I am always being asked about how to improve individual and team tender writing skills. Is there one thing that I can do to make my tender submissions win? Do you have one golden rule?
The short answer is no! The analogy I use for tender writing is baking a cake. There are many ingredients you need to use, there is the quality of your ingredients, a number of processes must be used, there are tools you must take advantage of, the oven must be at the correct temperature, the cake must look nice and, of course, whoever is to eat your cake must prefer the flavour you have decided to bake over that of the other competitors.
You can see quite clearly that if just one of those elements is missing or incorrect, the cake will not be as good as it can be.
If you think of your organisation’s processes and systems as the ingredients to the cake and your innovation and creativity as the “secret” ingredient it may help you to bake your tender! Too often tender writers rely on descriptive narrative (especially bid teams in large firms) and rely on boilerplate text: their cake tastes like all of the others, or worse, it tastes bland and stale.
Some firms do not have their own bid team; instead they give out sections to functional heads or anyone they feel is the resident expert. I have never yet come across a company that has consistently been able to make this method of tender writing work. It doesn’t even work very well for PQQs but for tenders it really is a non-starter. Too many cooks, cooking in different kitchens with different ingredients and a dozen other meals to prepare. The cake has no consistency, lacks substance and is ugly.
The cake analogy is a really good one. It is easy to see that only one thing needs to be out of place and the cake is spoilt. It is EXACTLY the same as tender writing.
If you create a tender that the evaluator does not like, if it does not meet their needs, then you have wasted all of your time. If you have shared out the various elements of your submission to team members with a dozen other things to do (and who are not measured on bid success) then do not be surprised if you do not win the contract.
There are lots of people within your business who can write a tender for you, but it is no good simply writing it: you have to win. When you are creating a bid for a contract it should not be a desk clearing exercise. It should be the single most important thing you have to do. A client complained recently that we were driving too hard, asking too many hard questions, nothing was good enough. Then one of them said, “Imagine if they were working for our opposition”. The mood changed, they realised that to “bake their cake” and win the competition it needed 100% focus. Even 100% focus is not enough. You need to clearly articulate your business proposition without “over-baking” it; you need to be creative but also you need to give them the cake they want (not necessarily the one they were expecting).
So, I suppose I need to contradict myself. There is one thing that can help you stand out from all of the other tender writers: read the specification, this will make sure that you actually give them the cake they want and need. Very often businesses do not read the specification. Without that how can you select your ingredients, your kitchen and your method of working and above all, your chef?
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