What is a Tender Writer?
A tender writer is a professional writer who assists organisations to win tenders, by preparing and submitting a response to a tender document. In Australia, this document is commonly referred to as a ‘request for tender’ (RFT).
What is a Request for Tender (RFT)?
If a large company, corporation, charity or a public sector body requires specific works, goods or services, they will issue a formal offer for relevant suppliers to tender/bid for the work/project. This may be in the form of an open or public tender, or a private request made to to a limited number of potential suppliers.
A RFT forms the basis of the tendering process. It defines the requirements of the contract and project. This provides potential suppliers, a clear understanding of the scope of work, and the criteria by which their tender will be evaluated. The resulting tender submissions will help the buyer (tender issuer) to select qualified and interested suppliers based on certain contractual obligations & evaluation criteria, such as pricing, qualifications and experience.
What does a tender writer do?
A tender writer normally gathers relevant information and documentation required to build a compelling case for awarding a tender to their client. They will ordinarily work with organisations such as businesses of all sizes, not-for-profits and even government agencies. They may also offer additional related services, such as recommending tenders that may align with their clients’ business.
Tender writers work closely with their clients, asking the right questions to familiarise themselves with their business, their experience, and how they fit the submission criteria of the tender document. They will help clients elaborate on their unique value proposition. They will conduct research to understand the industry the client and buyer operate in. Based on this information, they will write a best-practice tender submission that expresses why their client is the right fit.
The tender respondent may well excel at their core business, but struggle to communicate their expertise. Even for respondents who have no trouble with business development, can craft an exceptional sales letter, and have a loyal, devoted following on social media, there’s plenty of good reasons to hire a tender writer.
Tender writing is like no other form of writing, and without that domain knowledge, it’s easy to slip up: not knowing what to include and what to leave out, not being aware of best-practice, and so on. Even at the most basic level, there’s a right way and a wrong way to write a tender.
Of course, writing an adequate tender that minimally ticks the boxes isn’t enough; you want to submit a winning tender. Not every potential supplier will be chosen, and adequate isn’t good enough when you’ve put time and resources into preparing your submission. That’s why you should choose a tender writer that’s experienced in their field, has a track record of success, and takes the time to listen to you and get to know your business.
How do buyers select which tender to select? What does the tendering process look like?
Buyers may initially engage in some sort of prequalification process, such as an Expression of Interest (EOI) or a questionnaire. This additional stage is of mutual benefit: it saves time for tenderers who would have wasted effort on responding to a RFT they aren’t qualified for, and it saves buyers time reading submissions from unqualified tenderers.
Next, the buyer will issue a RFT. Nowadays, these can generally be found online, on the websites of local, state or federal government agencies, large companies, universities, and aggregate websites such as tenders.gov.au and australiantenders.com.au. These RFTs will specify the nature of the goods or services required, expected conditions of contract, what the buyer is looking for from a supplier, and how tenders will be evaluated.
The buyer will then evaluate tenders submitted by a variety of organisations, using weighted criteria as outlined in the RFT. From these tenders, they will select who they think is best-suited to deliver the project, services and/or goods.
The tenders which are submitted are the only way that the buyer can judge the suitability of the tenderers. By creating the best tender submission possible, you can maximise your chance to stand out from the pack. Buyers may receive numerous competitive bids, all with the same goal: to win. The tenderers are all are trying to persuade and convince the buyer that they are best-placed to be awarded the contract and win the tender. A professional tender writer can’t guarantee that you win, but they can ensure that your tender, bid or proposal is:
- Compliant with best-practice tender writing
- Focused on the needs of the tender issuer
- Addresses all submission criteria
- Written in an engaging way
Why it is important to have a tender writer?
When it comes to tendering, you don’t want to be the runner-up; you want to win. You need to make your application stand out from the pack if you’re going to secure that contract and grow your revenue with less stress.
Working with a professional tender writer means that your next proposal, bid or tender will be much a less daunting and stressful process, and you’ll be positioned to achieve much better results.
Expert tender writers know exactly how to make your submission stand out.
Your tender writer will guide you through the whole process, helping you to determine your response strategy and key messages. You can be confident that your bid communicates how you meet all the exacting requirements of the RFT, and doesn’t just tick the minimum boxes – it catches the attention of the buyer and presents your case in English that’s benefit-focused, compelling, and clear.
How can I improve my tender win rate?
Engage a professional tender writer
No tender writer can guarantee a win, but a professional tender writer can maximise your chances by ensuring that your tender, bid or proposal is the best that it can be.
Make sure your bid is compliant
Making sure your bid is compliant is the bare minimum; buyers receive many tenders which are not, and you don’t want to be out of the race before you even get started. Carefully read and follow the instructions, as failure to include certain elements can affect a bid’s success, or even disqualify your tender.
You should consider:
- Formatting instructions and word/page limits. These limits exist for good reason; reading through RFT responses is a lengthy, cumbersome process for buyers. Not following these basic instructions is at best not a good look; at worst, they can invalidate your bid. If you can’t write succinctly, work with someone who can!
- Assess your suitability for the project. Review the RFT with a critical eye; can you fulfill the scope of work the tender issuer is looking for? Is it aligned with the strategic direction of your business? Is the tender issuer looking for one supplier, several suppliers or a panel of suppliers? Do you need to tender for all components of the work, or can you offer your services in an area where you shine? What criteria are involved, and can you meet them? If there’s anything unclear within the instructions or specification, and you’re not sure if you’re compliant, you should clear this up with the tender issuer or their preferred contact before you put in hard work for a tender you’re not qualified to win or to fulfill.
- Fully complete all requirements of the tender: Even if the parts of the tender you have answered are absolutely spot-on, if you haven’t answered everything that needs to be answered, you won’t be considered. Within your tender, ensure you address everything that the buyer asks for, and specifically confirm how you can meet or exceed the key elements they require.
- Include all documents requested: Make sure to attach everything you need before submitting your tender. This could involve the ‘form of tender’, confidentiality agreement, elements requested within the RFT such as key personnel and contract administration methodology. You may be asked to attach further supporting documents such as copies of qualifications and certificates of currency for insurances.
- Make sure all documents are correct and up to date: You want to ensure you make a great impression, so get your documents right! It’s embarrassing to press Submit just to email the procurement team minutes later with a correction and apology. Make sure documents are recent and relevant to your submission; this may involve tailoring them to the requirements of the client.
Plan before you write!
Just like any project you engage in, you should start the planning process before you start writing your tender. When you’re planning, don’t just consider the submission deadline – there’s so much than comes into play.
Before you decide to go ahead with preparing a tender, ask yourself:
- Do you fully understand the scope and scale of what the buyer is asking for? Can you deliver the services according to requirements, and can you prove it?
- Will your tender be merely eligible, or actually competitive? Does the opportunity play to your strengths?
- Can you deliver within the buyer’s budget? How important is pricing as a criteria? Can you demonstrate that you’re worth the price you’re quoting, and that you will provide value for money compared to a cheaper solution?
- Do you understand the market in which you’re competing? What makes you a better choice than the next-best alternative?
- Do you have the required resources to prepare a tender?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, it’s time to get planning. Factors you may want to consider putting in your plan include:
- Who will be writing what part of the tender? Knowledge and expertise may be distributed across various members of your team; you may need help from other departments, or external help. Organise your schedule ahead of time to make sure you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
- With several people being involved in a tender, it’s easy for the resulting submission to feel disjointed. Ensure that the tender flows well by establishing style rules for anyone contributing to the tender, and have someone review and rewrite the entire tender at the end for consistency.
- When are you submitting the tender, and what stages are involved? How much work will preparing the tender require? Who needs to be involved, and do they understand expectations in terms of priority of the work? Will you be preparing the tender by yourself, or with help of a team? Will a professional tender writer be involved? Does the tender need to be designed?
- What are the points that will make you the best choice? Are these clearly expressed in your tender? You should base this on what the buyer requires, by explaining how your offer is uniquely positioned to be the best solution.
- Who will review the tender before submission? What is their level of expertise and domain knowledge? How long will the review take, and have you scheduled in time to action any changes? Getting this person involved early on and keeping them on board with the direction of the tender can really save time.
- What documents need to be included in the tender, and are they up to date? Are policies relevant, signed and dated? Is the data in the documents time-specific or project-specific and therefore potentially outdated?
- What evidence will you include in your tender to prove that you’re the best choice? What evidence should you include in the body of the tender, and what should be attached as a supporting document? This could be quantitative and/or qualitative data, reference to policies & procedures, case studies and social proof in the form of testimonials.
Top tender preparation tips
Understand the tender, and understand the buyer
No organisation can respond to every RFT, and you need to carefully decide what RFTs are worth responding to. You’ll win a higher percentage of tenders, and waste less time and effort, if you only tender for opportunities where you feel you can really shine. It’s not just a numbers game: concentrate on the opportunities that actually suit you.
If you’re going to do that, you’ll first need to really understand the tender, the scope of the work, and what the buyer is looking for from a winning tender. Can you actually provide that service better than others? Can you compete on price, or deliver a better service that’s worth paying more for? Do you have the resource to prepare this tender, or is there another tender that may be better aligned with your business?
Evidence can make the difference between whether your tender is successful or not. Evidence includes anything that supports your tender, such as:
- Testimonials and case studies, especially similar projects you have worked on
- Statistics that prove why you are the best candidate to get the job done
- Examples of how you have saved clients’ money, and how you can save this client money
- Organisational structures
- Team bios including qualifications and experience
- Policies and procedures
Review the evaluation criteria thoroughly, as the forms of evidence required (or even suggested) will differ from tender to tender. If additional supporting documents are not allowed, you may be able to embed images and infographics into the body of the tender.
Thinking from the buyer’s perspective
If you were the buyer, what would you want to see from a potential supplier? What do you expect from your own suppliers, and why did you choose them to deliver goods and services for you? Reverse-engineer this reasoning to your tender response. Think about what drives you to make purchases for your business. You may be influenced by factors such as trust (social proof, your own experience with the business or product), the supplier’s experience working with organisations like yours, or budgetary concerns.
How do I choose a tender writer?
When you engage a professional tender writer, you’ll want to ask about their win rate, the industries they’ve worked with, and about their processes. You should also request testimonials from past clients – social proof is invaluable.
While no one can win every tender, and sometimes the reason why tenders don’t win may be out of the writer’s control (for example, pricing), it’s better to know that the tender writer is upfront with their clients when they think a tender isn’t a good match, and that they avoid writing tenders for clients that are technically ‘eligible’, but rather focus your energy and theirs on opportunities where the client is ‘competitive’. A professional tender writer shouldn’t just write tenders; they should prequalify.
Here at Bulletpoint, I can usually achieve this by familiarising myself with the opportunity and just chatting with the client for a few minutes. My approach is:
- History: review past winning bids to see the sort of opportunities they’ve had available, and businesses they usually select
- Competitiveness: assess the company/project for risks as to why they wouldn’t get the cash Match it: potentially modify the service delivery proposal to better fit the scope of work Don’t bother: tell prospective clients who simply aren’t a good match to not bother applying)
Ask prospective tender writers about the industries they’ve worked with; they don’t necessarily have to have worked with your industry, but if they have done so, it can make things flow that little bit smoother. If they have written winning tenders in your industry or similar, so much the better! That said, RFTs involve a wide range of industries from mental health services to maintaining roads and anything and everything in between, so this is a nice-to-have, not a dealbreaker.
Lastly, understanding the tender writer’s processes can help prevent the unexpected. How many hours of work do they expect to spend writing the tender? At this stage, what will they need from you? How will you communicate with each other? Tenders will often be comprised of several ‘schedule’ documents addressing particular criteria, so you may be asked to review parts of the tender before reviewing it again as a whole; how quickly is the tender writer expecting you to review these? Setting expectations now can prevent bottlenecks later.
Before buying a major service of any sort, it pays to do your research. Tender writing is no exception. Look for testimonials online (on their website, on Google reviews, etc.) Ask around for recommendations – and about who to avoid.
What skills should a tender writer have?
Here are some key skills required by a grant writer:
- Excellent written communication skills
- Top-shelf research skills
- Ability to understand the needs of both the buyer and supplier
- Ability to learn enough of the basics of your industry to write convincingly about your fit for the project
- Great organisational skills
- Excellent data analysis skills
- Ability to plan projects with a keen focus on details
- Being able to understand and execute complex instructions
- Ability to know how to properly address selection criteria in a way that appeals to decisionmakers
- Able to assess whether opportunities match their client
- Ability to find opportunities that match their client, and make recommendations accordingly
Why can a tender writer write better than I can?
Tender writers usually have professional writing qualifications, excellent research and communication skills, and are aware of the unique requirements of the tender writing process. They learn about your business, industry and your buyer, and apply a body of domain knowledge in tender writing, often cultivated over many years and projects. The end result generally being of a much higher quality than a tender written by someone who knows your business in-and-out, and knows how to write, but doesn’t know how to write a tender. They are familiar with expectations surrounding tenders and are invaluable as a fresh set of eyes for recognising whether your proposal is competitive, and closely aligned with the strategic goals of the buyer. They’ve learned from practice, they’ve received feedback on winning and losing tenders alike, and they’ve honed their craft to your advantage.
With a professional tender writer, you can’t guarantee a win, but you have a higher chance of being chosen.