13th Apr 2012 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

Strategy: Innovation as a Key Response Strategy

When it comes to the success of any project, there is no substitute for careful planning. Proper preparation really does prevent poor performance. And, there are hidden benefits.


  • "Proper preparation prevents poor performance" and there are hidden benefits
  • Run a tight but realistic Project Plan with final response content completed well before the submission deadline: buy time to reflect on client needs and how you will meet them
  • Plan to address innovation as a specific strategy whether it is required or not - you'll be surprised at what creative juices will bubble forth!

Innovation takes off when an offer includes a true comprehension of a buyer's needs

A well-written CV stands out from the pack, hopefully securing the candidate an interview. Something similar applies to the best proposals. A well-written response to an RFP / RFT will discriminate you from the competition. And the very best will create desire prompting evaluators to look for reasons to work with you. Innovation is a powerful way to create that desire. But it takes time.

Why is Innovation so Important?

Some of the most successful bids our consultants have worked on have sprung from genuinely innovative ideas and initiatives. These creative solutions have been too compelling for evaluators to ignore. Creative, innovative thinking within a compliant response puts your proposal to the top of the pile.

Your innovation might simply be an alternative offer or approach - something often sought by organisations. Or it might offer attractive solutions to other pressing problems suggested or implied by the tender specification. Sensible, risk-managed innovation is exciting. And most of us like working with creative thinkers, including the organisation behind that RFT.

Innovations can take many forms. A few our consultants have worked on include:

  • The Creation of a University Course to Address a Specific Skills Shortage. This idea involved the development of partnership with a University and the development of a highly specific curriculum. (In fact, it's still in use today to provide entry to post-graduate qualifications!)
  • Development of an Industry-specific Benchmarking Website. One response included the development of a site to collate and compare de-identified data for industry participants, thus providing them with valuable benchmarking data to improve their performance. This was immensely exciting for the evaluators.
  • Formation of an Expert Advisory Committee. The set-up of this academic and vocational body to provide a client with 'thought leadership' in the area of Risk management made good business sense, and won the contract.

So, Why do so many proposals fail to offer innovation as part of their solution or response?

Our experience is that a lack of proper preparation finds many tenderers running around like headless chickens fulfilling tender requirements. This leaves little time to 'step out of the circle' and examine alternative (maybe better) approaches. Running out of time, they rob themselves of the opportunity to consider innovation.

Wasted opportunities like these are familiar to most of us. How often have you walked out of a presentation, finished a speech or even completed a written examination only to lament: "if only I'd had more time", " if only I'd spent less time on topic A and more time on topic B" or "if only I'd known at the beginning of this process what I know now".

How Can Ensure We Make Time for Innovation?

The key is planning! No doubt you already allocate time to planning what to say or write. Why not do the same with innovation and plan time purely for the purpose of finding new and creative ways to solve client problems - to help them to increase revenue, decrease costs or reduce risk.

It's often not until we are almost through the entire response process - and more often, after we have finished - that we have a full grasp of the client's requirements. Only then are we in a position to look at the client's challenges from their viewpoint! And, until we can do this, we are hardly in a position to offer innovations that can really add value to our client.

Napoleon Hill expressed it this way: "the sum of the whole is greater than its individual parts."

Innovation takes off when our 'offer' to the client goes beyond the benefits or solutions we can deliver: it includes a true comprehension of their needs. At this point, we're in a prime position to innovate. That is, the sum of our parts and the client's parts will result in a superior solution or proposal. We start to see the client's problems and challenges as our own. It is at this point that truly inventive solutions and approaches start to emerge.

how to apply this knowledge

To apply any of the suggestions mentioned here, it is important, very important, to plan time for this creativity - particularly if the RFT requests innovation. Additionally:

  • Attempt to fully comprehend the RFT and its requirements as early as possible in the response process. This allows 'brain seeds' to be planted and to germinate.
  • Assemble all of the key stakeholders in a facilitated kick-off meeting to discuss the key requirements and agree on winning themes and key messages. Conduct a workshop to address innovation as a single topic.
  • Set a definite deadline for the Final Draft to be completed, and place this well ahead of the submission date (where possible) to allow sufficient time to flex.
  • From a writer's viewpoint: the writing is in the rewriting. A good tender writer molds and crafts content until arriving at a final product. Never underestimate the value of putting in the hard yards early in the response process and leaving yourself with sufficient time to polish the final product including innovative solutions.
  • Get 'match-fit'. One of our old chestnuts, this is all about having your essential information fresh and in order. Instead of wasting time chasing financials, CVs, policies and procedures, having them in a central resource library frees time and energy for innovation.

Combining these suggestions will buy you very valuable time later in the process, leaving the necessary time to respond fully to RFT questions AND to consider any innovative strategies that just may differentiate you from your competition and win you the business!

In summary, proper preparation really does prevent poor performance; every time! Allow yourself sufficient time to address innovation as a key strategy by setting tight but realistic deadlines. Have the Final Draft available some days before it is due for submission to allow you time to innovate and offer superior solutions and benefits to a client's problems and challenges.

Failure to do so may mean that you completely squander any opportunity for innovation.

Remember, the tender team and senior management need time to synthesise the response material - client requests/challenges and suggested solutions/responses. If this time is spent chasing late submission of information and data then, an optimal, innovative response is simply not possible.

robRob Machin is a senior consultant for Tender Success. or more than 25 years he has successfully managed tender responses with values in excess of $6 billion dollars. Contact Tender Success to ensure your next response is a success.