Back when relationship selling was king and deals were done on a handshake, sales were a numbers game.
The more people you talked to, the luckier you got, and the more business came your way. Now, things are different.
We’ve moved from a time when people and personal relationships had a lot of power, to a time when deals of any size and value are transacted through formal procurement processes like competitive tenders.
Since the 1980s, competitive tendering has grown quickly. In 2014-15, one of Australia’s largest buyers - the Federal government - spent $59.447 billion buying goods and services through Austender, and issued 69,236 supplier contracts.
The game has changed, and our thinking needs to change too.
Submitting competitive tenders is like feeding coins into a slot machine; your chances of winning don’t get any better as your supply of coins goes down. In fact, the opposite is true.
The more tenders you invest time and effort in, but don’t win, the more discouraged you're likely to get.
Buyers don’t give you good feedback - or any feedback. All you’re really doing is depleting your most important currency, the energy, enthusiasm and engagement of your team, for absolutely zero return.
Responding to tenders is a tough way to win business:
- Tenders are time consuming - You can spend anywhere from one day to many months on a tender response. This sucks resources from other valuable activities
- Tenders are unpredictable - The tender was due out in June, but it arrives in September. This makes it impossible to plan for and resource
- Tenders are relentless - You’re constantly going from one tender to the next, or juggling multiple bids at once. This creates burnout and ill will among your team
- Tenders can cost a lot of money - none of which is recoverable if you lose. Or, as one exasperated client of mine said recently, “it’s like buyers have a blank cheque to spend our money on their tenders”
Competitive tenders can be a lucrative source of new business. But it’s tough to win work this way, and easy to exhaust our energy by pursuing too many marginal opportunities where we just don’t have a good chance of success.
As a senior marketer, you can help to re-shape the conversation about this channel to market, and improve your team’s morale and conversion rates.