6 tips to writing a successful tender document

The tender process can be complicated and take up a lot of your time and energy.  And it can often be frustrating to do all that work if you are then not successful.

Through our experience we have pinpointed some of the key factors that a huge number of tender writers trip up on.  At first glance some may look obvious, but we assure you if you really understand and address these 6 points you will be automatically differentiating yourself from most of your competition in the most crucial areas and giving yourself the best possible chance of winning the job.

1.  Understand the requirements

Before you do anything, be certain that you understand exactly what is involved.  What standards do you need to meet?  What legislation impacts on the work?  Where does this work fit into the overall business process?  Finally, what do you know about the client and their work?  By answering these questions you will know whether you can, in fact, perform every aspect of the job, under the set conditions and on time.

If you can’t, then knowing this will have saved you the considerable effort of submitting a tender response for a job which you , in reality, can’t compete on.

2.  Quality, Environment or OHS requirements etc.

If there are requirements to demonstrate evidence that a Quality, Environment or OHS system (for example) is in place, make sure you read the wording next to that box very carefully. There are different levels of requirement and there is a vast difference between a Quality plan, evidence of a quality system, the Vic Roads pre-qual checklist and a 3rd party certified ISO 9001 system, for example.

If you are required by the tender to have a compliant Quality management system, for example, it is never advisable to say ‘No’ to this question unless you absolutely have to.  On the one hand, you obviously shouldn’t make any claims that are untrue because this could result in breach of contract when the customer discovers you have misrepresented your situation. On the other hand, even if  you currently don’t have very much in place, there are strategies we often help clients with that allow you to tick ‘yes’ in the all important do you have a e.g. Quality (or other) system box.

If you really can’t in all honesty say ‘Yes’ this may be an indicator that this tender is beyond your reach and you will be wasting your time- as a ‘No’ on this question can often be used by the tenderer to instantly eliminate unsuitable applicants. If this is the case, instead spend the time you would have taken preparing this tender getting your management system ready so you can say ‘Yes’ for the next one, and have a much better chance.

PS Also, as a timesaver, if you are likely to go for more than one tender requiring evidence of your management system, ensure you create a template of all the likely documentation evidence so that you are not recreating the wheel each time.

3.  Answer the questions and address all the criteria

No matter how irrelevant it might seem, make sure you reply to every single question.  Follow them through in their set order so that you know you’ve covered them all, and so the people making the final decision can follow your structure, too. You will automatically have (potentially vital) points deducted for failing to answer every question.

In particular, address all of the criteria.  It’s this information that forms the basis of the decision.  Don’t just tell them that you meet the criteria; give examples showing how you meet them.

4.  Tailor your service to meet the specific requirements of the brief

You may offer a wide range of services but if some of them aren’t relevant to the brief, don’t include them.

If you really want the job, the best way to win it is to tailor your service to suit the client.  Show why you are different by touching on each area of the client’s need and demonstrating your clear understanding of what they want and the way the client will benefit.

5.  Explain how you will meet their needs.

When you look back over the tender response, if all you can see is ‘we can do this’ and ‘we can do that,’ you have not created a compelling case for your selection.  Everyone who responds to this tender will say the same thing.

You can distinguish yourself by telling them exactly how you will meet their needs. Talk about the processes you use and the special skills or experience you have. Remember the ‘What’s in it for me’ question. Show the client how THEY will benefit from choosing your service over any other. If you can answer that you are on your way to truly connecting with the client.

6.  Tell them why they should choose you.

Don’t be afraid to go all out and sell yourself.  Many people are uncomfortable doing this but you need to spell out why you and your service are the best choice in your response.  You know why you’re good at what you do so tell them – show it. What is it that makes you so different from everyone else who is in consideration?  Talk about what you are good at and how you will make the client’s life much easier.  That’s what they really want.

Final Comments and what to do if you’re not sure

Of course, it goes without saying that you will show your professionalism by submitting your document to the right place and on time. All of your documentation will be complete, all questions answered and all documents signed.  This will give them a great first impression of you and your business which will become even better when they see the wonderful tender document you have submitted.

And lastly, when it comes to tenders, prevention is far more effective than cure. Tenders take a lot of effort and time. Make sure you don’t waste it by misunderstanding the requirements.

If you are not sure, don’t worry or take any chances.  Remember you can always call an experienced provider such as ICS for some free advice.

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