Writing a bid for the first time can seem like a daunting task, however following a few simple rules can increase your chances of success and keep your stress levels in check.
It is becoming increasingly important for SMEs to look at the tendering process when it comes to winning new work. With thousands of notices published every year in the UK, there’s a good chance that if you work for a smaller-sized organisation, you’ll become involved in the tendering process at some point.
But what do you do when the task of writing the tender submission is delegated to you for the first time? With no previous experience, it can feel overwhelming. However, by adopting a few crucial steps, your chances of creating a strong submission will be increased significantly.
Here are eight essential points to remember.
Create a plan – before putting pen to paper, create a writing plan setting out the key points asked in each question and how you are going to respond to these. This will provide you with a structure, helping break the task of writing the response into manageable chunks and ensuring you don’t miss anything out. It will also give you a clear indication of how much needs to be done so you can plan it effectively into the timeframe available – and call in extra resources if required.
Make it relevant – make sure that your response answers the question that is being asked. For example, if the question provides a list of bullet points, ensure you address each of these in turn, or if it asks for evidence and examples, make sure these are relevant to the services that are required. If you have access to previous bids your company has made, there might be the temptation to cut and paste these responses, especially if you’re under time pressure. You are much better using this as background information and writing your response from fresh – it is all too easy to see one question on quality management as being much the same as another, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Writing from scratch will help avoid you falling into this trap.
Make sure the bid focuses on the client’s needs – your response should be tailored to the needs of the client and reflect how the service you provide will benefit them. Don’t focus on what or how you do something, but rather on the benefit that doing it this way provides to the client. Adopting this approach will also emphasise that you understand what the client is asking for and that you have done your research and understand any goals or ambitions they have, for example by helping them meet their corporate social responsibility agenda.
Use your company’s internal expertise – although you’ve been tasked with writing the bid this doesn’t mean working in isolation. Within your company there will undoubtedly be areas of expertise you can tap into, which can help strengthen what you have written. Either at the outset, or as part of the review process, harness this knowledge and use it to increase the substance of your submission.
Make it persuasive – keep in sight that your bid submission is a sales document. You need to ensure that the client understands the benefits of choosing your submission over someone else’s. Spell out what your company will bring to the contract and how this will add value. Illustrate how you have achieved this in the past, for example by quoting KPIs you have achieved on other, similar contracts, or additional services or contract management information that enabled the client to improve its own processes.
Use the word count – most tender documents will give you a word limit or guide. It might seem obvious, but you should use this as an indication of the level of detail being asked for. If the word count is 1,000, providing a response of 150 words will probably not suffice. Remember, your competitors will be writing to the limit and you should too.
Proofread your responses – we’ve already mentioned that your submission is a sales document and, while a few typos won’t be a deal breaker, if your bid is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors it does set the tone and reflect on the quality of your organisation. If this isn’t your forte, find someone else to read it through for you.
Finally, learn from your losses – if this is your first tender it might seem premature to be talking about losses at this stage. However, the law of averages means that at some point you will, unfortunately, lose out in the tendering process. Use this as a learning opportunity. Request detailed feedback from the commissioning authority on why you missed out and use this to focus and strengthen your bids in the future. Research the winning company and find out what they are offering that makes them stand apart and use this as inspiration for how you develop your own offering.
If your company is new to tendering or wants to improve its success rate, Executive Compass provides specialist PQQ, tender and bid writing courses which are certified by CPD UK. To find out more and discuss how we can help meet your bid writing or training needs call 0203 507 0314.