14 Sep The Positive ‘No’
By Christine Brown, Wednesday 14th September 2016
When it comes to winning a bid, every point matters. If you want to avoid the frustration of losing out to the competition by a miniscule difference in scoring, you need to make sure you are not only agreeing to meet the requirements of the Client, but also clearly explaining how. But what about the times where you can’t? Sometimes a tender will include a proposed condition that you simply can’t accommodate, but the last thing you want to do in this situation is put a flat ‘No’ or ‘Not Compliant’ in response.
So what do you do when a requirement can’t be met? This will vary on the type of response you have been asked to submit. If you are completing an online form with only ‘Yes/No’ drop down boxes then your options are limited, and if the requirement is listed as mandatory for the Client you may need to reassess your bid/no bid decision, especially if you are listing more than one ‘No’ and you know your competition is in a position to say ‘Yes’.
There are, however, likely to be far more instances where you are given the opportunity to provide a text response to the requirement, and this will give you more wiggle room on your ‘No’ with the opportunity to potentially still score points while not compromising on your business limitations. Here is how:
1. Consider the full requirement, is it the end result or the process you can’t agree to?
If you can reach the Client’s desired end result but through a different process to the one proposed, be sure to explain this clearly. For example, instead of ‘No, our company does not complete the requested process by doing x, y, x’ you can state something along the lines of ‘Through extensive experience and trials we have found that we can produce the result you require in a more efficient and effective manner by x, y, z’
2. Can you meet them halfway?
This will primarily apply to proposed financial or key performance indicator/service level agreement targets. If the Client has proposed a figure which does not make business sense to agree to, and you believe your competition will be in the same boat, rather than just saying ‘No’ suggest a figure you can agree to. If other bidders have done the same, the submission proposing the terms closest to those required is likely to be awarded points. Make sure to take the time to ensure that any figures you propose still make the contract viable for your business, tender submissions can be considered contractual so while trying to keep the response as positive and close to the requirements as possible, don’t risk being bound to a commitment that could put you out of business.
3. Always be open to further discussion and negotiation
Where proposing an alternative to the requested term or requirement, always make it clear that this isn’t your final offer and you would be open to discussing alternative options. While stating you would need to discuss a requirement is unlikely to score you points on its own, coupling it with proposals of alternative solutions you can offer could. This will show the Client that you are seeking out alternative options with their best interests in mind, and would want their input to find the most beneficial middle ground for all parties involved.
If you believe that you can offer the best solution and value to a Client, don’t let the odd term that you can’t agree to stop you bidding. If you keep a positive energy in your responses that reflects your dedication to good customer service for them, they will pick up on your enthusiasm and you may find you responses are marked more positively as a result.