Tenders are evaluated two ways – price and quality. For many SMEs, price is the most straightforward of these two, but answering the quality questions or writing method statements is a bit more challenging. It’s a communication issue; the tender evaluation questions are often written by the department that wants to buy the service and the procurement team at the organisation you want to bid for. That’s two sets of people who have their own set of needs and jargon. Then you as the supplier have to interpret their questions and write a response that tells what they need to hear.
We know from experience of working with small businesses that understanding what the client wants in response to a question isn’t always easy, so in this blog, we want to try and help with that by sharing our approach to tender evaluation questions.
1. Read ALL the documents
Hopefully, you will have read all the documents in order to make an informed bid/no-bid decision, but it’s always worth refreshing your memory when you sit down to actually write the responses. One way to ensure that you address all the things you need to is to copy the question into a new document. You can then copy into that document anything you find in the specification or other tender documents that need addressing in the response. You can further break these down into compliance (if you don’t do this you will lose the bid) and nice-to-haves so if you need to cut down a response to meet word counts, you know what can be sacrificed.
2. Read the Question (at least twice)
Now give all your focus to one question. Read it carefully, and then go back and read it again. Finally, go back and read it a third time and highlight the words in the question that seem important to you.
Take a look at the following tender question:
Please describe the service(s) you offer under this category and what outcomes your services have delivered that relate to those stated in the service category description in Schedule 2.1 of the Framework Agreement (max 250 words).
With a careful reading we can see that we need to:
- Keep your answer to the services you deliver in the category
- Check Schedule 2.1 for what that includes
- Tell them about outcomes that have been achieved
- Keep the response to 250 words
3. Look at the Evaluation Criteria
Not all questions are equal. The tender documentation should make it clear to you what percentage of the quality score this question represents. If time is limited, then focus on doing a great job for questions that are worth more. Those are clearly the ones that are most important to the buyer.
Most tenders will give you some idea of what they are looking for in a complete answer – sometimes this is simply a numeric scale that runs from ‘No information’ to ‘Fully answered plus added value’ or similar ratings. Other buyers will go a bit further and give you a clearer idea of what they are looking for in their answer. If they’ve done this, tick off their requirements as you go to make sure you’ve covered everything.
4. Break it Down
Once you’ve identified everything you need to include in your answer, break it down into headings. For example, useful headings for the question we looked at in point 2 might be ‘Services Offered’ and ‘Outcomes Delivered’. If the evaluation criteria were looking for added value or innovation, then that would be another heading.
Now start clustering any requirements that you’ve identified under those headings – if they don’t fit neatly then add another heading! Once you’ve completed this exercise then you have what we call a storyboarded response for your tender evaluation questions.
5. Get Writing
If you’ve followed our steps so far, you should have a clear framework for your answer, so it’s time to get writing. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make clear links between what you are offering and what the client needs. Don’t assume it’s obvious. ‘We will only use multi-skilled operatives,’ tells me less than, ‘We will only use multi-skilled operatives to maximise the opportunity for a right-first-time fix.’
- Put as much evidence into your answer as you can. It’s the difference between, ‘Most of our apprentices successfully complete their training,’ and ‘98% of our apprentices successfully complete their training.
- Use strong language. Talk about what you will do, ‘We will start mobilisation on contract award,’ is stronger than, ‘If we win the contract, we will start mobilisation the next day.’
- Use plain language. There’s no need to bring out your 50p words when a 2p one will get the message across just as clearly – the goal of a tender is to make sure that the evaluator understands what you’re offering, not to make them think you’re a walking thesaurus.
6. Get Someone Else to Proof
Lastly, get someone else to read your answers. We all have a tendency to read what we meant to write rather than what we did, other people won’t do that. If you can’t call on help then use an advanced spell checker such as Grammarly or Hemingway. They will catch more errors and give you some tips on improving your writing style.
Mastering Tender Evaluation Questions
We hope that this step-by-step approach makes it easier for you to approach tender responses. While the process can seem intimidating, bidding is becoming increasingly small business friendly and we expect to see that continue over the coming years.
If you feel that you’d benefit from some extra support, we run regular SME-specific bid training. Or get in touch today to talk about our bid mentoring and writing services to help you get the results you need.