Any business development manager within the 3rd party logistics industry will tell you that responding to logistics tenders is part science and part art. The science lies in the solution modelling, and the art is engaging the prospective company in the solution that’s been modelled. Here’s a few tips on the art…
Avoid corporate waffle
The quality of a response is not measured in weight. Adding page after page detailing corporate policies only serves to detract from the core of your proposal. If the prospective company has asked for a copy of your Environmental Policy, or Health & Safety Policy, then of course include it. However, if the question hasn’t been asked, then you certainly don’t need to answer it. If there are certain policies that you feel are relevant for inclusion, summarise those policies in brief paragraphs.
Dust off a senior director and get them engaged
A prospective company looking to outsource their logistics wants to feel that they will be your most important client. Of course, the reality is that you will have lots of clients. The art to giving that potential new customer the feeling that they will be a priority is by including the highest possible level of contact within your organisation. Where you do not have direct contact with the potential customer, then why not include a personal letter in your proposal from a director explaining why the opportunity is important.
Does the operations team know you’ve promised that?
We all know that for most 3PLs, the business development team will not be the ones left to manage the new operation. Whilst 3PLs will often have a very structured validation and handover process to the operations team, it’s always advisable to show that the operations team are on-board with the proposed solution from the outset. As discussed above, a simple letter from the senior operations director may help to provide comfort that the solution has cross-functional support in your business.
Less is most definitely more
All proposals should include an executive summary, whilst ensuring that the proposal narrative itself is concise and dynamic. Avoid large paragraphs and break the text with relevant graphics. Don’t give the opportunity to skim read – make the narrative engaging, relevant and logically sequenced. You need to tell the story of the solution you propose, and why your solution and your business are perfect partners for the prospective company.
Give your assumptions
It doesn’t matter how diligent a prospective company has been in supplying data within the tender documents, there will always need to be some assumptions made. These assumptions may be around product characteristics, seasonality, delivery windows or any number of areas key to the service you’re planning. Where further information has not been made available, then clearly state the assumptions you’ve made. You may also want to put these assumptions into context by providing sensitivity analysis i.e. assumption x increases cost by y.
When in haste, don’t copy and paste
OK, so we know that most 3PLs respond to hundreds of proposals a year, and that as a consequence there is often a well-defined narrative that is included in all proposals. That’s fine, however, your proposal should be peppered with direct reference to the prospective company; think about what they will want to understand about your business and address this. For example, if you deploy a vehicle tracking system across your fleet, don’t just explain the system and its generic benefits. Explain specifically how this system will benefit the prospective company and how it will advantage them beyond their current operational set-up.
As a final point, we’re seeing a significant increase in the number of 3PLs responding to each logistics opportunity we tender. 15 to 20 full proposals is now not uncommon. Whilst the pointers given may seem obvious to some, it is these simple areas that will help your business stand out, and better still, they cost nothing!