When writing a tender, it can be tempting to take the seemingly easy option and draft responses using previous material, focussing on what is important to you and presenting the successes, benefits, and innovative approaches of your organisation. Whilst this may seem like a sound approach, it can result in a weaker mark than you may expect, for one crucial reason – you forgot about the buyer!
A key element of any successful bid is to understand not only what each question is asking you to demonstrate, but also to understand the question from the buyer’s perspective. By maintaining an awareness of the tender-specific requirements, the buyer’s location, services tendered for, key clientele and their environmental or social values, responses can be strengthened through added value – additional services, large or small, that enhance the competitiveness of your entry and make for a compelling submission.
In addition to value, being able to reference local challenges, resources and opportunities for innovation will enhance the professionalism of your submission – demonstrating to the buyer that you have done your homework and are highly capable of resourcing and fulfilling the contract tendered for.
So how can you enhance your responses? Well, fortunately, the answer is very simple – research your buyer.
How to research
Researching the buyer can be undertaken through a variety of means. At its most basic, simply reviewing the tender documents in detail can provide you with a wealth of information outlining your buyer’s values. While it is tempting to focus on the core specification, technicalities and legalities of the tender (rightly so), tender documents are also packed full of clues as to the buyer’s personality – often outlining their current social value commitments, their partners and supplier preferences (e.g. an Armed Forces Covenant pledge).
Reviewing the tender documents with a critical eye can help you dig out those critical pieces of information that reveal a buyer’s focus. For example:
- What KPIs have they set? Do they follow a theme or a pattern that indicates their concerns?
- What accreditation/certification do they favour?
- How frequently do they reference customer care or added value?
- Have they focussed heavily on an element of the service that may indicate they have experienced specific challenges?
By picking up on these hints, you can enhance your responses by ensuring that they do not just answer the question’s requirements with unspecific information but, instead, demonstrate that you are committed to assisting the buyer to achieve their defined goals.
All this said, detailed preparation does not end with the tender documents. There are many other ways you can tailor your responses to be buyer-specific. Your next step should always be to refer to the buyer’s website or publications. As can be expected, these will often feature an ‘About Us’ page or similar, providing an immediate overview of the buyer, and often outlining their history and experience in the industry, their own certifications and core team members. Such information will help you discover their values, tailor your strengths to their requirements and secure those vital few marks between success for your organisation or a competitor.
Other useful information which can be gleaned from a buyer’s website is evidence of previous projects, communities they support, or their business development strategy. Finding insightful information is particularly useful when creating a persuasive submission; enabling you to select the most relevant case studies, choose social value initiatives with the greatest impact and demonstrate how you will deliver excellent value for money throughout the contract.
Further, more and more, buyer organisations are taking to social media to present themselves; offering another avenue for research to support your submission. Professional outlets, such as LinkedIn, will help you orientate yourself with the buyer’s key personnel – allowing you to assemble a team which complements their strengths and supports any gaps in their expertise. More casual media, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, are also worthy of research, generally being preferred outlets for demonstrating community outreach and customer care – once again helping you understand the buyer’s core values.
How to weave your research into responses
Having completed your research, now comes the tricky bit – incorporating the data into the responses.
As professional bid writers, we often work with clients who are uncertain of how to approach bid writing and prefer not to outline any specific detail in their responses to avoid hard commitments. Unfortunately, this is exactly what evaluators are looking for.
However, if you have done your research and have a good handle on the buyer’s objectives and values, you are now in a far better position to make relevant, targeted commitments without burden to yourself.
In writing your responses, it is simply a case of matching the buyer’s objectives to your own services. Our practice is to approach questions on a what, how, and why basis – what you will do, how you will do it, why it is important for the buyer.
The ‘why’ is where your research comes into play. Here, you explain to the buyer why your service meets (and hopefully exceeds) their requirements. To achieve higher marks, you can leverage your research to deliver added value aligned to the buyer’s core values.
For example, if your research has indicated that the buyer is heavily focussed on providing an excellent standard of customer service, throughout your responses you may choose to highlight how your 24/7/365 hotline, dedicated customer care team or outreach services will continually support this.
Similarly, if the buyer demonstrates a desire to mitigate their environmental impact, you can tailor your responses to emphasise how your all-electric fleet, solar-panel arrays or carbon-sequestration scheme will help support their carbon-zero objectives.
Ultimately, the strength of your submission pivots on the strength of your research. Spending those few extra hours poring over the tender documents, browsing the buyer’s website and investigating wider sources can make the vital difference between a reasonably persuasive bid, and the winning submission that takes the all-important first place.
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