To be successful in the tender writing process and win bids, you need to truly understand how to tender for contracts, understand the rules of the game, and then take a considered, measured approach to writing a winning tender.
Before you begin writing a tender, it is important to understand what tenders are. See our ‘What is a Tender?’ article here to find out everything you need to know before writing and submitting a tender.
It is crucial to take the aims and objectives of a tender into consideration before you start writing; these include:
- A tender exists as a method for a contracting authority to evaluate a bidder, and appoint the most suitable organisation to a contract – this is mandatory in public sector above a certain financial threshold
- It is a means of a fair and transparent procurement process
- It is for your company to best portray yourselves and how you will deliver a contract
- It is a competition! Even if you are the incumbent or think you have a good chance of winning, the tender submission will ultimately determine who wins the contract.
10 top tips for writing a successful tender bid
When tender writing, it is easy to get caught up in a whole host of documentation which can be overwhelming and an onerous task to complete. It is important to firstly understand the tendering process, and what they may be looking for in a tender contract from a potential client.
Before you jump headfirst into writing the responses to the questions set out in the invitation to tender (ITT) document, make sure to:
1. Read the tender contract specification very carefully. Then read it again. Highlight any areas of the tender contract that need attention, such as the buyer’s priorities or key themes that you will need to address in your responses. From here you may wish to storyboard or plan winning themes. You should also identify how to submit the tender response, the deadline, formatting guidelines, attachments and word/character counts. Do not leave this until the last minute. It is important that your bid is compliant; otherwise, it could fail.
2. Read each question with your own questions in mind. Why is the contracting authority asking this? What information are they looking for in the tender bid proposal? Deconstruct each question in the tender contract to help focus on your response – this should also make the bid writing process easier and breaks the response down into manageable sections. Remember the questions exist for you to provide the contracting authority with certain information, and for them to score you accordingly.
3. Make sure you raise any clarification questions in good time, as the clarification deadline may be significantly before the submission deadline. You may wish to clarify elements of the specification, nuances of tender questions, or your eligibility to bid. It may also be helpful to read the clarifications from other bidders in case someone else has asked something of note.
4. Be persuasive, not descriptive, and frame the key benefits of your proposal in terms of advantages to the buyer. How can you help them achieve their objectives? Keep in mind that the evaluator needs good reasons to award you the tender contract – ultimately you must meet their criteria and more. Simply, ensure you are answering their questions and sticking to the point.
5. Make sure your answers are comprehensive. We often see failed tenders with one-sentence responses to questions. Word limits provide an indication of how much depth you are expected to go into: if there is a word limit of 500 words for one of your tender responses, a one-line answer will not suffice. Always expand on your answers and give as much detail as possible.
6. Keep to simple language within your responses. Remember that your intention is to communicate clearly the benefits that your organisation can bring to the contract. Flowery words will not gain you extra points and will just make your submission harder to read and evaluate. If allowed, visuals can also help to reinforce your point and provide evidence for your submission. The use of tables, images, screenshots and graphs will make your bid stand out and break up pages of written narrative.
7. Make sure you clearly reference the question numbers in your responses and make sure that any evidence is labelled correctly, otherwise, you can’t complain if they don’t consider it during evaluation, and your tender could even be marked as non-compliant. In a tender it is better to be overly-compliant – and do not make any assumptions about the evaluator.
8. Make sure you provide evidence for the claims in your responses – you cannot rely on the evaluator to take your word for it. Reports, statistics and even testimonials can help to convince the buyer of your organisation’s strengths. Unfortunately, it is not enough to just say you are the best firm for the contract: you must be able to prove it and make sure the tender submission represents everything you want the evaluator to know about your company. When writing a tender, it is highly likely that you will be judged on your track record, so case studies and references are valuable in this area.
9. Have your submission proofread and reviewed by someone who has not been involved with the preparation of the tender contract. Seek support from a bid consultant if required. A professional, fresh pair of eyes can spot costly mistakes and weak areas. In the SQ or PQQ part of the bid there are likely to be tick box exercises – do not forget that a wrongly ticked box could cost you the whole tender contract.
10. Your tender bid should be professionally presented with consistent design throughout. First impressions are often crucial, and you want to be perceived as professional, polished and serious about the tender process. Check in the specification how the tender is to be submitted. If you are allowed design elements, then ensure your bid document is professional. However, if you are submitting a bid via a portal there may be restrictions on this.
Common mistakes to avoid when tendering
From failing to do enough research, to bidding for everything, there are several common mistakes that suppliers make when tendering for contracts. Top mistakes to avoid when submitting a tender include:
- Failing to answer the questions that have been asked
- Not doing enough research on the tendering organisation
- Missing the tender deadline, but still sending it
- Bidding for all contracts rather than relevant ones
- Failing to invest time into the tendering process
- Ignoring requirements set out in the invitation to tender
- Not knowing how to submit the tender
Falling into one of these mistakes could significantly impact the success of your tender submission.