8 Key Reasons Your Tenders Aren't Winning Contracts

Linda Formichelli

Your field service business has been tendering for service and maintenance contracts...with no luck. What are your competitors doing that you aren’t?

We talked with tender experts and did the research to uncover the most common reasons you’re losing tenders. For even more help, download our free Tender Writing Checklist to help you write a winning  bid.

Why are we losing tenders?

These are the top reasons your tenders aren’t winning contracts.

  1. You missed the deadline. If you miss the tender deadline, the buyer thinks, will you also miss the project deadlines?
  2. You’re bidding for the wrong contracts. Be selective about which contracts you tender for.
  3. You’re not backing up your claims. You have the highest first-time fix rate in the region? Says who?
  4. You’re bidding on price. Buyers are buying value, not price.
  5. Your costings are inaccurate. Errors in calculations may cause a buyer to toss your tender.
  6. You’re too focused on your business. It’s about what you can do for the client, not how amazing your business is.
  7. Your tender is full of typos and grammatical mistakes. Bad spelling and grammar make your business look bad, too.
  8. You keep reusing old copy. Buyers know when you’re sending them generic, copy-and-paste text.

Keep reading for the details on each common tender mistake, plus resources on how to fix them.

Tender mistake #1: You missed the deadline.

It sounds obvious, but too many field service businesses commit one or more of these blunders:

  • Wait until the last minute to start writing their tender.
  • Procrastinate on getting the certifications they need for a contract.
  • Think, ‘We’re so great, when they see this tender they won’t care that we missed the deadline.’

‘This shows lack of respect for the process, and makes it look like you can’t/won’t achieve deadlines provided,’ according to an article on Creative Tenders about the most common mistakes in tendering. ‘Your tender response would be disregarded anyway, so if you’ve made a mistake and missed the deadline, don’t send in your response. [U]se it as a learning experience.’

Tender mistake #2: You’re bidding for the wrong contracts.

Are you bidding on every contract you come across? If so, your success rate is probably so low because many of these opportunities aren’t a fit for your field service business.

In our post on whether you should tender for a contract, we tell you how to know if a service and maintenance contract is right for your business. Be sure your company fits the requirements and can perform the job, the buyer has no legal or ethical issues, and the terms of the contract are reasonable.

Propeller Studios offers a free bid/no bid checklist that can help you decide if an opportunity is worth going after.

Tender mistake #3:  You’re not backing up your claims.

‘Not providing evidence to support your claims is a big mistake in tender writing,’ says David Williams, Director of Purple Patch Marketing Consultants in Essex. ‘For example, if a question is “Can you show us how you add value?” and your answer is “Yes, we reduced costs by £3,000”, that’s not good. You’ve got to back up your claims.’

In our post on what to put in a tender, we give examples of claims that have no backup, and show you how to provide evidence for them.

Tender mistake #4:  You’re bidding on price.

Many plumbing and heating, HVAC, electrical, fire and security, and property management businesses believe the final contract decision comes down to price. The lowest price will always win, right?

‘Commissioners buy value, not price,’ says Tony McKelvie, a Director at Tenders-UK in Leicestershire. ‘Value is quality divided by cost. Everything you do that increases quality increases value—so if you want to win a tender, win on quality. There will always be some guy cheaper than you.’ You want your quality to be so far ahead of what your competitors are offering that price is irrelevant.

Afraid to charge what you’re worth? Read our manifesto Why You Need to Raise Your Prices Right Now—And How to Do It, which comes with loads of resources that will help you lose the fear of charging higher prices, and show you how to make it happen.

Tender mistake #5: Your costings are inaccurate.

Your pricing is a big factor in whether or not you win a contract. You now know not to be the low-cost leader, so that’s a plus for you—but you also need to be scrupulous about calculating your costings, according to Designing Buildings in their post on common mistakes in construction tenders.

There’s a lot to consider in your costings, from parts to subcontractor prices. Any mistakes in your calculations can cause the buyer to discard your tender, so calculate carefully! Tony Zemaitis Associates offers a comprehensive Beginners Guide to Pricing Tenders that can help ensure you get it right.

Tender mistake #6: You’re too focused on your business.

You offer the most value, you have the best engineers, your pricing is perfect, and your customers love you.

Those are all things to shout about in your tender, but when it’s all about you, you’re failing to put the focus where it belongs: on the client. Search through your tender for the word “we” and mentions of your business name. If the tender is packed with them, think about how to rephrase them to answer the question the client will be asking, which is “What’s in it for me?”

In our post on what to put in a tender that we mentioned earlier, you’ll find examples of “we-centric” phrases and how to flip them around to show the benefit to the buyer.

Tender Mistake #7: Your tender is full of typos and grammatical mistakes.

Even if you pick just the right contract opportunities and offer tons of value in your tender, if the tender’s riddled with spelling and grammar issues your business will come off as unprofessional.

Unfortunately, the grammar check and spell check functions in word processing software don’t pick up on every problem. In our post on how to write a tender, we share three unusual ways to catch every mistake in your document. Here are a few more:

  1. Print out the tender. You’ll catch snafus you didn’t notice while proofreading on the screen.
  2. Ask someone else to take a look. Getting a different perspective is helpful in uncovering awkward phrasings, run-on sentences, bad transitions, and other issues.
  3. Hire a professional proofreader. If you’re writing the tender yourself instead of using a tender-writing company, hiring a proofreader to give your document a final going-over will be money well spent.

Remember, your tender is a reflection on your business—so it needs to be clean and error-free.

Tender Mistake #8: You keep reusing old copy.

If you’re committing Tender Mistake #2 (bidding for the wrong contracts), you may also be guilty of this one. Copying and pasting information from old tenders into new ones is a bad idea, reports this Executive Compass article on 7 common proposal writing mistakes.

If you do want to reuse copy, statistics, or data from old tenders, it all needs to be rewritten and updated. Every buyer is different, and evaluators can tell when you’re using a generic template.

Also: If you’re reading this article because you’re losing tenders, do you really want to be reusing copy that’s not getting results?

Perfect your tender.

Ready to get started writing winning tenders? We created this free downloadable Tender Writing Checklist to help you write the best tender—and win the contract.

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