When a client asks how I can help them with a tender, my brain instantly flips through the hundreds of things you need to do (and do well) to write a winning bid. Where do you start? Ultimately, each situation is unique, but there are three key things for tender writing success you need to remember.
1. The proposal is not about you. It’s about the buyer.
This means that you need to talk less about you. A lot less.
I have seen many proposals that are entirely focussed on the tendering firm: firm history, lists of services, lists of clients, and vague claims about the firm’s general greatness.
The underlying message seems to be that it should be obvious to the buyer that your firm is the best.
But the client doesn’t care about you; they care about what you can do for them. So this is what you need to address, and you need to make it easy for the buyer to see how you can help them.
- Your firm was established in 1904. So what? You need to explain how this benefits the buyer.
- Your firm offers the service the buyer wants. So what? Many other firms will offer similar services, and it’s not enough just to list your services.
- Why should the buyer use you rather than someone else? (And the answer is not because you were established in 1904).
Clearly state the benefits and outcomes the buyer will get from working with you (don’t assume it’s obvious). Demonstrate that you understand the buyer’s problems, needs or objectives and how you can solve, meet or achieve them.
You don’t want the buyer struggling to interpret your messages, because they won’t bother – they have other proposals to assess (i.e. your competitors’).
2. Give them what they ask for.
In a formal RFT or RFP response, you need to respond to every question, properly and thoroughly within the scope of what’s been asked.
If you do not, at worst your bid will be deemed non-compliant, and at best you may be seen as sloppy and unprofessional.
Unless it’s contrary to specific format and layout requirements, the best way to make sure you’re compliant is to structure your response document following the questions in the request document: copy every question, numbered as per the request document, and make them the headings and sub-headings for your responses.
This way, you are less likely to miss a question, and it will be clear to the evaluators that you have responded to every question.
As part of this, make sure you read each question carefully so that you understand what’s required, and then answer the question that’s asked.
It may seem obvious, but can be easy to fall into the trap of inserting a cut ‘n’ paste of your response to a similar question from a previous bid without tailoring or revising it for the current context.
In some cases, a question may be ambiguously worded or otherwise unclear. If you’re unsure what’s required, ask (but think carefully before asking questions during a tender process – it can sometimes work against you).
3. Treat the process with respect.
I have heard bid managers say “we don’t need to spend too much time on this bid – I’m good friends with a guy who works at [the buyer organisation] so we’ll be fine.”
Treat the RFT/RFP process with respect, and never assume that you can get away with a half-hearted effort because you know the buyer.
Even if you have an established relationship with the buyer (or the buyer’s mum’s neighbour’s nephew), and even if you’ve been assured a win, you need to put in a credible, strong bid. Why?
- You can’t be certain the person you have the relationship with has any power in the decision-making process – and there may be more than one person evaluating responses.
- You risk marring your firm’s reputation if you submit a poor quality bid – you may be seen as unprofessional, if not incompetent.
- You will always have competition – and if you rest on your laurels, sooner or later you are going to come out second-best.
Though every RFT and RFP is different, if you can keep these three key points top of mind when you’re writing your next tender response you will be ahead of the competition.
See the new blog in the series Four (more) simple tender writing tips for success
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Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]