When you decide to respond to public sector tender opportunities it can feel a bit overwhelming (there's a lot of abbreviations!). You know how to run your business but tender writing is a whole new skill set, so where do you begin?
In this blog we'll take a step back and talk you through the process, offering tips and advice along the way to support your business deliver a successful, winning tender response!
What is a tender?
When the public sector (ie government, local council, the NHS, etc, also known as the buyer) need to puchase goods or services over a certain value, it has to do this through the tendering process. This involves the buyers publishing an Invitation to Tender, which is also known as and ITT, or an ITQ (Invitation to Quote) or RFP (Request for Proposal). This is where all the information on what the contract is, what is needed, timings and so-forth will be found.
Once you have found an ITT that is right for your business, you will then be asked to prepare a tender response, also known as a bid. This is typically done through a portal and the responses required will cover all aspects of your business and the services or products required. There will be specific requirements and rules around the responses to ensure an open, fair and transparent process.
Once submitted, the buyer will then evaluate all of the responses against a pre-defined set of criteria. They will typically be looking for what they call the 'most economically advantageous tender' (MEAT). This means that the buyers don't just look at price but also look at a number of 'quality' factors. You will often find weightings given to each area so price could, for example, make up 40% of the total marks, whilst quality could make up 60% of the marks.
As a buyer may receive a vast number of tender responses, it is absolutely crucial to make sure your response demonstrates that you are the number one choice for the contract. That is why competent, comprehensive tender writing is so crucial to your success.
More about tender writing
Tender writing, which is also known as bid writing, is the term used for the writing of the responses to the questions posed by the buyer. Typically, this will involve:
- reviewing all of the documents provided by the buyer in their ITT,
- liaising with the stakeholders within the company responding to the bid to get the strongest possible responses,
- writing full and concise responses to each question to the word/character count prescribed and,
- ultimately submitting the tender.
Where to start?
It's key that before you start writing a response you take a step back and look at the big picture...
What exactly are the requirements of the tender opportunity?
- Do you understand what is needed? Can you meet the objectives? Does it play to your strengths? At this point, you could decide that actually this opportunity isn't right for you.
Who needs to be involved?
- Who is going to write the response? This really needs to be done by one person who will use one tone of voice however they will need support from the wider business. Which business stakeholders are going to need to provide input? These stakeholders will often be subject matter experts within the business so they will need time and possibly resource to support the tender response, Who will review the tender responses? Do you need external help? Can your accountant help with pricing? Do you need to outsource the tender writing?
What information do I need to collate?
- Evidencing what you have done previously through client testimonials and case studies is key. Where are they, are they accessible? Do you need to upload policies and procedures? Are they up to date? Do you need to provide financial statements?
What is the deadline?
- All of this work will take time so give yourself time to get all of your proverbial ducks in a row. Work backwards from the deadline date making sure you give yourself and the team enough time to make your responces strong and ensure you are the number one choice.
Knowing the answers to these key questions will enable you to make the best use of your time.
Tender writing pitfalls
When responding to the tender questions pay attention to the "rules" stated:
- There is always a word or character count, stick to it! You need to be concise and cut the waffle
- Make sure you answer all questions. It sounds silly but it is really important to answer each question and please don't ask the reader to refer back to the answer of another question. Answering each question fully, in it's own right is key. If you are unsure of anything you can always ask clarification questions.
- Attach all of the documents requested and make sure they are the most up to date versions.
Our top tender writing tips for success
The above information should give you a really good basis to respond to an opportunity but some of our team of tender writing specialists wanted to share their key tips...
Tony - Bid Writer
Take time to really get an understanding of the buyer's requirements. What is it that they really want and can you do this for better than anyone else?
Karen - Opperations Manager
Use the buyers terminoligy in your responces so if a buying organisation refers to a 'client' use that word throughout your tender response. If they talk about team instead of staff, use the word 'team'. By paying attention to and mirroring the language used, you are showing you understand the buyer, their values and making your answers relatable.
Mike - Bid Writer
Providing evidence is absolutely crucial to your bid and can make the difference between success and failure. Make sure it's up to date and relevant, don't add a testimonial for testimonial sake.
Phil - Bid Writer
Don't write your responses in the first person, it can appear informal and make you appear less credible.
Looking for tender writing support?
If you are looking for experienced tender writers who will prepare you a strong, compelling, competitive tender submission, get in touch.
We will be more than happy to talk to you about your needs and share our experience.