The ‘what, how, where’ of tender writing

Letter to SantaLast month I was invited to present at a Tender Management Roadshow in Adelaide run by the Tonkin Corporation. In my talk I spoke about the tools and processes we use at Red Pony to help our clients produce compelling and often successful tenders.

One point that seemed to be of particular interest to participants was our model for developing responses to specific RFT requirements (for readers not familiar with tender terminology, RFT stands for ‘request for tender’).

Like most people, our clients can find it hard to take an outsider’s perspective of their business when writing a tender. They know exactly how their business operates, and how they would deliver the project. But they struggle when it comes to putting themselves in the shoes of someone assessing their submission, to provide the level of detail required.

I ask clients to apply a basic mental model to guide their thinking and help shape their response to each requirement. Put simply, it means applying a ‘what, how and where’ structure to each response. That is, stating what you will do, how you will do it, and where you have done this previously.

The beauty of this structure is that it provides the assessor with a clear picture of exactly what you will deliver for their project and how you plan do it, as well as providing examples of where you have delivered similar outcomes in the past.

For example:

We will provide an ongoing web content writing service to produce timely, accurate and optimised text for your website (the what).

We will achieve this by having a team of skilled web writers who will be supported by a robust quality assurance regime (the how).

Last year we undertook a review of company X’s website which resulted in a 15 per cent increase in their organic search engine appearances (the where).


We will maintain a safe and secure worksite that protects the safety of employees, contractors, client staff and the general public at all times (the what).

We will do this by making health and safety a project priority, and by applying our comprehensive, AS/NZS 4801:2001 certified Occupational Health And Safety Management system (the how).

Our company has a strong record in workplace safety, with zero recorded lost time incidents (LTIs) over the previous 12 months (the where).

As you can see, the ‘where’ part of the response is an opportunity to give concrete examples backed by actual data to clearly demonstrate your abilities and provide credibility to your response.

For those interested in reading further, you can download the full presentation (including PowerPoint slides) from the Red Pony website.

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photo credit: 82/365 Dear Santa via photopin (license)