Category: Learning & Development

Essential Bid Writing Skills

What makes an effective bid writer?


What makes an effective bid writer?

No matter what size of business you operate, Bid Writers play a vital role in determining whether or not you will win new work. They are responsible for understanding how the business works, and interpreting your value to best suit the needs buyers.  

Tender writing is challenging and requires more than just being able to write. Effective bid writers must have the following skills: 

Communication 
Effective communication is a must. You will be preparing pages of content to not only inform potential clients, but also compel them to do business with you. Bids need to really sell your business and express why doing business with you is the right choice.   
 
Attention to detail 
One of the main causes of negative feedback from buyers is not answering the questions correctly. Bid writers must be able to fully understand what is being asked of them, and then ensure that everything the buyer has asked for and needs, is covered clearly within their proposal.   
 
Time-Management 
Bids cannot be rushed. The above skill of paying attention to detail cannot be fully utilised if the time constraints are unrealistic. Bid writers have to be able to effectively plan their work, allowing themselves the time to produce the highest quality bids.  
 
Strategic Thinking 
Another common complaint from buyers is the significant number of poor-quality proposals they have to read. Diving into a bid and answering questions as they appear is not a great strategy. As well as paying attention to the details, effective bid writers have to plan how they prepare their response based on the agreed bid strategy created beforehand. Without this ability, you can find yourself half-way through an answer, and realise what you’ve written isn’t coherently capturing the value your solutions bring to the buyer 


Bid writing training 

Effective bid writing is a skill that you can develop over many years. Each success and failure will give you a deeper understanding of the types of tenders you can go for, as well as identifying what buyers are looking for. With public tenders, buyers will issue feedback and this is incredibly useful for identifying your strengths and weaknesses. 

The problem with this method is time and investment. With no guarantee of success, a lot of resources will be utilised to gain the experience needed to become a competent bid writer. You can however accelerate this by learning from experts, considering their advice and using their methods. 

We offer a wide range of bid writing courses to help you flourish, no matter what your level is. We have beginner courses designed to hone your skills and help you get started, and can then offer more advanced courses to refine your skills further. We also have a range of free on-demand webinars, which are incredible valuable resources to anyone wishing to develop their bid writing abilities. 

For everything else, we can offer bespoke training and development services. Our consultants can work with you manage bids from start to finish, review your proposals before submission, or even write the proposals for you – showing you exactly how we would bid for work.
  


Training Courses 
View our beginner, intermediate and advanced training courses here. 

Webinars 
View our range of free upcoming and
on-demand webinars.

Consultancy 
View our bespoke service to support you with any of your tendering requirements. 

Get in touch 
Tell us what you would like to achieve, and we would be happy to discuss options with you. 

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. 

Q: Should you offer more than the specification stated in the tender if you know that’s what the buyer needs?

 

The short answer is yes, almost certainly!

This knowledge is gold.  Why do you spend time and effort cultivating relationships with potential buyers? So you can more deeply understand their needs so you can then propose solutions that meet and exceed them. 

I’m often faced with the complaint from unsuccessful bidders that the buyer was always going to award the contract to the current supplier. More often than not there is no conspiracy. The reality is just that the incumbent knows more about the buyer than the other bidders and the quality of their submission reflects this. 

The other thing to bear in mind here is how the questions are being scored. For top marks some scoring criteria ask for something like: “fully meets requirement” others might say something like “meets and exceeds requirement”. In this second example to score top marks you are explicitly being asked to go above and beyond the given specification!  Even if it isn’t explicit like this you should always find a way to show how you will deliver value above and beyond what they are expecting. 

Think about your overall proposal plan and work out the most appropriate places to include it. The winning bid is more often than not the one that demonstrates the biggest difference between value and price.  


During my monthly webinars I get asked great questions like the one covered above. By sharing the most common questions on this blog, my hope is that I can help more people find the answers they are looking for. 
 
If you have your own questions or are looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.   

Tel: 07384 818 704 
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com   
Web: View our training and consultancy services  
Web: View our upcoming and on demand webinars 

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Overlooking key details

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 5th and final post which will address the following mistake: 

Overlooking key details 

It sounds obvious, but not answering questions properly is one of the main causes of harsh feedback from buyers. The reason this happens can be attributed to many of the points mentioned earlier in this series (links provided at the bottom of the page). Attention to detail is important to fully comprehend what is required, and to make sure it has been exhaustively covered in your response. 

It is important that you ask for clarifications if you think there is any ambiguity in the questions. There is normally a window of time where this is allowed, so make sure you’ve fully reviewed all the documents and submitted all queries before the window closes. 

I’d strongly recommend establishing a checklist to answer off points one at a time, paying close attention to detail. There is a formal way to do this called a compliance matrix.  Their format can vary but basically you pull apart all the documentation in the tender and write down every single requirement.  You can then reference in the matrix where you have addressed the requirement in your response. This will ensure you are covering off absolutely everything that is being requested.   

You can even (where format and word count allow) include a simplified version of the matrix (known as a response matrix) in your submission to make it easier for the assessors to reference your answers and demonstrate your full compliance.     

I created a simple template that I use to help people get you started; I would be happy to send you a copy, just drop me an email at andrew.watson@proactis.com.


This post concludes my series of the top 5 common mistakes made when writing bids. I really hope you have found these posts helpful. If you would like to learn more about the tendering process and develop your skills, I currently run monthly webinars you might find useful. 
 
In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.  

Tel: 07384 818 704 
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com   
View our upcoming and on-demand webinars  
View my range of consultancy services  


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Too little, too late

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 4th post and will address the following mistake:

Too little, too late

Leaving work to the last minute. We’ve all done it. It is something that both large and small businesses alike struggle with and with bids it can be critical to your chances of success.

With no guarantee of winning, it is more challenging for businesses to assign the necessary resources needed to give it a strong chance of success. The difficulties in writing a submission, and the time it takes to do so, are often underestimated. These factors often combine which results in an 11th hour panic and sub-par outcomes.

You’ll need a sound project management approach in order to tackle the resourcing requirements of submitting a bid, which could mean temporarily pulling resource from other projects, something that senior management is often reticent in doing.

This is an area we see companies consistently struggle with. It might not always be apparent that there is an issue and its only if and when an unsuccessful tender is picked through that is becomes apparent there was an issue.

Some tips to avoid this:

Plan it out – by addressing our first mistake of the series, failing to prepare, you will have already identified your order of work and the dates these need to be completed  Think about how best to sequence your tasks and which ones can be done in parallel.

Learn from your mistakes – from previous submissions can you identify problem areas that required more time than expected? Can you put in safeguards to prevent this from happening again?

Set your own cut-off date – setting a date that falls before submission deadline will encourage you and your team to complete tasks sooner than needed. Slippage is common and by creating a buffer, you can give yourself time to recover should things not go as planned. If you are still writing first draft answers up to the day of submission (rather than doing final checks on revised versions) something has gone very wrong.

Ask yourself, is it worth it – if the deadline is fast approaching, is it worth putting in so much effort into a short period or would it be best to dedicate time to other tenders and creating more compelling bids. If you are finding that too little too late is a common mistake, try breaking the cycle and developing a more sustainable workflow. In a competitive sector it could be better to submit two high quality bids rather than three mediocre ones.

Ask for help – is there someone within your organisation who could help you with planning and managing your bids? If not, as the Bid Consultancy Manager at Tenders Direct, I have plenty of experience in identifying mistakes and helping bid managers achieve greater levels of efficiency. I’m always happy to discuss what actions you could take to quickly make improvements to your bid process, and help you get back on track.


For my final post, we’ll look at the the mistake of overlooking key details.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384 818 704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
5 – Overlooking key details

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy

In this series of posts, I am addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 3rd post and will address the following mistake: 

Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy 

Often businesses, or the individual in charge of tenders, will focus on pricing for a tender, but there is a need for a more comprehensive decision-making process of which price is only a part, albeit an important one. In other words, agreeing one number is not a strategy. A price should be agreed upon following the implementation of an overall bid strategy and not the other way around, or in isolation from the bid strategy.  These are the main issues we see, where pricing is either decided on its own, or looked at too late and not aligned to the offer as a whole. Either approach isn’t fit for purpose as there is always a need to understand the drivers behind your prices.  
 
For example, you should ask yourself: 

  • What is the context of your chosen prices in regard to your entire offer? 
  • Are you able to offer unique value adding services or are your competitors able to offer exactly the same? 

Knowing the competitive environment and the key drivers for the customer are paramount to making good decisions.  The prices need to balance your chances of success with the value derived for the contract, which won’t be possible if you don’t give your pricing the time and contemplation it deserves. 

There are ways to look at this in more detail. For example, from our contract award database we could provide you with information about who specific contracts were awarded to and their values going back five years. From here it would be possible, by looking at the spend reports from individual public sector authorities, to start estimating how much incumbent suppliers are charging for their services. This type of analysis can help prevent your pricing strategy from being a shot in the dark.  
 
If you are interested in using contract award data to inform your pricing strategies, you might be interested in our Competitor Tracking Alerts. Not only do we offer a five year archive of contract awards, you can also track an unlimited number of competitors and receive alerts whenever they win high value public contracts.


For my next post, we’ll look at the the issues associated with leaving things to the last moment.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

Q: What are my chances of winning a tender?

A lot of people seem to have doubts about their chances of winning, and this is a very common question. 

Q: Is there any chance of winning at all? 
 
Of course there is! Bidding is not like the lottery, where winning is purely down to luck, it’s usually a very fair process. Your chance of winning depends on the quality of your submission and how it compares to your competition.  
 
The psychology of bidding is a quite complex and expansive topic.  It’s natural to get down on the process if you are consistently getting unsuccessful letters. The reality is that tenders are nearly always published in good faith and are designed to identify the best suppliers to then award the work to. If your results are consistently not what you would hope for then you need to reflect on what is going wrong, rather than just blaming the process.   

At the risk of giving away trade secrets, proposals measure two things; 

  1. Your capability to meet the buyer’s requirements
  2. Your capability to complete tenders to a high standard. 

You normally need both to be successful. Being great at one and terrible at the other won’t work. It’s worth reflecting on where you think you have issues:  
 
Are you not winning work that you feel is absolutely perfect for you and you have a great track record of delivering? It’s probably your tendering that’s letting you down.  
 
Are you bidding for things speculatively that you don’t really have experience delivering?  Then it’s probably your organisational capability. 

Always ask (and ask again if required!) for feedback from each and every unsuccessful tender.  Use this feedback, and do an internal debrief (lessons learned) after each submission. This should help you identify where the issues lie and drive improvements for future submissions. Don’t despair, just be honest and the ways to improve should be clear. 


If you have your own questions or are looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly.  

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Biting off more than you can chew

In this series of posts, I’m addressing the common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids. Below is our 2nd post and will address the following mistake: 

Biting off more than you can chew 

Bid submissions can often be handled like a hot coal, with just one person eventually assigned to handle a submission in isolation. This inevitably leads to issues, misunderstandings or an underestimation of the time and resource required. You need to have the right people engaged and contributing to the bid from the beginning, and across the breadth of a business, in order to fully represent its capabilities. 

Too often we also see organisations respond half-heartedly to too many bids. You need a robust process in place for deciding whether to bid and then for the opportunities you do pursue, ensure that you give the bid your best effort. 

We consistently find a direct correlation between the level of resource employed in preparing proposals and success rate.  In short, bids should be a collective business effort, the more effort you put in, the better the outcomes. 

Responding to bids is a group effort, and as the person responsible for the bid, you will need to effectively manage your team to deliver the best results. To achieve this, you should consider: 

Choosing the right people – do you have the support of the key people needed to write this bid? 
Check your resources – do you have access to all the information and documents you will need, are they stored centrally for easy access? 
Setting clear goals – does your team know what they have to achieve and by when? 
Managing relationships – does your team know how their work impacts their colleagues and on time submission? 
Keeping everyone engaged – you may be keeping them informed, but are you doing it in a way that keeps them motivated and engaged? 
Tracking multiple projects – have you delegated responsibilities or utilised some form of bid management software to track progress?  
 
If you can answer these questions with a positive yes, you’ll be set-up well for tackling your submissions. If you are feeling swamped, it could be because you have taken on too much and your organisation needs to look more closely at how they are resourcing bids. If it’s because you are struggling to track the progress of multiple bids from start to finish, you need a system to support you – and I would strongly recommend Opportunity Manager. 

Opportunity Manager is available to all Tenders Direct subscribers, and is an incredibly simple yet efficient bid management tool. It’s designed to bring all of your notices into a single, customisable pipeline view – allowing you to check the status of all your bids at a glance, schedule tasks and reminders and centralise all of your bid documents. If this sounds like something you need, you can request a free demo of Opportunity Manager.


In my next post, I will cover the issues associated with not creating a proper pricing strategy.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 

Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
1 – Failing to prepare and preparing to fail
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

Top 5 bid writing mistakes: Failing to prepare and preparing to fail

A recent industry study showed that nearly half of all procurement professionals in the UK believe suppliers are letting themselves down with their proposals and that they suffer from being of poor quality.  With the general standard being low, smart thinking and some effort can make a big difference. 

More often than not, the issues that occur when writing bids are symptomatic of larger, company-wide issues. But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t very specific, common errors that occur time and time again when writing bids – ones that can be easily rectified. 

In this series of posts, I will be addressing the Top 5 common mistakes made when writing bids, and how to overcome them. In my first post of the series, I will focus on:  

Failing to prepare and preparing to fail 

This old saying without a doubt applies to bid submissions. Too often, we see examples of where time has not been taken to devise a plan. You need to take a step back, identify and agree on what the approach will be. There are a lot of examples where it is obvious when someone has started writing before a plan is in place. Rather than dumping information and then re-arranging to suit a strategy, a plan should be put in place from the beginning, including structure and order as well as being collated in an attractive manner. For optimised results, submissions should be refined and fine-tuned, not muddled through.

Set yourself up for success by doing the following:

Develop your strategy– be clear on how you are going win.  Use all your research and knowledge to map out a winning strategy to inform your entire response.  

Plan your answers – identify what solutions you will include, how they meet the requirements of the tender and how to evidence the value they bring 

Agree Responsibilities – make sure tasks are allocated to the right people and an order of work is agreed. 

Set Deadlines – ensure everyone knows when tasks need to be complete  

Review – include time to review spelling, documents, format and tender requirements. 

 By taking these actions, you’ll set yourself up for success.  


In my next post, I will offer advice to help you avoid making the mistake of trying to take on too much! 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for specific help with your bid, please get in touch. Every week I help clients with their tendering, from bid writing to leading on bid responses. Use the details below to view the range of services we offer or to contact me directly. 
 
Tel: 07384818704
E-mail: andrew.watson@proactis.com  
Web: View our training and consultancy services 


Other posts in the Top 5 Bid Writing mistakes series:
2 – Biting off more than you can chew
3 – Not knowing how your pricing fits into your strategy
4 – Too little, too late
5 – Overlooking key details

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