A poorly written tender or proposal can be a major roadblock in your business’ success. If you’re not effectively, concisely and persuasively conveying your capabilities and especially the value you bring, the selection committee simply won’t know you’re up to the task. Effective tender writing is more than just a skill, it’s a critical tool helping you to win work and grow your business. But what exactly is tender writing, and what sets an exceptional tender or proposal apart from the rest?
What is tender writing?
Writing a tender or proposal is more than just bidding for business. It involves showcasing your organisation’s unique value proposition, expertise and the tangible benefits it delivers. This is achieved by weaving in precise data, a strategic narrative, and persuasive rhetoric, all tailored to meet the specific requirements and objectives set out in the Request for Tender. It translates the technical capabilities of your business into compelling solutions that address the client’s pain points and aspirations. A well-crafted tender response can be the deciding factor between winning a pivotal contract and missing out on a lucrative opportunity.
Proposal writing vs. tender writing
Although “proposal writing” and “tender writing” are often used interchangeably, and both proposal and tender writers share similar skill sets, there are distinct differences between proposals and tenders.
Tender writing is in response to a Request for Tender (RFT) and is often more prescriptive, where the requirements and specifications are already clearly defined. Often the organisation already knows what they want, and they are seeking bids based on price, capability, and experience.
Proposal writing can be in response to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP), an informal opportunity or unsolicited:
- Formal RFP: This is very similar to a tender, often with very precise project delivery specifications. However, sometimes it can be a request for solutions to a particular problem whereby the organisation is open to different methods or solutions for solving it.
- Informal proposal: An informal proposal is sent often after an initial meeting, in response to a request for more information about a product or service, with pricing. Its content is largely up to the potential supplier.
- Unsolicited proposal: This is offered without any prior request. Given there are no set guidelines, they require significant research and leave greater scope for creativity.
Key elements of exceptional tender writing and proposal writing
A professional tender writer is not just a writer, but a researcher, strategist, collaborator and analyst. By following the below steps, they make sure every word serves a purpose, presenting your business in the best light and setting you up for success.
1. Doing the groundwork
Understanding your audience and what they’re looking for is the cornerstone of effective tender and proposal writing. Every tender and proposal will be different because the selection committee or procurement team will be searching for different things and it’s essential that your response reflects your understanding of what they want. To truly grasp a businesses’ requirements, attend the RFT or RFP briefing sessions, if available. These events offer insights into client needs and allow you to introduce your business, engage in discussions, and begin to strategise your pitch.
Next, research online. The organisation’s website is a great place to gain insights into their values and how they align with your offerings. There may also be media releases indicating what’s happening in the organisation and annual reports highlighting their immediate needs and future goals.
Make sure you also lean on your industry contacts for deeper insights. Research the decision-makers’ priorities, their past partnerships, and the reasons for issuing the current tender. Uncovering pain points with past partners, such as poor communication or slow response times, can provide you an advantage. By emphasising your strengths in these areas, you can stand out from the competition.
2. Mastering your RFP or RFT
Attended the briefing? Got a grasp on the client’s needs? Great, but don’t dive in just yet. To write a great tender or proposal, you need to understand your RFP or RFT inside out. This means immersing yourself in every detail, taking a deep dive into the scope of works and making sure you fully understand the nuances of the contract and the deed. Take careful note of what the response needs to include, such as response schedules, compliance documents such as policies, insurance, an Indigenous participation plan, and sometimes a statutory declaration. Start collating them early to avoid a mad rush at the end. It’s these finer compliance details which might be the difference in a neck-and-neck competition.
3. Considering how you will meet their needs
Now you understand what they’re looking for, consider if you currently have the right skills and resources to service the client, or if you could realistically get them before the project start date. Ask yourself questions like:
- Does the client, their industry, or the service they are outsourcing, match your business development strategy?
- Can you meet their essential criteria – do you have the skills or experience they are seeking?
- If successful, will you have people available to undertake the project or deliver the service?
- Who will be responsible for driving the tender process?
- How much time, resources and admin support will it cost to prepare the tender or the proposal?
- How much does the client organisation know about you?
- Do your competitors have the inside running?
- Do you have a realistic chance of success?
If you can’t fully address the criteria, this can lead to glaring gaps in your submission, which will be obvious to the selection panel. This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel, but it’s important to ask yourself these questions before you get started so you can address any concerns the committee might have from the outset.
4. Developing your value proposition
A clear and simple value proposition is the most important component of any tender or proposal. This is a statement of no more than four key points that are of real value to a prospect which demonstrate just how well you’re going to fulfil their needs.
To develop your value proposition, consider what the potential customer’s pain points are and what they want to achieve. This should include those set out in the RFT or RFP and the unspoken needs uncovered in your research. Then, quantify the value only your business can bring to the table. This might be big-picture issues, like improving their profits or gaining market share; tactical value, including improving their operational efficiencies and quality; or personal concerns such as how you’ll make those decision-makers look good for choosing you. You must quantify the outcomes you’ll deliver – think percentages, money and time.
Your value proposition should connect on an emotional level, differentiate you from your competitors and demonstrate the results you’ve achieved for other organisations. It should get them thinking ‘we need this’, ‘no one else has this’ and ‘they can really deliver, just look at what they’ve done for XYZ’.
5. Careful time management
Writing a tender is a big undertaking, and like any big project, without careful time management it can get away from you. Be kind to yourself and allow plenty of time by drawing up a simple plan that clearly lays out each step, then break it into tasks and set a timeline for each. Make sure you leave some buffer time for things to unexpectedly pop up, as they undoubtedly will.
6. Directly answer the question
It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many tender responses get off track. Even if something unique about your business is fantastic, if it’s not relevant to the client, don’t waffle on about it. Keep your responses short, but informative and use the active voice – it’s more succinct and persuasive.
7. Prove it
You might be the best, but nobody will believe you unless you can prove it. Provide hard evidence, use quotes from the media or happy clients, or award wins or good survey results to back up what you say. Provide specific examples or mini case studies to show how your company makes a difference to its clients.
8. Perfect formatting
Proper formatting will add that extra polish and make it easier for the assessor to see you’ve addressed the criteria – after all, your response should be a reflection of how easy you will be to work with, right? Pay attention to details like double checking the contents page aligns, that your company’s name, logo and the name and tender code is in the footer of each page and that each image has a clear and concise caption. Consider engaging a graphic designer to add that extra gloss with a professionally designed cover and charts, such as your organisation chart.
All tenders should be proofread before they are submitted. An error-free submission reflects your attention to detail and submitting a polished, professional bid will ensure you are taken seriously. Engaging a professional tender writer ensures that your response is in top shape, free from typos or inconsistencies.
Ready to elevate your tender and proposal game?
At Tender Writers, we write, edit or proofread tenders, proposals, capability statements and business documents. We also review draft tender responses prepared by our clients.
Head to the contact page or call us direct on 0448 566 377or 02 8036 5532.