Writing better tender responses can make a real difference for your business, helping you to win private and public sector contracts that bring with them certainty and security. Bidding can also be daunting; maybe you’ve never written a response before, or even not written anything since school!
If that’s the case, don’t worry. With the Government having a target of spending £1 in every three with SMEs, the bidding process is becoming more small-business friendly; but you may still be competing against professionally written bids. The good news is that evaluators aren’t expecting masterpieces, but you do need to make sure that your bid is both compliant and responsive. To help add a little of that professional polish to your submission, here are some of our top tips to writing better tender responses.
1. Read the Tender Documents
While this might sound obvious, it really pays to take a close read of the tender documents; all of them. Sometimes information that you need to answer one question could be split between the ITT, the specification, the guidance notes, or in appendices. To help make sure you include everything you need to, create a compliance and responsiveness matrix. For each question, gather together all the requirements and make sure that you tick them all off in your response.
2 This is a Sales Document
At face value, you could look at questions in an SQ or ITT and think that all you need to do is to create factual answers, but a good tender goes beyond that. Yes, you need to ensure that you answer the questions, but do it in a way that clearly connects the dots for evaluators between what you do and what they want and need. Every statement should pass the ‘So What?’ test. For example, there is a difference between saying:
‘We will use Intumescent paint’
‘We will use <Brandname> Intumescent paint, which dries 10% faster allowing work to be completed within one day, making communal areas available to residents that evening limiting disruption and the need for welfare facilities.’
The first may leave your evaluator thinking, ‘So what?’ but the second leaves no doubt.
3. Write for the Evaluator
While we’re on the subject of evaluators, you need to keep them in mind while you are answering questions. For some tenders, all questions may get evaluated by the same people but for others, it may differ question by question; for example, in social care bids a focus group of family members may be asked to evaluate customer care questions alongside healthcare professionals. By understanding who will be marking a question, and what they will want to know you can write better tender responses.
4. Stay Within Word or Page Count
If you’re given a word of page count, then you need to stay within it. The same goes for any requirements for the font you use include size. How responses are treated if they over the limit varies, but the best-case scenario is that the evaluators will simply stop reading when they hit the magic number.
Where word limits are tight, there are two approaches you can take which will help. They are:
• Start with a bullet list of everything you need to say, and expand that into sentences
• Write everything you can think of in long-form, and then edit it down to get within the word count.
Using a website like Hemingway can help you to cut out any ‘fluff’ from your writing to stay inside the limits. And remember, you can use acronyms as long as you explain what they mean the first time you use them – eg: My Company will work with Crown Commercial Services (CCS) to deliver top quality results. CCS can rely on My Company to provide…’
5. Use Plain English
When we’re writing to impress, it can be tempting to dig out our very longest words and use them – especially if we’re feeling a bit insecure. But the key to writing better tender responses is making sure they get the information across, so keep it simple. It’s also worth doing a jargon check; what means something to you as an expert may mystify an evaluator.
While not all tenders allow them, it’s worth checking to see if you can include tables, graphics, or diagrams to help you get your point across. If you can, make use of them to help organise your information and highlight key points.
This can be really useful when talking about your processes, for example, where including a flow chart or similar can bring the ideas you are trying to get across to life for more visual people. Illustrations are also a great way to break up a page of text and bring some interest to the document. Include logos of certifications you hold, for example, or include photos from prior projects.
8. Don’t Be Dull
Have you ever been reading a book and realised you’ve just turned the page but you can’t remember what you read? That’s because your mind was so disinterested in the text that it went into automatic mode. You really don’t want that happening when evaluators are looking at your bid!
That’s why fiction writers spend so much time avoiding cliches and coming up with new and interesting ways of saying something. The same is true for business writing. Overused phrases don’t stick in our memories as well as unique ones, so if you can come up with a new twist for explaining what you do, use it.
9. Get someone else to read it
Always get someone else to read a bit before you submit. Always. Here at Bid for Success, every word we write is checked by someone else in the team as well as the client before we submit. We do that to get a fresh pair of eyes, making sure what we’ve said makes sense and that we haven’t missed anything that needs explaining.
Better Tender Responses from Bid for Success
If you don’t have a second pair of eyes to look over your tender responses, or you’d just like someone to tell you why you haven’t been getting the best results with your bids so far, we offer a Bid Mentoring service. We’re happy to work with you, training you to write better as we go or to just take the pain of tender responses away from you altogether! We work flexibly with our SME clients to help them get the support they need to take their next step towards success. If you’d like to learn more, then book a meeting today.