“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”. – Lee Iacocca
What are your brilliant ideas?
A Request for Tender (RFT) will typically contain a document of specifications, with a response template that includes sections for you to complete.
Writing a successful Tender Response is a learned skill and this task will take more than a couple of hours (or days). If you have no experience of this type of business writing, I recommend outsourcing the actual writing of your Tender Response. This will significantly improve your chances of winning the tender while enabling you to focus your attention on running your business.
My 5 steps for becoming tender ready are:
- Develop a strategy
- Plan your response
- Support your submission
- Add value to your offering
- Get relevant training.
So how do you know if you’re ready to tender?
The first question to ask is whether you’re best placed now to grow your business, should your tender bid be successful. And that answer isn’t as obvious as you may think: tendering is a serious business and takes a lot of time and effort. If you end up winning a tender your company isn’t ready for, the story may not have a happy ending.
You must be prepared not only for the tender submission process, but also for success and growth — which is always our ultimate aim.
Before you start – key resources to have on hand
- Insurance information
- Financial statements
- Track record summary and accounts information
- An organisation chart
- CVs for key personnel
- Policies and procedures for your business.
These steps will ensure you start 2020 on the right foot.
1. Develop a Tender Win Strategy
You’re going to be competing against other businesses in any tendering process. You should have a solid grasp on why your company is the best candidate to win the tender and what makes your offer a cut above your competitors.
Once you understand your unique selling proposition, then you need to get really great at communicating it to people who will likely have no idea about your business.
A question that gets to the core of this is: What sits at the heart of your business?
Don’t try to over-complicate the answer.
2. Your Tender Response
Tender Responses are evaluated according to whether they succinctly and completely address the Evaluation Criteria.
Here are my top tips if you decide to write your own Tender Response.
- Don’t add extra narrative that isn’t requested. This will only cloud the information that is relevant. Incorporate elements of the question in the response and continually refer back to ensure you remain on topic.
- Always substantiate any claims you make. Cite examples of your work or evidence such as statistics or references.
- Be realistic with your pricing and ensure that it represents value for money. Remember that the lowest price is not always the best offering and may not result in a winning tender. Note any assumptions you have made when formulating your pricing, such as specifying the inclusion (or exclusion) of GST or any other variable costs.
- Create your Executive Summary as your final task. This will ensure you summarise all the essential elements of your Response. and should provide an overview of your organisation, a summary of your offering, experience relevant to the tender, your differentiators and your aspirations for the partnership between your organisation and the tendering client. Keep the length to 1-2 pages (maximum 2 pages). Remember that this section may be read at the start of your response and it may even be the only section the evaluators have time to read, so don’t treat it as an afterthought.
Is your submission free of waffle?
Every Request for Tender is unique in its requirements, so organisation and planning is the key. Remember this and your odds of success will be greatly increased.
3. Support your submission
In my experience, when submitting a Tender Response many companies have difficulties with collating the required documents to add value to their tender submission.
Include these documents to have the best possible chance of winning that next big contract.
Documents to include:
- Case Studies – these are important because they provide a working example of how your company has helped a client to achieve their goals from start to finish. They demonstrate your experience and the outcomes achieved. Look through your Case Studies and hand-pick those that are most relevant to your tender response. It is worthwhile creating industry or service-specific records of case studies as you complete contracts, to save time later in trawling through forgotten or unrelated experience.
- Reference letters – think back to the days when you were fresh out of school (or uni) and applying for jobs. One of the first things any employer is likely to ask for are references, and bidding for a tender contract is no different. Being able to provide a letter of recommendation from a previous client boosts your submission, providing it covers what is relevant to the current tender. The letter should assess the characteristics, qualities and capabilities of your company as a recommendation.
- Health and Safety documents – these relate more to high-risk businesses and are especially important if you fall into this category. They show that your organisation has procedures in place and is adhering to the applicable health and safety standards relevant to your industry.
- Policies and Procedures – again, these are essential as they relate to your business offering. They demonstrate your capabilities and how you’re going to be able to achieve the required necessary outcomes. They also re-iterate your professionalism.
- Financial information – these documents verify your company’s commercial position and prove that you’re capable of undertaking the work required, should you win the contract.
- Images of products/services that represent your business – don’t underestimate the importance of design when it comes to your tender submission. Your designer can provide any images of products or services you have on hand to enhance your submission. These images need to be relevant to the tender and represent your business. They shouldn’t be included just for the sake of having visuals.
Remember, these attachments should support your Tender Response. They should not act as your answers (be wary of using of wording like “refer to document” for entire answers).
Need help obtaining business template documents? You’ll find an extensive library of documents that help you to build your business here.
If you’re putting together your tender submission yourself, I strongly suggest obtaining an objective perspective from someone who isn’t involved in your business. Ask them to critique your response to ensure you’re completely addressing all of the tender requirements by highlighting your unique offer and value.
4. Communicate what value adds you can offer
How can we help you?
Is your business at the cutting edge of your industry? How are you doing things differently and in a superior way to everyone else? You may have to do some research into what your competitors are doing and then compare that to your unique offering. When you’re living and breathing your business day-in, day-out, this isn’t always easy. Reach out to your customers for feedback and people who aren’t as involved in your business.
Tender writing is a very technical process and it’s difficult to understand what challenges you may face until you’re putting together your first tender submission. Pay attention to the finer details – spelling/grammatical errors; follow the tender instructions, use the correct templates supplied and so on. Even if you don’t win your first tender submission, you’re likely to find that it is a worthwhile learning process for your company to engage in.
5. Get training
If you don’t respond to tenders frequently, consider signing up to a training course on tender response writing to lift your game. Even if you respond to tenders all the time, gaining a fresh perspective and insight from other sectors through a training course can be extremely valuable.
One of the downsides to having a company (internal) tender writer or bid manager is that they don’t get to see any other bids, so they won’t recognise the benchmarks of a great tender. They also are unlikely to get the chance to talk to evaluators!
By receiving targeted and practical training in tendering, your people will gain hands-on knowledge of how to prepare proposals and tender submissions that stand out from your competitors and give the evaluators everything they need to maximise your tender’s scores.
If winning work through tenders is important to your business to win, grow and retain clients, you are not being competitive if you consistently under-resource your tender submissions. Spending the time and effort planning your response will increase your chances of securing that new contract.
If you’re new to the tender world or are looking to take your tenders to the next level, reach out and let’s discuss your unique tender needs. I’ve been working in the industry for over 20 years now, and I remain committed to helping my clients to maximise their business results.
If you’d like to connect with a tender writing professional with almost two decades’ worth of experience, let’s organise a time to chat.
Or download my free Tender Cover Letter, to get you started.
 Automobile pioneer and CEO. From Iacocca: An Autobiography (2011)