Last week, I spent most of my working hours head down and bum up writing a tender document for a disability employment service provider.
It went as smooth as could be expected given a tight deadline and remote client, but it made me think about how most people approach tenders with a sense of trepidation, and often don’t even know where to start. And the fact that governments of all persuasions need some serious plain English training when it comes to writing requests for tenders doesn’t help.
Tenders are a great way to win new business – if you have a good process in place, and can respond in a way that can improve your chance of success.
Tender writing can be made less threatening by following these 8 tender writing tips:
1. Read the request for tender carefully: Before you even put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) look over the tender documents thoroughly – several times if needed – to ensure you understand exactly what is required. If there is something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to contact the relevant person or department. But don’t expect them to hold your hand and tell you exactly what you need to do to win the tender.
2. Be certain you meet the criteria: Think seriously about this. Responding to a tender takes time and effort, and not just in the writing. People throughout your business will need to be taken off their core duties to supply information. And all this will be wasted if you don’t have a snowflake’s chance of winning the project.
3. Answer the criteria: It really is that simple, yet over the years I have seen countless tender responses that are really well written and compelling, but do not win the job because they simply don’t meet the criteria. And don’t only answer the questions, but do it in the order they appear in the request for tender and make sure you cover all the relevant points.
4. Structure it clearly: Make it easier for the person who reviewing the tender responses by structuring it clearly, with headings, subheadings and dot points to break up large tracts of text. And use diagrams, charts, graphics, photos and a project plan if necessary.
5. Use plain English. Unlike the people who wrote the RFT, you can ensure your response is clear and concise. In other words, ditch the jargon, keep it snappy, use active voice and make sure you keep your focus on the organisation reviewing the document by making it clear what THEY get by awarding you the tender.
6. Back up your claims: Use case studies, media coverage and testimonials to back up your claims. Anyone can SAY “We the best”, but it’s so much better to have someone else say it.
7. Proofread: Get someone who has had nothing do do with the tender proofread the document before you hit “send”. If needed, outsource the job to a professional proofreader (hello!). The last thing you need is to lose the job because you refer to the potential client as the “pubic service”.
8. Meet the deadline: This is not high school. The person reviewing the responses couldn’t give a hoo haa if the dog ate your tender. So move mountains and make meeting the deadline your highest priority.
The tender I wrote was due at 2pm today, Canberra time. I have all my wriggly bits crossed for my client – I think they do fantastic work in a difficult sector. And by outsourcing the tender writing, they gave themselves the best possible chance of being successful. Of course, there are no guarantees, but when we are talking of a tender worth thousands of dollars in new business, it’s always worth putting your best foot forward.
And if you follow these tender writing tips, you too can give your chances of success a boost.
Till next time
About the author: Nicole Leedham
Nicole is the Word Barista at Black Coffee Communication. With more than 20 years in the communications game, she has developed some strong opinions on grammar, punctuation, copywriting and, well, pretty much everything. When she is not sharing these opinions – for the benefit of her clients, of course – she enjoys relaxing with a good book and a good red. Her young children, however, have a different agenda.
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