Working with weighted criteria

Business owners often express confusion about working with weighted criteria – it’s not a framework that you’ll come across too often outside of tendering. But it can tell you a surprising amount about what’s important to the buyer, how to read between the lines and structure your tender response to maximise your chances of success, and even whether it’s worth putting together a bid in the first place.

The weighted scoring model itself is based upon the Multiple Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM) mathematical model, and it’s fundamentally about taking decision-making processes and putting them into a neat, replicable, comparable and scoreable framework. This may sound like an ‘ivory tower’ academic niche concept; but making decisions on how to proceed based on multiple criteria is something we all in daily life when there’s various options on the table and various factors that matter to you. From deciding on investments based on risk/return and even sustainability criteria, to choosing a life partner, multiple criteria decision-making based on weighted criteria is a fundamental part of life. Thanks to the work of distinguished US academic, Dr Stanley Zionts, it’s now a handy mathematical model that’s widely used in business and government.

So, how can you work with weighted criteria, and what can they tell you about the buyer’s priorities? Firstly, you’ll want to review the criteria that are involved with their weighting in mind; particularly, keep an eye out for “price” as a heavily weighted criteria. 

Cheapest bid vs value for money 

While any buyer will have an absolute maximum budget, a buyer that’s heavily weighting “price” will often be looking for the cheapest bid, and willing to compromise on experience and quality. Many buyers will end up disappointed with the result.

On the other hand, if you’re an established business that knows its worth, that you’re delivering value for money, and that you deserve a premium for what you provide, you may not want to be part of a race-to-the-bottom. It could end up being barely profitable or even costly to deliver on the work, and you’re tying up valuable time & resources that could have been allocated to better things. 

A buyer who weights price less heavily is likely looking for “value for money” and is open to paying more for good work; it’s your job to offer a convincing case on why you’re worth the premium you charge compared to the cheaper alternative.

Capabilities and experience

Now that you’ve got the dollars and cents out of the way, what else is the buyer looking for, and how important is it to them? Capabilities and experience are often priorities – what if you have the capabilities, but not much of the experience? Depending on the weight of this criteria, this could be a dealbreaker – or an opportunity. There’s certainly buyers looking for low price who will compromise on experience, helping newer businesses to get that all-important foot in the door; alternatively, is there another, more experienced organisation that you could partner with to make your bid stronger? (Tip: ask the buyer to keep you informed about upcoming opportunities, so you can start these talks even before the tender is released!)

What does your buyer actually want?

Weighted criteria will also tell you a lot about what’s relevant to the project, and that feeds in to your tender response – after all, any buyer will want to see that you understand the scope of work that you’re bidding on, and that you understand their priorities. In turn, this will help you decide on your priorities when preparing the bid – if a particular criteria is only weighted at 5-10%, and another is weighted at 60%, you’ll know where to dedicate your resources to form a rock-solid response.

By keeping in mind what criteria matter the most to the buyer, you’ll be able to quickly understand whether your bid is likely to be competitive; what the buyer is looking for in a supplier; and a framework on how to structure a compelling tender response. 

Of course, there’s still plenty of grey area; especially if you’re new to tendering you run the risk of taking your hat out of the ring unnecessarily, or throwing it in where it shouldn’t be thrown – so if you’re looking for best-practice bid/no-bid advice, and the benefit of culmulative decades of experience in writing winning tenders, contact ProposalPro for a no-obligation chat! 

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