When we receive inquiries for bid services, prospective clients may be confused about the exact style, content and overall approach which bid and tender writing demands. Far from a simple ‘dictation service’ to record business practices, the successful bid writer must possess a unique skillset, balancing information on clients’ delivery models, references to the purchasing authority’s specification, and persuasiveness such as reference to USPs, often within restrictive word limits.
Without knowledge, considerable experience and a comprehensive understanding of evaluator preferences, an individual within your organisation ‘moonlighting’ as a bid writer may struggle to submit a competitive tender.
Here are just a few examples of what makes tender writing a skillset unique from other professional writing services.
Similar to bid writing, grant writers will provide services for a variety of industries, including academia, non-profit organisations/charities and the creative sectors such as film and television. While grants are opportunities which provide a financial contribution to specific objectives (such as research output or charity/community work), tenders permit an organisation to bid for the provision of goods, materials and services.
Approaches to bid and tender writing differ from grant writing in a few key aspects, as outlined below:
- The relationship between persuasiveness and emotion: Persuasion is a crucial tool within a bid writer’s skillset – it is not sufficient to describe the client’s approach to call-outs or responsive repairs and how it works, but persuade evaluators why this procedure is best-positioned to deliver on the purchasing authority’s service requirements and fulfil KPIs. However, bid writers will never invoke impassioned or emotionally charged language when writing the persuasive element of a response. In contrast, grant writing may involve emotive appeals when outlining how receipt of funds will impact their organisation and the wider community it serves.
- Tone of writing: In a similar vein, grant writers will often adopt a more personal and passionate tone to demonstrate public demand for their project, in addition to conveying the impact the investment will have on their organisation. Bid writers will never employ this approach, as positive changes from the result of contract award will be external (e.g. to the purchasing authority and its residents, service users or other stakeholders).
- Requesting a budget: When applying for a specific opportunity, grant writers will request a specific monetary amount from the available funding. Subsequently, they must demonstrate how their mobilisation and action plan will be delivered using the stipulated funds. Bid and tender writing is structured differently – rather than requesting an allocated amount to deliver goods or services, bidders will submit a pricing plan alongside the quality section of a tender. These are evaluated separately, with weightings depending on the buyer or authority’s preferences.
Our writers regularly complete public sector tenders on behalf of non-profit organisations or charities, and are mindful of the differences in approach when constructing answer plans, drafting responses and integrating feedback from our quality assurance managers.
Many members of our bid writing team would describe bid and tender writing as a form of technical writing – however, there are still specific elements which distinguish it from technical writing as a whole. Examples include:
- The role of description: The primary objective of a technical writer is to provide as descriptive an account as possible on particular goods, services or items. Like bid writing, the skilled technical writer must be clear and concise, working under strict word limits. However, bid writers must also add context to the description, positioning it within the requirements of the specification or purchasing authority challenges. For example, when describing measures for ensuring health and safety of residents during a programme of works, it is not enough to simply describe the process – you must consider whether residents will require special considerations (e.g. if they are elderly or disabled), when key working hours will take place and characteristics of the site itself.
- Storyboarding a tender via bid themes: The skilled bid writer will use bid themes to organically link multiple responses within a tender, demonstrating how their client or organisation will deliver the goods or service better than other tenderers. By nature, technical writing must be sequential and break down complex processes and information into easily digestible writing. However, this is absent of a thematic link between steps, which bid writing will always consider. Examples of bid themes include community value, customisable aspects of service delivery and efficiencies in resourcing (such as all works delivered in-house).
- Competition: Even under a framework or dynamic purchasing system where the authority will appoint multiple bidders to the contract, competition is the defining characteristic of the tendering process. Bid writers are always cognisant of the competitive nature of the industry, and will therefore use every opportunity to add value or demonstrate how their client and organisation will exceed requirements. This element is largely absent from technical writing, where the objective is to facilitate understanding, and competition is only indirect.
Non-technical method statements are regularly completed by our bid writing team – however, extremely detailed technical responses (such as for data management) may require additional detail and closer collaboration with client representatives, similar to straightforward technical writing.
Sales proposal writing
Although both bid writing and sales proposals are written forms of procurement with the objective of gaining new contracts, they differ greatly in emphasis, writing style and even content. A few examples of differences include:
- Pricing and budget as part of quality: Although pricing schedules constitute an important part of the tendering process, they are entirely separate to the quality aspect of a tender, as previously discussed in the grant writing section. Consequently, pricing is never mentioned to demonstrate the competitive advantage when drafting responses. In contrast, sales proposals will often heavily feature price points and budgeted costs as a persuasive element of why they merit award of a contract, framework place, or inclusion within a dynamic purchasing system.
- Specificity to the opportunity: Whilst sales proposals do involve some research into the client, they usually contain generic material that is not tailored to the specific opportunity. Some of this is due to the short length of sales proposals, which typically range between 2–10 pages. In contrast, bid writing demands a bespoke approach to each opportunity by including references to customer care policies, quality standards or specified materials within the tender documents. Questions on a precise subject and a larger amount of responses naturally demand a higher level of specificity to submit a competitive bid.
- Integrating the ‘why’: A skilled bid writer will successfully integrate the ‘why’ into each response, demonstrating why the client is ideally positioned and best-suited to deliver on contractual requirements. A strong sales proposal should include supporting evidence on why their product or service is superior to their competitors. However, bid writing will outline benefits for a wider range of stakeholders, such as service users, local residents or the community in which the opportunity is located.
The final step of sales proposals often culminates with a presentation to a panel of purchasing representatives, delivered by the final list of candidates. While this sometimes occurs in tendering, it is relatively uncommon, particularly in public sector procurement. Similarly, testimonials and peer recommendations have significant influence in business-to-business sales decisions – in contrast, previous experience in service delivery is typically formalised through contract examples in a selection questionnaire, the provision of references or quality questions outlining previous experience.
Executive Compass delivers a wide range of bid and tendering services, including bid and tender writing, comprehensive bid management, and bespoke bid writing training courses. To find out more, contact our sales and marketing team today at 0800 612 5563 or via email email@example.com.
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