The electrical tender process is highly competitive and when done well, can be very time consuming.

It’s disappointing when you don’t win a tender that you had your sights set on. Sometimes there’s nothing you could have done differently, but many times there are things that could have given you a better shot.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you didn’t win the electrical tender:

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#1. You didn’t market your company

The tender process is as much about selling your company and conveying how you will do a good job as it is about pricing. When you’re writing up tender documentation, it is definitely not the time to be struck with modesty about your achievements and experience.

One tip is to keep the client in mind as you prepare your tender. Picture them asking the question, “why should I hire you?” Your tender should answer that question very clearly for them, giving relevant examples.

Including brief case studies can prove to be the added ingredient that your tender needs to impress the client. Consider examples such as; how you saved a client money, how you completed a state-of-the-art project, or even how you work with local labour on your projects.

Language is another key way in which you can sell your company (or not). Consider the overall tone of your application – is the language strong and positive? To convey competence and confidence, avoid weakening your language with things like “in our opinion” or “we would.” Replace with “we will” and use an active voice in your application.

Always remember that pricing is only one consideration for the person or people assessing tender applications. The cheapest price with no indication of what qualifies you to do the job is unlikely to be a winner.

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Electrical tender

#2. You didn’t follow instructions

Picture a busy procurement manager who has a pile of tenders to work their way through. What are they going to do to narrow the field down? One of the very first things is to throw out all tenders that didn’t follow instructions.

Some commonly missed instructions include:

  • Tender formatting. Many organisations request a very specific format because they prefer it. Using a standard format helps them to compare tenders side-by-side more easily.
  • Specifications stated on the PQQ. Always check that you have followed these!
  • Questions that you have been asked to answer. Sometimes these can get buried in the documentation, so be sure to read through carefully, then double-check before sending your application in.

Take note also of exactly how the company has requested the tender be submitted. Many are using electronic tendering now and expect you to use a certain system, but there are still those that request email or even hard copies. If a company has requested hard copies, make sure you’ve submitted the number of copies they have requested. You don’t want them pulling apart your documentation to make copies themselves, in case anything goes missing!

#3. Your estimate seemed off

Every organisation that puts out an electrical tender is looking for competitive bids, however they’re also looking for high-quality work. If your bid seems too low, they might suspect that you will cut corners, or that you’re not experienced enough to do the job well.

On the other hand, if your estimate seems much higher than others, the client might suspect that you inflate your pricing. The tricky part with pricing is being able to fall within a range that seems reasonable to the client.

Accuracy is your friend here. You should be able to show precise breakdowns for how you came to your final estimate. Using reliable automated takeoff software can help, but you also need to be clear with what you are charging for. Itemise things like labour costs and avoid using vague terms such as “service fee” (a client looks at that and thinks “for what?”)

#4. You didn’t meet minimum requirements

Did you carefully read the specification and note the minimum requirements the procurer has for awarding the tender? Perhaps either you didn’t meet them, or you failed to demonstrate on your application that you do.

Examples include:

  • Having relevant previous experience
  • Possessing any requested accreditations
  • Meeting any labour requirements (for example, sometimes tenders will state preferences for turnover rates or use of local labour)
  • Meeting any requirements for specific policies and procedures.

Sometimes it can help to physically go through the specifications and check them off against your own documentation. It’s important to make sure you have answered to every requirement.

#5. Your presentation was poor

This point follows on from failing to sell your business well – poor overall presentation definitely won’t sell! This includes things such as spelling and grammar, particularly those very glaring errors.

Besides following requested formats, you should also ensure that you have stayed within any requested word limits. Look at how your documentation is presented – is it easy to read through, or do you have awkward walls of text? Sometimes some simple formatting such as paragraphs or bullet points can make a big difference.

Overall, we recommend that your submission be typed up if possible, rather than hand-written. This helps to avoid issues such as illegible handwriting, which will likely lead to your documents being put aside.

Electrical tender

#6. You returned it late

This one is very simple. If you returned your documentation after the due date, it will probably never get looked at. Remember, if there is a pile of applications to work through, the procurement manager will first seek to get rid of as many as possible to decrease their workload!

Free download: Language tips for your tenders

#7. The client went with someone they know

If the client ended up selecting an electrical business that they already know, there may not have been a lot you could have done differently. Here’s what you can take from it though – relationships matter in business.

While tenders are partly a numbers game, they’re also about people and how you appeal to them. Companies offering private tendering can award as they see fit. Those organisations in the public sector will have a very set procedure to follow when awarding tenders, but what do they do if two or three applications line up equally? This is where they might go with someone who the procuring manager happens to know or with whom they have worked before. It is people who award the contract, not a machine.

One thing you can do is work to build up your own network of contacts. Get into the habit of making yourself known in work and social settings, perhaps even joining local networking groups or community organisations.

When you’re on job sites, make the effort to meet facilities managers, engineers, corporate liaisons and procurement managers. Introduce yourself, get to know them and leave them with your business card.

It’s never a waste of time putting yourself out there and getting to know people. Even if they’re not going to be directly offering you work, they may refer you to someone they know who is, or refer that person to you.

Final thoughts

If you’ve submitted your best possible effort at tender documentation and still don’t win the tender, don’t let it put you off. Look for what you can learn from not winning this time – what tips can you take with you for next time?

Did you ensure you met all the requirements and requests on the specification? What about selling your company? Could you give better examples or use stronger language to sell your skills and experience?

These are some fairly common reasons for losing an electrical tender, but they’re all things you can make up for next time.