Tips for writing better tender responses – don’t cut and paste

Having worked for many years helping companies respond to ASX-listed, government and Defence tenders, the most common faux par I come across is the ye olde cut and paste syndrome.  And yes, tenders are time consuming…(here’s the “but”)

But…no matter how good your processes are, or how thorough your planning is…or how easy to use the templates are, or how thorough precedent information is, there will always need to be an individual strategy developed for each tender.  If you don’t focus on this fundamental principle you run the risk of being unsuccessful.

Crafting a bidding strategy involves making an informed assessment of your competitors. Then, tailoring the tender will involve a unique value proposition, appropriately crafted key messages, and a demonstrated understanding of the client organisation, the idiosyncrasies of their industry or environment – all underpinned by a strong relationship.

It is a misnomer to think that there is a ‘one size fits all’ tender response.  The most common pitfalls that people make in putting together a tender response includes:

  • No clear project management plan
  • A focus on features, not benefits
  • Generic content which shows a lack of definition around client needs and their critical business issues
  • Non-compliant content which doesn’t satisfy the mandatory content requirements specified in the RFT
  • Overly wordy or repetitious documents
  • CVs – inconsistent, not tailored, and not benefit or outcome focused (descriptive versus results)
  • Claims and assertions without credible substantiation – too many ‘motherhood’ statements
  • Lack of personalisation towards the client
  • Lack of visual breaks or graphic design elements.

The lack of a compelling, concise and persuasive tender response, and the absence of a value proposition or ‘pitch’ can make all the difference between succeeding or losing.

Tips for writing better tender responses

Too often, we see tenders written in a “me centric” manner, and it becomes a chest beating exercise on how great you are.  When writing your tender, write it in the eyes of a client who will be reading it.  Say to yourself “so what?”.   Here are some ideas that you might consider that will give you that “so what” factor::

  • more focus on the value proposition, which tells the story about what is unique and distinct about you (or your service).  This means better alignment against your brand personality (tone and character), positioning (differentiation in the marketplace) and promise (the claims we make);
  • a stronger, demonstrated understanding of the client’s needs, their business issues and the issues of strategic significance facing them, and their own customers/clients;
  • greater compliance with information requests;
  • engaging the reader – use of impactful language, communication themes, visual appeal;
  • easy to read and understand;
  • easy to navigate through the document (the ‘follow the bouncing ball’ principle);
  • differentiating through the use of evidence-based reporting (statistics, graphs);
  • appropriate key messages that ‘connect’ with the reader.

The approach to how your tender will come together will largely affect the way in which you ‘pitch’ to the client.  In essence, tender documentation should be a blend of performance reporting, persuasive communication and compliance – balancing the requirements of the RFT against the needs of the client.

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