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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cash For Peerages - Like Business Proposals

I've been on both sides of the fence when it comes to writing business proposals.

Do you think your proposal would suddenly be more acceptable if you could offer the prospect the allure of a peerage?

Let me take you through a little about proposals before answering that question.

On Writing Business Proposals

I've produced massive documents in reply to an "invitation to tender", "expression of interest" and also to the OJEC (also known as European Journal) based tenders. I've also produced short reports for the same purpose.

Does this weight of material, references, appendices and presentations make any difference to who is eventually chosen?

On Sifting Through Business Proposals

I've read enormous numbers of turgid documents that are difficult to read and which sometimes go so far away from answering an invitation to tender question that you begin to think the authors have never read the invitation document. In fact I've seen examples where they obviously didn't.


Do Business Proposals Get Sales?

 Looking back at the tenders I wrote, usually as part of a team, latterly as the bid manager, and also at the tenders I had to evaluate I would say that documents don't make the sale.

Obviously you can kill the sale stone dead if you miss the deadline! As there's always a deadline. Although sometimes prospects will extend the deadline it is unusual.

You also need to tick the expected boxes by completing the appropriate answers to questions raised. It's important that your answers are not "boiler plate" but each answer is made in light of the tender.

Presentations that invariably go with the proposal don't make the sale either.

 

What Makes A Sale?

Simple!

It's whether the prospect wants to do business with you or not. Whether they've implemented a fair weighting system for evaluating bids or not. Whether they check all references or not. Whether they evaluate a pilot or not...

In the end it comes down to whether they want to do business with you and ultimately your company.


So What About The Peerages Then?

So to come back to my question about offering peerages.

If you look at the current furore going on in the UK media about "cash for peerages" you can see that such sweeteners are not allowed by politicians either.

In actual fact the concern is that a political party may be using the honours system to reward people who give large amounts of cash to their party cause without the party declaring it because it's a loan.

In the end people can have their favourite supplier.  And invitation to tenders can be so slanted towards that vendor no on else can possibly win.  

How vendor companies may get into this "favourite supplier" situation varies. For example the prospect may like their salespeople the most, or the way the presentation was done, or their geographic closeness. The proposal may not even enter in to it.

However, while I've heard of dinner, nights at the casino and all expenses paid visits to sites around the World it's always seemed unlikely that a supplier would offer such a huge sweetener along the lines of the commercial equivalent of a "peerage" for the order.

Otherwise it becomes completely blatant bribery and would attract the attention of several government departments.

 

2 comments:

Rob Artisan said...

Jim,

tenders can be an honest process or the winner can be decided in advance and it simply going through the motions with the selection documents

For a small company it is a huge resource to put into a prospect that you might never have had a chance with in the first place.

The lesson is knowing the rules and then how to play the game. It is one many agencies and companies do not have the resource or expertise to play

Rob

Jim Symcox said...

Thanks Rob,

That's the thing isn't it? Putting in resources to a bid where the winner's already been decided.

The bottom line is how do you decide whether a bid is winnable or not.

We did find that if we could meet up with the buyers bid team we could pretty accurately gauge whether we stood a chance.

Unfortunately some bids didn't allow you to meet the team.

That said we still used to put the same effort in to bid!

Jim

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