Tender writing – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

When you realise how much time and resources it’s going to take you to put together a tender response, it can be tempting to go at it like a bull at a gate just to get the whole thing done. But if you’re really serious about winning, that approach simply won’t do. It’s as much about having the correct information in your answers as it is about the way you convey that information – and it’s that latter point that could be the clincher.

What are the requirements?

Take time to thoroughly look through the entire Request for Tender (RFT). Some will impose word counts, some will specify which font you must use, some will limit the number of illustrations or supporting material you can provide, and on it goes. If you’re disqualified by failing to comply with any one of these requirements, then all your efforts will have been in vain, so it pays to check what’s needed very carefully. And if there’s no word count, do remember to be sensible about answer length or you risk an assessor dying of exhaustion.

Show you know your audience

Now that you know the level of detail required, think about the language and jargon used in the RFT and mirror it throughout your response. A common mistake tenderers make is assuming that the person/panel reading their submission will be a subject matter expert. In fact, their knowledge of your product or industry may total zip. Strike a happy medium by writing intelligently but very much with the lay person in mind.

Key messages

Remember to place adequate focus on areas other than your main product or service. Sure, that’s going to be the key to it all, but your tender submission mustn’t sound like a one trick pony. Make sure to convey other, perhaps less tangible aspects of your winning solution, including:

  • How it offers best value for money
  • Evidence that shows your service really is top quality
  • How your business has the in-depth experience and capacity to deliver on time and without risk
  • Your position as an industry leader; why the client should have confidence in your company
  • How what you’re offering will answer the future needs of the customer, too.

Get the tone right

Clear, concise language is always a winner. Making your voice active rather than passive is a great idea, too. For example, ‘A team of fully experienced craftsmen will carefully construct each sideboard’ sounds way more impressive than ‘Sideboards will be assembled by the team’. You can also make your submission sound much more convincing if, instead of using conditional verbs such as ‘aim’, ‘endeavour’ or ‘could’, you use ‘will’.

Set out your stall

In other words, begin each response with a clear summary statement, such as ‘The Eager Beaver Wood Mill will expertly craft each sideboard to your exact specifications’. Then go on to describe the process in full, beginning a new paragraph for each supporting point.

Check everything once you’ve finished

If the RFT has stated any exact requirements, then double check to see that you’ve complied with each and every one of them. Look at your layout with a critical eye. Have you set out your submission clearly and concisely? Have you made good use of subheadings and bullet points to break up text and summarise content where appropriate? Is the style of your headings consistent throughout? This isn’t just window dressing; it makes your tender look professional and, most importantly, makes it easier for assessors to digest.

Ask someone else to look at it

If you’ve allowed time in your tender timetable for a thorough review – and you most definitely should have – then ask someone else to cross check that all criteria for each question have been answered. They should also check that your response complies with any set guidelines and that it contains no errors or grammar mistakes. It’s a wise idea to consider employing a professional tender writer and proofreader to assess your response. They’ll spot any glaring typos, highlight where your responses may have missed the mark and give the whole submission a really good final polish.

If you would like help writing, editing or proofreading your tenders, proposals or business documents, head to the contact page or call Rosemary Gillespie direct on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216.

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