RFQ responses riddled with errors

FORWARDERS are routinely failing to win new air cargo accounts because their bidding responses are poor, loaded with spelling and grammar mistakes and very often miss the point entirely, so says Bid Management Specialist, Sales Engine Ltd in a report published recently, writes Nigel Tomkins.
Although there are pockets of good practice in the forwarding industry, bidding is generally not something that many forwarders are good at, they continue.
“All too often the company that could deliver the best service loses out to a rival that plays the bidding game better,” observes Martin Goodwill, one of Sales Engine’s consultants and an experienced former forwarder himself.
Responding professionally and accurately to requests for quotations has become a major problem for many air cargo industry players.
“Time and again, we see companies with good products, great reputations and excellent people – but their tendering processes are heavily flawed – and, as a result, they don’t even get through the front door,” says Goodwill.
It’s a commonly heard theme in the airfreight industry that most customers only buy on price. “If you know that you’re not going to be the cheapest provider, do you, can you explain why there is more value in your bid than anyone else’s? – our experience suggests not,” he adds.
Some responses fail to respect word counts, which are now commonplace and are getting tighter. “So the ability to write persuasively and briefly has become a core skill.”
Another common problem is thinking that one size fits all and not tailoring the tender document to the client’s individual needs. “Swapping one customer’s name for another is not tailoring. Customers quickly work this out.”
Sales Engine’s work in the forwarding industry shows that there are seven frequent mistakes that companies make:
1) Bidding for a contract you have no realistic chance of winning;
2) Failing to answer all parts of the RFQ;
3) Not justifying the value of the pricing in the bid;
4) Not taking sufficient time over the bid and correcting basic mistakes;
5) Blandly following the same old clichéd language;
6) Believing that one size fits all; and
7) Delegating the bid to an unqualified office junior
“These are all common mistakes – and they happen very regularly in the forwarding industry,” says Goodwill.
“It’s not about how many responses you get out of the door – it’s how many you win.”
Most companies do not even know their bidding success conversion rate and many fail to appreciate that they may have two audiences – the user and their procurement department – often with different requirements.
“Bids need to be completed by the right people and they need to be backed by a robust process that drives continuous improvement,” Goodwill adds.
“Does anyone at board level ever read the documents that are sent out?
“If you don’t win a bid that you feel you should have done, do you go back to your response to see if the answer might lie there?
“If your staff trot out the same excuses (‘we lost on price, they were just benchmarking prices and stayed with their existing provider’ etc) you aren’t serving your business well if you fail to look a little deeper.”
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