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Tendering Top Tips

Unfair Marking

Many people think they have been unfairly evaluated because they were not awarded high marks, despite being able to do the job.

Being able to do a job is not enough to score well.  You must write down everything that is needed to convey the right information.

Analyse your responses critically and compare them to others before making a judgement.

Tailored and Bespoke Proposals

Resist the temptation to include standard promotional text in proposals or to provide details of additional services which are available.

Your proposal should be tailored so that it focuses on the client, their project and their needs.

Any generic marketing material and sales statements are likely to be ignored or viewed in a negative light.

Process Flow Chart

A flow chart is a great way to show potential clients the key stages in a complex process.

The flow chart should be clear and detailed yet not contain so much information that makes it difficult to digest.

Ensure you include all steps which are relevant to the contract such as feedback or continuous improvement.

What Every Buyer Wants

/ Articles, Bid Process, Bid Strategy

What Every Buyer Wants

Once you have written your bid or tender, the next stage will be getting it evaluated.  Your aim is to achieve the maximum marks possible and to do this, you need to think about the buyer and what he or she will need from you.

We know that some procurement processes are very well defined.  Some buyers describe their scoring criteria in great detail and provide this to potential suppliers.  When this happens, tender writing becomes very straightforward because we have clear guidance about the areas the buyer thinks are important.

Some buyers are less clear about their requirements.  This may be because they are not following procurement best practice or because they themselves are unclear about the product or service they are purchasing.  When this happens, the supplier must take control of the bid or proposal process and give the buyer sufficient information to allow them to see the advantages of their particular offering.

Here are the top 5 things buyers need:

1. How you are going to approach the project, what you will do and in what timescales

This information is often given in the form of method statements and project plans but a narrative or diagrammatic approach works well too.

The buyer will want to see an approach described that is specific to their contract.  If they receive generic statements they will assume that you have not studied the individual opportunity.  They will be concerned that you are applying a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

The timescales should be clearly defined and linked to the individual parts of the approach.

2.Who they will be dealing with and what is expected of them during project delivery

Irrespective of whether it is a product or a service that is being bought, the buyer will want to know who is involved.

You may want to include staff CVs and a detailed organisational chart or perhaps just a brief overview of the team and their respective roles.  If you are relying on subcontractors or external suppliers, the buyer will want to know their credentials too.

Some projects require staff from the buying organising to input time or resources.  If this is the case, you should state what is expected of them.

3.How much they will have to pay

One of the biggest frustrations for buyers is not being given clarity on pricing, particularly when optional items are offered.

The buyer needs to evaluate your submissions alongside many others and so needs to be able to compare ‘apples with apples’.  While it is useful to offer alternatives and options, always make sure you give them prices for the items or work packages they have defined.

Whatever price you quote, the buyer needs absolute certainly of what this includes.  Presenting a list of ‘deliverables’ can be a good way of achieving this.

4.Confidence that you will deliver what you say you will deliver and there will be minimal risk to their own reputation or project objectives. 

No buyer wants to take unnecessary risks.  This means they need to be told how risks in areas such as quality, safety, on-time completion and reputation will be minimised.

One good way to minimise risk is to give evidence of past performance in the form of case studies or references.  Other ways include explaining that credible processes and procedures will be used or committing to KPIs (key performance indicators).

If you are able to link the project timescales to delivery milestones, this will give the buyer confidence that you will be accountable at interim stages throughout the project.

5.Details of any extras they will be getting from you. This could be areas such as added value, innovation or community benefits.

The reality of many bid and tender situations is that there will be a number of different suppliers who are all capable of delivering a good job at a good price.  If you can offer the buyer something ‘extra’ that they value, you will gain more marks that your competitors.

Some buyers value extended service contracts while others like flexibility with scope.  Some need to show their stakeholders that they support SMEs or deliver community benefits while others will see value in increasing their own knowledge about a product or process.

It is usually possible to include a number of items that are attractive to the buyer yet will not cost the supplier much to deliver them.

Closing Thoughts

Remember that Buyers are humans, just like the rest of us.  Many are working long hours in difficult environments.  They will be multitasking and are probably quite stressed yet they are still trying to do a good job and meet their objectives.

Use this to your advantage by writing a bid or tender submission which makes it easy for them to evaluate.  Answer all their points and ensure you have addressed the five areas above.  If you do that, you will have given them all that they need to understand and see value in your offering.

Assume Ignorance

This is not always the case as many evaluators are time-poor and others may have been drafted in at short notice.

Being aware of this will help avoid embarrassing the evaluators and allow you additional opportunities to highlight your key messages.

Level of Detail

Clients often give clues about the level of detail they require in their ITT documents however many respondents miss them.

If questions include words such as “describe”, “explain” or “step-by-step”, you should write a descriptive response.

Where questions simply ask for “confirmation”, more concise answers are likely to be appropriate.

Hidden Questions

As you read the client’s questions, you should try to read between the lines to interpret their requirements.

Think about why they might be asking the questions, what they might be looking for and which elements of your service they would value.

By answering these questions you will formulate comprehensive and persuasive responses.

First Steps

As soon as you have access to the documents, read everything carefully in order to understand the full extent of what needs to be completed.

The next step is to establish the roles and responsibilities of the people who will be involved in writing and gain their commitment.

Finally, project manage the preparation of the document using a detailed timeline of the activities required to complete the tender and clear deadlines.

Get Ready

The quieter summer period is a great time to review your tender library and check that all relevant materials are easily accessible.

Typically, organisations should have the following information ready to submit or edit as required: commercial data and certificates, policy documents, technical specifications and procedures, case studies, CVs and training records.

Having a comprehensive library of key tendering information will save you considerable time and effort during the tendering period.


When pricing, you may wish to apply a contingency to allow for cost variations.

This would apply, for example, where the cost of a raw material may vary significantly during the contract duration,  where there is uncertainty in the project scope or where external factors such as weather could impact on delivery.

Make sure the buyer is aware of why the contingency is being added as this will help show that you understand the project risks.

Marketing Material

There is no place in a bid or proposal document for generic marketing material such as a case study or glossy brochure.

As the proposal will be specific to the client and the contract, all attachments should be directly relevant too.

This means that your case studies should be tailored to show relevance to the project in terms of scope and challenges.

Quality Processes

If you receive feedback that your quality procedures are not adequate, either during a tender process or when delivering a project, it is vital that you amend them.

While it may be tempting to think “they work for us”, weak procedures will lose you vital points.

It is not necessary to have ISO accredited systems however they must be auditable and support the delivery of a first class product or service.