At Baxendale, we have years of experience of developing and winning standout bids. In this post, we want to share how we go about maximising bid score for our clients. The methods below will help any health and social care tender to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
A standout bid has two criteria. It must propose an exceptional service, and it must explain that service convincingly. Here we must differentiate between a very good bid and a standout bid. A very good bid will usually fulfil one of the criteria well. In a standout bid, both the bid content and the writing quality will be excellent. This cannot be done without deep sector knowledge or professional bid writing skills. At Baxendale, we specialise in marrying these two criteria perfectly, with expertise in health and social care service modelling as well as highly polished tender responses.
The first thing an outstanding bid response does is ensure the specification is fully met. Although this is a fairly obvious point, the spec can be tricky to understand. The commissioner will usually clearly set out the key elements of the spec, but may inadvertently hide important elements in the detail or leave something open to interpretation. We’ve seen multiple cases where the core elements of the service are explained in the wrong part of the tender. We’ve also seen requirements that are unclear in their ask and ambiguous about which response they relate to.
With a lot of experience dealing with such peculiarities, our team builds a mental picture of what goes where and unpicks the uncertainties within the spec to ensure the response is complete. We also know the difference between meeting the spec, and meeting it convincingly. We work and refine the bid with our clients until we are fully convinced, and that’s how we know the commissioner will be too.
A standout bid adds value over and above what the commissioner asks for. The previous point discussed meeting all the requirements, but showing that you bring something extra to enhance the service makes the bid stand out. It also shows that you are going to proactively ensure a high-quality service throughout the contract, and are qualified to do so. Essentially, it tells the commissioner that they can trust you.
For example, to add value to the digital ask in a bid, one of our clients was involved in the development of an app that would efficiently support the service through remote means. Now, not everyone can develop an app, but at Baxendale we always ask the right questions, exploring ways for our client to add value. With years of experience in the health and social care sectors, we know which points will add more value and can even help create new added calue. We often support clients in service model design, as well as financial and workforce modelling so that their service stands out.
The best bids aren’t just written well to fit the spec; the service itself is adapted to meet the spec too. Sometimes an expert eye is very beneficial in gaging how good a fit the proposed service is to the spec as it brings clarity and objectivity that is free from bias. However, bid preparation is about more than writing, and that can mean building partnerships, identifying new roles, or rethinking how you deliver a service. To do that effectively, you need to build a strong network, have the technical know-how and understand best practice from across the country. So, if you’re thinking about bid support, finding a specialist in your sector is key.
One of our clients wanted to bid for a recommissioned wellbeing service. However, the specification required a drastic change in the delivery model, focusing on building community networks and organisational partnerships, and supporting at a hyperlocal level. Our work with them was all about redesigning their model to intensively target smaller communities and set up sustainable support that requires less maintenance in the long run. In other words, together, we adapted the service to fit the spec.
Evidence is vital for giving the commissioner confidence in your ability and track record. It shows the extent of your achievements and backs up your statements. It can be easy to promise beyond what is viable, but facts and numbers ground the bid in practicality. However, not every figure or detail is useful. Knowing the health and social care landscape, we advise which pieces of evidence should feature throughout the responses, and which to only use in particular places (or not at all if it isn’t adding value).
There is a lot of information that could go in a bid, but there are always restrictive word limits. Standout bids are concise, giving room for all the important information to fit on the page. If you’ve met all elements of the spec well, added value, provided evidence and adapted your service model, you’ll probably be running out of words. The final bit of mastery is to eloquently integrate all the other elements of an excellent bid into a flowing narrative that is completed within both the word limit and the time limit.
Bid writing has its own language that the Baxendale team is well versed in. We know what is too brief and what is too elaborate, finding a good balance depending on the bid question. We are efficient with our words and economical with our time, polishing the responses within the submission deadline in a way that will instil confidence in the commissioner.
It takes a lot of skill and expertise to be able to write a standout bid (rather than a very good one). Training and strategy can help, and that’s why we sometimes offer bid workshops to clients or help them develop a bid strategy and library for future tender opportunities. But more often than not, experience is the biggest factor in developing an exceptional bid – both in writing and in the sector. We’ve helped our clients win £2.8bn in contracts, and we can safely say that the ample experience we’ve gained in the process is one of our greatest strengths. In that sense, although we have explained a few points above, in order to deliver a standout bid, nothing beats experience.
For more on bid support, visit our bid support hub