Communication skills

7 tips for writing a winning tender

- March 23, 2017 3 MIN READ

I admit, writing a tender can be a chore, but it’s worth all that effort when you land your next big contract. Here’s a quick survival guide for tackling your next RFT

Many small businesses recognise the value of a well written tender, bid or quote to help them land new and repeat business. Yet there are many of us who leave writing a tender to the last minute and don’t engage the right people or skills for the task.

For solo operators, writing a tender can seem particularly overwhelming – especially when there are a hundred other jobs to tackle on our to-do list.

But you can do it! Remember, a strong tender response is an investment not only in getting this contract (or becoming a panel provider), it’s a reflection of your business brand and reputation.

Nail your next tender response with these tips:

1. Make the Statement of Requirements your new best friend

Read all the supplied Request for Tender (RFT) documentation multiple times. During the writing process, keep referring back to the requirements. And stick to the rules. If they ask for 300 words for a particular element, don’t give them 305 words.

2. Stay linked in to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out)

Sign up to the RFT online forum and make sure you’ve included your email address for any addenda alerts. Read each addendum and make any changes to your master documentation (and share with your project team if you have one). Clarify any details with the tender contact early – it’s okay to ask lots of questions.

3. Project manage like a star

See this tender response as a singular project. Assign a list of tasks, schedule them, delegate certain tasks to contractors if you’re not going to have time to do it all yourself. Get a strong writer involved from the start. Book regular time to work on the elements, so it doesn’t fall into the last-minute (or too hard) bucket.

4. Stay decluttered

Set up a Dropbox or other folder with clear file naming and subfolders for relevant materials (i.e. Part A, Part B, Pricing). Name files in the required convention (as per the RFT specs) from the beginning and manage version control with dates. Move background or non-essential documents into a separate folder when a section is completed. Cross-reference from one part to the other where it’s relevant or helpful to the reader.

5. Get creative (within the confines)

Not all tender responses allow you to include images, branding or other creative elements. Find a way to inject your business values and ‘personality’ throughout the content of your tender response. Use your personal bio or CV to highlight your impressive skills (and use photos), source quality referees who will bring your credibility to life, and use attachments to visually demonstrate services or experience to support your response.

6. Respect the role of the writer

Your final tender response must be the responsibility of a central writer. By all means, cut and paste from other documents and pull text from different sources. But make sure you have an experienced writer to refine and edit for consistency, flow, quality and alignment with the RFT, specifications and Statement of Requirements. This central role is critical to the quality of the end product, so allow time for the writer to collate, edit, make linkages throughout, proofread and finalise the document (which includes correct file naming, file size, file type and attachments).

7. Don’t rehash every time

While a quality tender response can form the basis of your future responses, take care to view each RFT as a new project. While elements can be reused, there will always be the need for fresh, up-to-date information. And there’s nothing worse (or more embarrassing for a business) than having an evaluation committee read a response that has clearly been copied and pasted with reference to another RFT – ouch.

Have you ever tendered successfully for something? What do you think got you over the line? Do you have any tips for writing a tender?