Tenders – and proposals – combine logic and persuasion. They need to be compelling, credible and persuasive. While this sounds like you need to be creative, you don’t. There are ‘rules’ you can apply to help you through the process, whether you are left- or right- brained.
Start by working out your offer. Jot down all your ideas for what you can offer the prospect and list them in order of importance. Think about each offer and how it will benefit the prospect – what’s in it for them?
Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Think about what they will gain by choosing you. Ideally, you need 3-4 selling points, each with a corresponding benefit and proof. For example, if you say that your solution will help the prospect get their products to market one week earlier than usual, explain how this will benefit their business – faster income, increased revenue, advantage over the competition – and give proof of how you make this happen. This could be an example of another client you’ve delivered this outcome for and how your processes and people make this possible.
Write your executive summary first. If you have an opportunity to include an executive summary (or a covering letter if the RFT or RFP leaves no room for an executive summary) draft this first. It doesn’t have to be complete at this stage. You can add to it as you go. Drafting this first gives a framework for the rest of your tender. Include your features and benefits. That is, your selling points.
Follow the RFT or RFP. If you are submitting a formal tender or proposal, always follow the structure of the RFT or RFP. Feel free to add your own subheadings to make your story flow. You can use benefit statements as subheadings, and even rhetorical questions. Use the prospect’s language from their RFT or RFP too, and notes from your research or meeting with them.
Make it look good. White space, bullet points, some colour, bold, italics, text boxes, tables, charts: these all add visual appeal and make tenders less overwhelming to read. Don’t forget to emphasise important points in some way – bold, text box, coloured font or with an icon. But don’t go overboard so that it’s garish.
Write for a 14-year old. Just because you are tendering to another business with potentially well-educated employees, it doesn’t mean that those reviewing your tender will be particularly strong or enthusiastic readers. So, it’s always a good idea to use short sentences, simple words and straightforward language. It means, if nothing else, that your readers will quickly grasp your message, instead of spending time trying to decode business speak.
Make the most of Word. Word has tools to help you to check your tender’s readability. Click on the Help button and type in Flesch Reading Ease or Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level and you’ll see the instructions to set up these tools.
Break out of the mould. If you think your tender will be one of many, make it stand out in some way. As well as graphic design and subheadings mentioned above, think about using:
- Photographs of your team, facilities or products, or show your team using your prospect’s services or products
- Writing techniques such as rhetorical questions, benefit statements, pull out quotes and one line testimonials
- Stories (informal case studies) to present your message and capture the imagination of your readers
- A mix of short and long sentences.
Use active voice, rather than passive. Active voice puts the person or noun doing the action first: Rosemary read the tender. Passive puts the actor last: The tender was read by Rosemary.
Be prepared. Finally, give yourself enough time to write your tender. Leave the final draft overnight for a final review the next day. Print it out and read it aloud. Ask someone you trust and who has no vested interest in the tender to read it too.