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Published Date: 28-06-2023
Author: Ciaran Brass
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
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Although the overall presentation of a tender is not part of the scored criteria, ensuring you have a polished, well-presented submission is an opportunity to gain a positive first impression from evaluators. In addition to utilising subheadings and effective spacing within a response document, the use of graphics, images and colour schemes where appropriate will also enhance the polish and professionalism of your bid.

Such design strategies can also aid in avoiding a ‘wall of text,’ particularly for instances of page-limited responses, where the writer is attempting to include as much information as possible. Small design flourishes, such as coloured/bold text or shading headings and bulleted lists, make it easier for evaluators to follow the narrative of a response and benefits to the client from the proposed approach to the work or service.

Limits to personalising responses

It is important to note that, occasionally, it will not be possible to personalise your submission due to restrictions on the submission format or methodology. Motivations or rationale behind this will vary – evaluators may feel that submissions which identify the bidder organisation could create an unfair competitive advantage, or the electronic portal used by the buyer to host opportunities may restrict creativity.

Common examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Textbox-based portals meaning any formatting (e.g. tables, images and bold/italicised/underlined text) will not be present on the final version of the submission.
  • Responses pasted into a pre-formatted document under each question, reducing opportunities to be creative within quality responses.
  • Mandatory anonymisation of all responses, restricting the use of company logos, colour schemes or anything which could potentially identify your organisation.
  • Restrictions to font, point size or spacing, e.g. guidance stating ‘All responses must be written in Arial, size 11, with 1.5 spacing between lines.’

Should any of these apply, it will naturally restrict the amount of freedom you have in designing an engaging, visually dynamic submission. However, it is still possible to apply considerable creative elements to your bid under the outlined limits. For instance, if quality responses must be entered into a pre-formatted document, you would still be free to use colour schemes, bullet points and shading across responses. Similarly, anonymised responses would not restrict the use of (suitably anonymous) infographics, flow charts or tables to enhance the overall presentation of the tender.

Tables, lists and bullet points

As stated in the introduction, tender writing often demands presenting as much information in as little space as possible, in addition to effectively evidencing how this is both relevant and beneficial to the tendered service and the client. Using tables, bullet points or numbered lists can be helpful for instances where you need to demonstrate sequential processes, staff qualifications or multiple points of information. This is particularly applicable to the following topics, all of which are commonly included in tender question sets:

  • Contract resourcing: Typically, purchasing authorities will ask you to list the qualifications, experience and areas of responsibility for all staff involved in service delivery, from on-site workforce to your administrative resource. In this instance, it is ideal to create a simple table in order of seniority, minimising repetition and overuse of link words and introductory sentences.
  • Mobilisation: As mobilisation encompasses a variety of business activities, many of which will be timebound (including training, resourcing, site visits and pre-start meetings), it is ideal to present this as sequentially and specifically as possible, avoiding unwieldy, lengthy and repetitive paragraph structures.
  • Quality assurance: Responses ensuring quality within service delivery will often refer to process-based control measures, such as prescribed checklists and multi-step audits. Consequently, it is ideal to use bullet points or lists to align your organisational approach to the requirements of the specification.
  • Social value: Strong and well-evidenced social value responses will include your proposed offerings over the contract term, expected outcomes for each offering and estimated timescales for delivery, making them ideal candidates for a table within the response, with an introduction and conclusion on either side.

In addition to breaking up content and using white space effectively, tables and lists/bullet points are also beneficial in creating efficiencies within word counts, which is helpful for submissions requiring tenderers to adhere to strict word limits.

Templates and colour schemes

Equally, it is also beneficial to create a template specific to your organisation, providing a clean, crisp and professional design which you can use and update for future opportunities. This is most helpful for instances where the buyer has not provided a template, or responses can be submitted as separate files, either on electronic portals or within the submission document.

As a starting point, company branding within the header or footer of the document can establish a sense of professionalism and ‘authority’ to submissions. The header and footer are also a good place to detail your organisation’s professional memberships or accreditations, such as relevant ISO certification or membership of a universally recognised industry body, e.g. CHAS, Constructionline Gold or SafeContractor. If there is scope, templates can further benefit from the inclusion of page numbers and titles of responses, making sure to match the colour scheme of your organisation.

The use of colour within a quality response should always be purposeful, add value and align with your company branding. For example, headings could be designed with your organisation’s primary colour, and subheadings in the secondary colour. Additionally, background shading can be employed for tables, lists and bullet points to highlight important pieces of information. Adopting a measured approach to colour will ensure the overall presentation is more impactful and not distracting to the evaluators.

Graphics, images and diagrams

Lastly, the use of images, graphics and diagrammatic flow charts can add significant value to a wide range of responses. However, it is important to note that they should only be used to directly support evidence or proposed benefits within tender responses, and not simply for their own sake. It is also considerably more difficult to include images in page-limited responses due to the amount of space they occupy – consequently, they should be used sparingly under these circumstances and only where they add value and impact.

Examples of where images and graphics can meaningfully add value to a response may include:

  • Photographs of staff livery, vehicles or specialist plant/equipment, such as dual branding on proposed uniforms or imprest vehicle stock to be used for responsive repairs or services.
  • Images from previous works or projects as a visual complement to case studies, contract examples or successful delivery on contracts of a similar size and scope.
  • A map of the local area detailing the location of offices, depots or supply chain partners evidencing how your organisation would provide a prompt and effective service and meet or exceed any contractual KPIs for response times.
  • Processes or procedures which involve multiple steps or delivery teams, such as a decision tree detailing how you would provide a quick resolution to customer complaints or feedback.

When used appropriately, graphics can be very effective at breaking up the page and making the text easy to read, in addition to providing context or simplifying a potentially complex process or procedure. Lastly, adding a brief title to each image or graphic will ensure it blends seamlessly with the rest of the document, and mitigate any feeling that the image is ‘floating’ within the response.

Thanks to our 14 years of experience and 7,000 SQ and ITT submissions, Executive Compass are well placed to produce submissions which are personalised to each client and designed to a high quality. If you would like to find out more about our bid and tender management services, our sales and marketing team are contactable at 0800 612 5563 or via email

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