The do's and don'ts of tender writing
Most tenders require you to provide two types of information – your pricing and your answers to questions about how you will deliver the service. These are often known as quality questions or method statements. This blog suggests some top tips to bear in mind when writing the responses to these quality questions.
- Understand how the tender will be assessed and scored. What is the buyer looking for in a response to score full marks? Usually to score full marks, you will need to provide responses that not only answer the question accurately, but go above and beyond the requirements outlined in the specification and offer added value to the buyer, providing them with a service or product in excess of the base requirements and KPIs.
- Make sure you answer each question in full. Use the structure of the question to help you – if it’s broken down into sub sections, break your answer down into sub sections. If it has a list of bullet points that need to be covered, create a heading for each of those bullet points and address each one separately. In some cases, a question can be very open, for example ‘Detail how you would deliver the service?’ This is much harder to answer than a question that then goes on to say, ‘Please ensure you include information on your opening hours, how you would meet the timescales, and conform to relevant legislation’. For these open questions, look at the specification and how the service is described (to continue with that example) and structure your answer correspondingly.
- Use the specification to help you answer the questions. Use the same terminology in your answers as that used in the specification (e.g. ‘service user’, ‘patient’, ‘client’, ‘customer’). Some tenders ask you to make specific reference to the specification, in these cases, refer to the section numbers. If timescales are specified, ensure you include these in your answer. Check that you’ve addressed everything in the specification in the corresponding question response.
- Provide evidence. In every response you need to back up what you’re saying with evidence. You should include facts and figures wherever possible, detail staff qualifications and experience, and use case histories and testimonials with names, dates, and results. The buyer wants to be confident in your ability to deliver the contract, so showing how you have done it elsewhere is critical. Use management information to demonstrate what you have delivered to that client, what were the outcomes of your service to them?
- Keep within the specified word count/character count. This can be a tricky aspect of tender writing. When creating the first draft of an answer, don’t worry too much about this, obviously other than being aware if the answer needs to fit into 200 words, there’s no point writing 1000. Just write down all the information you want to include, and then shape it into the allotted count. There’s possibly content for an entire blog post on the art and frustrations of reducing word/character count in an answer!
- Be concise, succinct and get your point across.
And let’s not forget the things you shouldn’t do when tender writing.
- Include marketing material, irrelevant information or waffle.
- Write in the first person. ‘I am the Managing Director and I perform tasks A, B and C’ does not read as well as ‘Mr Jones is the Managing Director, responsible for tasks A, B and C’.
- Leave it all till the last minute. Crafting a succinct response that includes all the relevant information, gets your point across, demonstrates that you’re the best company to award the tender, and details supporting evidence takes time and effort. Your competitors will be giving this tender the time it deserves to win the contract; you need to do the same.
- Never, ever assume. If something is ambiguous or unclear, ask a clarification question. Every public sector tender will give you the opportunity to ask questions to the buying organisation.
- Reference other answers within your response. Each response should answer the question in full, so don’t for example, say ‘Opening hours will be as detailed earlier in question 2’; make sure you write the opening hours out again. Each question will be scored individually on its merits, so each response needs to have all your information in it.
- Repeat yourself within the same response. You won’t get extra marks for saying something twice within the same answer, and you’re using up valuable word count. Make sure your answer is structured so the information is clearly presented.