Responding to a tender is a good guide as to whether your product is ready for the market.
The rigour of the tender process and the questions you have to answer when preparing a response will tell you if you’ve created something which is up to the customers’ expectations. The characteristics of the products they are expecting and the criteria on which they will make their decision provides information on what the market sees as important rather than what you think is important.
And you are forced to think about pricing. How should you price? Where are you positioned in the market and where do you want to be positioned?
With a disruptive technology, the challenges are even greater. Specifications are usually written around known products but preparing a response to the tender will highlight the non-conventional and/or unique features of the new product. It could be that the new product is a better way to meet the customers’ underlying needs rather than just meeting the customer’s expectations on how their needs might be met.
The challenge is in expressing the innovative nature of the product compared to what’s already in the market, educating the customer whilst trying to conform to the tender specifications. Traditional ways of evaluating the benefits may not be appropriate.
I recently assisted a research team respond to a tender for a IT system in an area where their innovative technology could be deployed. The team found it a very positive experience. “Drilling down on the exact details of the system was significant as we had to look at our product more critically with the tender response”.
The requirement to meet customer product specifications, service and pricing forced the researchers and the commercial team to take a hard look at these issues. The tight timeframes for tender submission brought commercial reality into focus across the whole team. Whilst a stressful 2 week process, it was very worthwhile.
The team is now energized and focussed towards a commercial outcome and aware of all of the commercial and product development steps to get it there.