5+ tips for procurement (from the people who read your tender submissions)

We have interviewed procurement managers from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to give He Waka Eke Noa members direct insight into what decision makers are looking for from tender submissions. 

In this article, Vivian Dias, a Procurement Manager at Auckland Council, offers tips and advice relevant to all procurement processes – but especially in the construction sector. Dave Colquhoun, Procurement Manager at Auckland Transport, provides more specific guidance for suppliers looking to bid for Auckland Transport projects.

Read on to learn how you can improve your tender submissions and gain an advantage in winning work. 

1. Read the RFx

While it sounds straightforward, Vivian Dias says that many businesses’ responses indicate that they haven’t read the request for tender or proposal properly, and fail to structure their response to address what the client is assessing them on.

“When responding, read the RFx and structure your response around exactly what they ask for. If something is only worth a small percentage, don’t focus on it as much.” 

Vivian advises businesses to make it as easy as possible for buyers to evaluate them. Structure your response in strict accordance with the structure of the RFT or RFP, and the detail of your answers should be weighted in proportion to the weight they’re given in the RFx.

2. Understand the buyer and position yourself accordingly.

When it comes to forming a strategy around your bid, it’s critical that you understand the buyer and where your business can add value to their project. 

“It’s often about networking. Successful suppliers know what the project will achieve for Procurement Managers, so they can build their bid around that and tailor their response.”

It’s important to do your research well in advance: what are the buyer’s overarching goals? What outcome are they trying to achieve with this specific project, and why is your business the best option?

While this sounds straightforward, Vivian says that many bids fail to demonstrate a deep understanding of the challenges faced by the buyer, and don’t customise their bid to present a tailored solution. Instead, their bid seems ‘copy-and-pasted’ because it lacks sensitivity to the buyer and the project’s unique requirements.

For example, Auckland Council faces a significant problem tackling Kauri dieback disease, and this could impact certain projects. Hypothetically, suppliers bidding for a project that may impact Kauri should show awareness of this and demonstrate they have developed their knowledge and capability to work effectively whilst contributing to Auckland Council’s goal of minimising the spread of Kauri dieback.

Vivian mentions that successful suppliers are skilled at talking to Procurement Managers and learning what the project will achieve. He advises that one of the best ways to get to know your potential clients and build a robust knowledge of their requirements is just to give them a call.

“Always ask questions if you’re not sure. Avoid making assumptions because we might have missed something. If anything, asking questions about the bid makes us think ‘these guys are onto it’.”

3. Know what sets you apart.

To create a winning tender, you’ve got to know what sets your business apart from others to deliver the specific scope being tendered for. Being able to communicate your unique selling proposition (USP) is a core factor determining your success in the tender process.

This is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, not only in your services and price, but the overarching value you can provide to the buyer’s customers.

Part of He Waka Eke Noa businesses USP is that you are a Maori and/or Pasifika owned business. Don’t assume that the buyer knows this. Instead make sure that you tell them in your response and let them know you are a part of He Waka Eke Noa.

This is also your chance to let them know about the added benefit you can provide them through the way you operate your business. Whether that be that you have dedicated training programmes to ensure the upskilling of your Maori and/or Pasifika workforce, or paying a living wage or being environmentally driven by diverting waste to landfill. These are all considered sustainable outcomes that buyers are now trying to include in their procurement processes.

Suppliers are advised to invest time and resources into developing their USP. This also means dedicating the time to carve out your values, mission statement, and branding so that your business is memorable and your kaupapa is clearly communicated. Buyers can then recognise your business as a valuable future partner.

4. Be realistic about your capabilities.

Vivian reminds suppliers that tendering takes up precious time and resources, so stick to bidding for projects that align with your core capabilities. It’s much better (and easier) to bid for fewer, more suitable jobs with a high quality tender, than to bid for many jobs that aren’t a perfect fit with your capability and cut the corners on your tender writing process.

It’s also important to know that buyers take note when you fail to submit for a bid:

“The big mistake is committing to a bid but not following through, that runs the risk of gaining a bad reputation and procurement managers are less inclined to get them involved.”

5. Learn why you lost and why you won.

Vivian urges suppliers to always ask for feedback, whether that’s for learning why you did not succeed or understanding what separated you from the other bids to win the tender so you can follow the same approach next time. This is the ultimate opportunity for you to improve and grow as a business – the lesson learned from one failed bid could be the reason you win the next one!

“Always ask for a tender debrief. It’s your chance to find out how you can improve for next time and where you sit in comparison to the market”

He Waka Eke Noa, Lite Civil, Makaurau Marae, IhumataoSpecialised guidance from Dave Colquhoun at Auckland Transport.

Each buyer might have a different procurement process for bidders to follow, and while tender requirements are always clearly stated in the RFx, Procurement Manager Dave Colquhoun has some specific advice for HWEN members preparing to bid for a project with Auckland Transport.

Use the template provided and submit electronically

All tender submissions for Auckland Transport must be submitted electronically using the response document provided. Dave advises that any tenders submitted in hard copy won’t be considered, and that the provided response document shouldn’t be altered in any way. 

This includes adding cover pages, spending time and money adding flair to the document, and changing formulas on pricing schedules – suppliers should simply work within the guidelines and format provided.   

Stick to answering the questions

It’s that simple. But while it’s important in many tenders to demonstrate flair and make an impact with your business’s USP, Dave warns that AT’s procurement managers “don’t need novels or sales pitches”. This is clear advice to minimise ‘fluff’ and ensure each point refers directly to the question it is answering in the submission.


Recently, supplier member Lite Civil became the first He Waka Eke Noa business to be directly awarded a contract by Auckland Transport, through its Sustainable Procurement Programme. Check out the story here 

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