Learning & Development

The Tender Writing Process

Across the UK and ROI, the public sector publishes 1,229 contract opportunities each week – that’s 63,909 a year!
With so much work available, bidding for these contracts should be an action in every business development plan. 
 
The public sector needs suppliers from a wide range of industries, and once you have found an opportunity that is relevant to your business – you’ll want to do everything you can to win the work. 
 
To help you get started, we have created this 9 step tender writing process for you to follow. It details the most efficient way of planning your proposals, helping you to focus on what is needed and avoid dreaded rewrites.


1. Evaluate the Tender – Go/No Go 

The evaluation stage is the first and most important stage of the tender writing process, as it highlights vital information and creates the foundation of your bid strategy.  
 
Before starting any proposals, you will need to consider the criteria which you will use to confidently determine if tenders are worthwhile or not. Without some form of initial evaluation you are likely to encounter problems later on. 
 
Some examples of questions to ask yourself are: 
 
◆ How closely is the tender aligned to our business strategy? 
◆ How well do we match the needs listed? 
◆ Can we meet the requirement? 
◆ What is our win probability? 
◆ Can we complete the proposal on time? 
◆ How familiar are we with the buyer? 
◆ Do we have the experience needed? 
◆ Are there any requirements which we can’t meet? 


2. Review and Deconstruct Available Information 

Ensure you have, and understand, all of the information available to you. Make this easy to access, and refer back to this information when writing your Bid Plan (see step 3) to ensure nothing is missed.  
 
◆ Review the tender, and identify exactly what each question is looking for.  
◆ Can the questions be broken down into individual requirements or themes?  
◆ Do you require any clarifications from the buyer? 
◆ What do you know about the buyer? 
◆ Can any research on previous or similar awards be conducted? 
◆ Are there any formatting requirements you need to consider – layout, document attachments, word count?  
◆ Is there anything missing from the specifications or additional recommendations you would include? 


3. Create your Bid Plan  

With your requirements clearly outlined, and all of the necessary information covered, you will be to plan for how and when you will prepare your responses.  
 
Your plan will consist of dates, names and actions against everything you need up to the submission deadline.  
 
◆ What resources will you need? 
◆ Who will be needed to support you? 
◆ What actions need to be completed? 
◆ What work will be delegated? 
◆ What is the timeline of activity? 
◆ What are your key milestones? 
◆ When will you engage with your team?   


4. Strategy Development    

By going through the initial evaluation, you have already formed the basis of your strategy – the reasons that you would be able to successfully secure this work.

With this information, you should be able to identify overarching themes that you will consistently reference throughout your response. Think here about your positioning, what you know about the competitors, and what is important to the buyer. Identifying these win themes early will ensure your they a factored into your answers.     


5. Answer Planning   

In this stage we combine the work conducted in stages 1 and 2 to prepare a plan for how each question will be answered. 

Your initial evaluation will have highlighted key win themes, and your review will have provided clarification on what the buyer is asking for. Use this information to prepare high level response themes for each question – at this stage you’re only looking to capture key points. 

Look to create a range of headings or bullet points for each question, do not start producing a detailed narrative.   

Is there a word count? This would be the point to start thinking about the answer structure, and how you are you going to divide that word count up among the different topics you want to cover. 


6. Answer Development   

Allow a lot of time for this activity. 

This is where you add more information to your themes, by focusing on what topics will be covered and creating lists of all the information you’ll be required to include – you are building on the bullet points captured in the previous section.  
 
Dedicating time for both Answer Planning and Development will save you significant effort in the long run, by helping you to avoid missing key information and having to conduct rewrites.  


7. Answering    

Do not start this without first planning all of the actions needed to complete your proposal on time, or having first created a plan for your responses. Answering questions and developing a plan as you go will only make the entire process more complicated and will not help you turn it around any quicker. 

Follow the plans you have created in earlier stages, refer back to them, and ensure nothing is overlooked. While you are following a plan to ensure key topics are covered, do not make the mistake of just listing responses. Your proposal needs to be compelling rather than just descriptive. 

Your responses should tell the buyer about the benefits they will receive, rather than just describing what you offer. You need help them understand why choosing you, over the competition, is the best option.  

Also do not feel that you should be limited by the specifications provided. If you feel that they have not fully captured the requirement or their project could benefit from new considerations – include them. Who would you award work to – the company who overlooks issues, or the one who proposes solutions to problems you hadn’t even realised were there?  


8. Proofing and Review     

Involve others who have not been directly involved with the proposal to proof read. They can ensure that your proposal both reads well and makes sense.  

We also tend to miss our own typographical errors, most commonly duplicated or omitted words, so a fresh pair of eyes can ensure your response reads as intended.  


9. Tender Submission     

Always leave time to get your proposal submitted, do not leave until the last minute. Systems can go down, connections can fail, and other unexpected issues can all delay on time submission. 

Try and leave a day to get your document submitted. 

As systems vary significantly, there is no standard submission process. You could find yourself having to get familiar with a new system each time you submit a proposal. Scope out the end-to-end navigation of the portal at the beginning of the project, not the end. 


Tender Writing Support    

We have a range of other articles which may be useful for helping you with your tender writing needs. You can find details of these below.
 
If you require more hands-on support with a specific tender or tenders in general, we offer a wide range of consultancy services and can support you with anything from reviewing proposals to overall bid management. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me directly or visit our Consultancy Services page. 
 
Andrew Watson 
Bid Consultancy and Training Manager 
Tel: 07384 818 704  
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  


Should you offer  
more than the specification? 
An article looking at what to do if you realise the buyer needs something else… 

Top 5 
Bid Writing Mistakes 
In this series, we look at the most common mistakes made.  

View our full range of  
Consultancy Services 
Bid writing | Bid review and editing | Bid management | Bid strategy | Bespoke support 

Access our free 
On-demand webinars 
Covering a wide range of topics for bid writers of all levels. 

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