There are two main types of proposal or tender. The first is where the client issues a number of specific questions that need to be addressed. The second is where they allow the supplier to develop a structure for the proposal or tender themselves.
When the format is a series of questions, the writer can easily identify which areas are of greatest interest to the client and respond appropriately. The resulting document is easy for the client to evaluate since they have specific answers to their specific questions. As these will follow a given format, it allows fair comparisons to be made between potential suppliers. For this reason, the question format of tender is frequently used by the Public Sector.
The free-form document allows the supplier to develop a format that suits their product or service. It is more flexible than the question approach and is easier for the supplier to focus on areas they want the potential client to see. If the supplier bids for a lot of similar jobs, it can be useful to develop a proposal or tender template which can be re-used.
Free Form Tender Template
Looking at the free-form approach in more detail, there are areas of good practice which should be followed.
Choose sections for your tender template that suit your product or service but avoid starting with too much information about yourself. Most clients are interested in what you will do for them and how much you understand about their project, not in your company history. It is normal to out the pricing section two thirds of the way through.
2. Table of Contents
A table of contents will help the reader understand which sections you have included and how you have chosen to structure your proposal. As the writer, you know what you have included but the reader has no knowledge of what
is contained in the document and a simple table of contents can be a great help.
If you have specialist or detailed information that is required to support the proposal, it is a good idea to include it as an appendix. This keeps the main document concise and easy to read. Only include material which is directly relevant to the proposal and ensure it is introduced in the main body text and listed in the table of contents.
When producing a tender template you have the luxury of time since there is not a pressing deadline. Use this time to produce great graphical images which help the reader understand your service, product or company structure. Process maps, organisational charts and product images can enhance a template, so long as they are legible, clear and relevant.
Even though the proposal is following a templated structure and using standard text, it is essential that you ‘top and tail’ it with details that are unique to the job. This will ensure the reader knows you tailored the offering for them. Few buyers care impressed by ‘cut and paste’ responses since it demonstrates laziness and a lack of customer focus.
Assuming the proposal has been submitted electronically, the recipient will almost certainly print a hard copy to evaluate it. You should ensure that the tender template looks good on screen and in print. Be aware that shaded
backgrounds do not always print well and photographs which were compressed to make them easy to send may appear pixilated when printed.
Irrespective of the value or type of work being sold, the tender template should contain material that is as concise as possible. You must to cover all the client’s requirements (stated and unstated) but do not assume they will want your encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. You will have to judge how much text to provide to allow the client to see the value in your offering.
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