Do you know how to write an effective tender to win a contract?

What is tender writing and how is it different from other writing?

A well-written tender is your chance to stand out from the crowd. It’s an opportunity to win more work for your business and grow awareness of your organisation for future opportunities. Do you know what goes into writing an effective tender?

What is a tender?

A tender is your formal written bid for proposed work. If you win, you enter into a contract with the buyer. Depending on the nature and complexity of the job, the document you submit can run anywhere from a single page to hundreds of pages.

Buyers, such as the government, a local council or a business, put together tender requests that outline their need for a supplier and release them to the market. From there, you can read over the work required and decide if it’s a job your business wants. If it is, you create a response that contains all the necessary information and submit it to the buyer.

There are many different types of tender requests, such as:

  • Request For Tender (RFT).
  • Invitation to Offer (ITO).
  • Request for Proposals(RFP).
  • Approach to Market (ATM).

Each one contains similar base components to the others. For example, you should expect:

  • A description of the buyer’s needs.
  • A clear deadline for tender submissions.
  • A request for information around your experience and whether you have the capabilities and capacity to complete the work within the timeline needed.
  • To supply clear information about costs or a fixed price for the work.

The rules around tender responses are strict, especially when submitting to an organisation from the public sector.

Writing a tender often requires a large investment of time and energy. Writing a tender often requires a large investment of time and energy.

What should you think about when writing a tender?

I know a lot of businesses that have become discouraged with the tender process, or turn to hiring a tender writer. It’s a competitive arena. When you’ve put a lot of time and energy into creating your bid, it’s hard not to feel frustrated when you don’t win the work.

However, often times it’s simply a lack of knowledge about how to approach tenders that let businesses down, rather than their ability to do the work efficiently and effectively.

Even organisations with strong business writing abilities can struggle with tenders. They require you to mix strict formatting requirements with compelling arguments and detailed breakdowns, all presented in an accessible and professional manner that stands out from the crowd. It’s by no means an easy task.

I’ve found that considering the following aspects can help you present a more complete and compelling tender:

The audience

What do you know about the organisation that’s put out the tender request? Do your research. Any information you discover helps to hone your bid.

For example, you might discover that the organisation prides itself on being eco-friendly. This allows you to better tailor your tender. Instead of focusing on how fast you can complete the work, you might highlight the environmentally sustainable products you use.

Knowing your audience ensures you don’t miss out on a chance to show how ideal your business is for the job.

Exceeding criteria

First and foremost, it’s essential that you’re addressing the core requirements of the tender request. Not meeting these conditions is likely to remove your bid from the running.

It might sound obvious, but it’s important to check whether you can actually do the job. Take the time to thoroughly read the tender document. Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Is their expected time frame feasible for your business?
  • Can you submit your tender before the deadline?
  • Where are they located? Consider the logistics involved.
  • Are there briefings you’ll have to attend?
  • Can you fulfill all selection criteria?

Don’t stop there though. Where you can, show the organisation how you can exceed their expectations around the results they’re hoping for. For instance, if they’re hoping for a timeline of three months for the work, but you know how efficient your team is, clearly highlight how your processes will get the work done in two.

Are you showing how you'll fulfill all the criteria in your tender submission?Are you showing how you’ll fulfill all the criteria in your tender submission?

A logical format

It’s not unusual for a tender request to supply a format. Use it.

Even if you cannot find a format to help you, the tender request itself is a useful guide. Lay out your bid to follow the document as closely as possible, answering questions and meeting the stated criteria in the same order it was presented. Ensure your tender keeps to a logical structure throughout to make it simple for the reader to follow as well.

Break large chunks of text up into smaller sections to make it less hard on the eye. Don’t forget to incorporate appropriate graphics to demonstrate your points – visuals help keep the reader interested and assist comprehension of information.

Succinct and compelling writing

Some of the pointers I rely on most to write effective and persuasive tenders include:

  • Proofread – Any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes in your tender immediately detract from your professional appearance. Review the document aloud once it’s complete at least once, to smooth out how it reads and catch any errors.
  • Keep sentences short – Avoid long and convoluted sentences. They can lose the reader and often include unnecessary information.
  • Avoid jargon – Don’t overwhelm the reader with terms they don’t understand. Break it down into layman’s terms to make the information more accessible.
  • Think beyond money – The cheapest tender isn’t always the best. Demonstrate where you’re adding value in other ways as well as showing how you’re keeping costs down.
  • Consider your word choice – Language helps build relationships. For example, using the word ‘partnership’ evokes the feeling of a joint venture. Whereas referring to your business as their ‘supplier’ is less compelling despite still being accurate.

If you’d like to learn more about writing compelling and successful tenders, reach out to the team at ICML.


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