Seriously, I would like to know because right now it feels like hundreds! Recent tenders and pitches we have been involved in have been hard work and we have put a lot of effort into writing and trying to win them.
So it made me think – are tenders really worth the effort? And how many do you have to pitch for until you win one?
Now, we’ve done our due diligence, for example, making doubly sure that we’re the right fit for a particular contract, that we can bring everything needed to the table and deliver on what we say we can do.
We’ve also put in some serious hours both strategically and creatively, creating compelling, well-thought-through responses to tenders.
Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to land one.
Tenders and pitches eat through agency time especially when you have paying client work to deliver and deadlines to meet at the same time. We don’t take tendering lightly. We’re not one of those businesses that throw pitches out at every opportunity in the hope that one might stick and land a lucrative contract.
If you are personally invited to pitch for a contract, it can be even more disappointing when you don’t land it. Okay, there’s always going to be competition and you are always going to have to bring something to the table to stand out and give yourself a better chance. Most businesses will look for at least 3 agencies to tender to give the appearance of a fair process.
But more recently, I get the impression we are asked to tender just to make up the numbers. It doesn’t matter how good we are or what we say in the tender document or any presentation – the decision is already made and there’s nothing we can include in our pitch that is going to change that.
It’s as if the team requesting the RFP simply needs to justify their agency choice by calling for pitches and then handing the brief to the one they always wanted to give it to in the first place.
Of course, there can be various reasons why a pitch doesn’t succeed. You might think if you are the incumbent and a contract is being put out for retender you have a better chance than those pitching for the first time.
But actually, that’s not true. Only 40% of incumbents win projects that are re-tendered.
Tendering takes up a lot of time. So much so that we seriously need to weigh up the pros and cons before we even decide to pitch. It can take days, sometimes weeks to respond to an RFP or tender proposal. But is it worth it? I guess it is when you win!
And what’s the average win ratio I wonder for creative agencies that tender for public sector contracts for instance? There are plenty of tender writing services online at the moment that boast success rates between 80% and even 95%, which I certainly have to take with a pinch of salt.
According to Loopio’s Average RFP Win Rates the average success rate for all businesses is closer to 44%:
17% of teams in their survey won 30-39% of bids.
16% won 40-49% of their RFPs.
8% reported an 80-100% proposal win rate.
I’d take 44% all day long, but sometimes it just feels like the deck is stacked.
If it is the case that sometimes businesses, both in the private and public sector, have already made their minds up about who they are going to choose and you are there just to make up the numbers, it begs the question of how ethical this is?
The problem in thinking about pitches this way, of course, is that it can negatively affect your perception as you go forward. You begin to think: Why should I spend all that time putting together an RFP response when it’s likely to lead nowhere?
Maybe we’re doing something wrong. Perhaps our strategy and bid writing isn’t as robust as we thought or perhaps we need to change a few things to make ourselves more competitive?
I’d be intrigued to hear from other agency owners on their success rate with pitches and tenders.
What success rate are you seeing in your tendering?
Is it getting harder to bid for contracts?
Are there things that you’ve changed to improve your chances of success?
And just how many frogs do you need to kiss exactly?
Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
By Andy Johns 27 March 2023