Writing a tender and living to tell the tale (part two)

tender writingIn the first part of this article, we looked at what you need to do before you start writing your tender. In this second part, we look at some tips for developing your response to the request for tender (RFT).

How to structure the response

One of the first questions will be: how should you structure your response? In many instances, the issuing agency will stipulate a structure and provide a template or document for your response.

If they have provided a template, be sure to use it. If they have provided a list of the information you are expected to provide, use this as your section headings. Often agencies will include the key selection criteria in the RFT.

Again, this is a valuable clue as to what their expectations are for the response and what sections your document will need.

Identifying your strategic themes

Before you start writing, it is vital to know what the key messages or strategic themes of the response will be.

Why should your tender be chosen over other submissions? If you haven’t already, you will need to come up with an answer to that question.

Do you have extensive experience with similar projects? Do you have a lower cost structure than your competitors? Do you provide a warranty or guarantee for the deliverables? These become your strategic themes. Choose three or four at most, and reiterate them throughout your response wherever possible.

Creating a response matrix

If you are developing a large document with multiple contributors, it’s a good idea to create a matrix listing each section, noting who is responsible for providing the content and indicating its current state (e.g. first draft, peer reviewed, edited and proofread).

Check the list regularly to see what sections and which authors are meeting their deadlines, as well as those who might need some assistance.

Providing additional value

Can you provide any ‘value adds’ as part of your response? This is an aspect of your offer that the issuing agency may not have previously considered or specified in the requirements, but will provide them with significant additional value. An example of a value-added service might be an offer of free maintenance on goods provided as part of the tender for the first 12 months.

Your value add should be specific and of real benefit to the client. It might just be the reason for choosing your offer over those of your competitors.

Conducting reviews

Reviewing your response is critical, but often it is the first thing to be compromised as the deadline looms. Plan your reviews at the start and build them into your schedule, giving plenty of notice to the people involved.

Depending on the type of tender you are submitting, you should, at a minimum, review the content for factual accuracy (particularly if it contains technical information), from a business perspective (is the management team happy with the terms and pricing) as well as conducting an editorial review (spelling, grammar, expression, etc.)

Printing the final document

Another thing to plan for is printing. If you have to submit a hard copy (or copies) of your response, allow time and budget for this. It’s amazing how often paper will jam, ink cartridges will run out and files will become corrupted when you have a deadline to meet.

If using a commercial printer, book the job well in advance and give them a clear indication of the size and requirements of the document(s) you need printed.

Getting over the finish line

Occasionally the issuing agent will extend the tender deadline. However, this is extremely rare, so don’t plan on it happening in your case. Usually the deadline is just that and late submissions are automatically disqualified.

Make sure you know exactly how many copies are required, and whether they must be hand delivered, posted or submitted electronically. Don’t leave it to the last minute – even submit the day before if you can. After all this work you don’t want to trip at the last hurdle.

The warm afterglow

Now that you have successfully submitted you can relax … for the moment at least. The purpose of a tender is to get you to the next stage, whether that is an invitation to provide a presentation or attend a formal interview, a request for further documentation or to enter into contract negotiations.

If your tender is successful, congratulations on a job well done. If not, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and look for ways to improve your next submission. Creating a successful tender isn’t easy, but if you choose your opportunities carefully and understand how to produce a compelling response, this can be a lucrative way to build your business.


Image: Abel’s Offer by HA Brendekilde. This image is in the public domain.