mind issue – when faced with enormous pressure – needs to be treated with a mind and body approach.  Here are some tips that we’ve learned over many years working on ASX-listed, government and Defence tenders that keep us sane.

1.     Get comfortable with the process

Inevitably, tendering comprises a large part of business development activity. When organisations have many proposals facing the market, a more streamlined approach is needed. Focus on reinforcing the organisation’s key messages, keep a clear and consistent ‘voice’ and ensure probity and mandatory content requirements are at the highest standard so as to reinforce brand positioning.

Consider investing in a tender library by identifying ‘frequently asked questions’. This allows you to draw upon consistent and up-to-date content at the drop of a hat, which can then be tailored or adapted without ‘reinventing the wheel’ each time.

Take the time to read the RFP and the conditions of contract in depth. Many hidden gems of wisdom can be found in the background information not to mention providing information that will help you be fully compliant (and possibly knocking your competitors off their perch for failing to read the fine print).

2.     Devise the tender response strategy

Do plenty of background research on your client – read their annual reports, do some data mining if they’re an existing client and search for articles and media statements to get a feel for their strategic intent. This will help you identify how you should best align with their needs. Very soon you’ll be able to articulate your competitive advantage.

3.     Scoping and information gathering

First things first. Collect information about your experience relevant to the prospect.  Once you have this then you can tell your story. From here, you have a solid place to start developing key messages.  Plan resources carefully. Allocate tasks which address the 4 C’s – content, context, comprehension and compliance – this includes gathering information around your methodologies, approaches, expertise, track record, quality and risk management.

4.     Writing the response

This is the time to think outside the square. If you need to put on extra resources to give you ‘around the clock’ productivity, do it so that you eliminate key person risks – no prizes for missing the deadline or burning out your team.  Nominate a master document controller and keep answers brief and to the point – use bullet points, tables and headings to break up your content. Invest in professional design for readability and to convey a professional image.

Make sure you’ve developed a logical argument and that everything hangs together – read everything again. Read another time – check for compliance. Then get a colleague to read it once again – for meaning, typing mistakes and omissions.

5.     Let go

Factor in plenty of time for formatting, design, editing, print and binding, if required. Work backwards from your deadline and allocate a few days for design and iterative changes, one to two days for final editing and proofing etc.  It’s too late to make subjective, minor changes once the document is in final proof stage.  Let go, and trust that any further changes you make from here are unlikely to change the outcome. By doing so you’re eating into contingency time – trust us, things can happen out of your control with incidents like printers and e-tender uploads. Last minute changes also create unnecessary stress for others who are now loaded with new (and unwelcome) responsibility. Move on, and focus on getting the tender in ahead of time.

6.     Post RFP

Win, lose or draw, follow up and debrief internally and seek a full debrief from the client. Document your ‘lessons learned’ and continue to improve on your bid library content.


Tender or bid management is a tough job, and the most successful bid managers also share an unusual set of personal traits and aptitudes. They are persistent, resilient, fearless and willing to do whatever it takes to get the best results from the people they work with. They also need to be happy to hand over the credit for any successes, take responsibility for any losses, and move on quickly to the next opportunity.

Managing tenders, bids and proposals involves working under intense pressure to tight and often competing deadlines, and dealing with internal politics and personalities under stressful conditions. Give your team the right resourcing, processes and tools – supported by positive attitude and championing do their jobs effectively (and importantly – some well-earned downtime to re-energise or work on something different to break the routine) – and you’ll be rewarded with return on investment worth far more than your expectations.

If you find Nyree’s advice useful, please feel free to share with others on your preferred social network. Thank you!