Bid Writing & Tender Writing
Is it Crucial to Your Business?
Do you need to improve your bid writing capability but not sure how?
Then you will be pleased you have found this bid writing page!
Bid and tender writing is, in concept, actually very straightforward. Whether writing for the public sector or a commercial business opportunity, the process starts from the same point.
Ask yourself what does the customer want? What have they asked for and more importantly why have they asked for it? What challenges are they currently facing and how could this affect their need and buying decision process? If you are not sure then think of a major purchasing decision you made recently. What did you consider? Probably the following were high on your list:
Has the supplier understood what I want? Are they providing what I have asked for? Do I understand what I am getting for my money? Do they look like a quality supplier? Do I trust them?
Once you have thought through what the customer wants, before starting to write, the next step is to think about what it is that you do and how it could help them satisfy their requirements. The process of bid writing is then very simple. All you have to do is explain all this in words:
- What you think the customer is asking for and why
- Ensure the proposal is written in the format and structure the customer is expecting
- Explain clearly what you will provide, how you will provide it and why it is the right solution
- Show you have the systems, capabilities and people necessary
Provide case studies and data which proves your assertions
The challenge is that whilst it is conceptually very simple, bid and tender writing is a craft, similar to playing golf. It takes practice to become proficient and you quickly lose your skill if you do not do it regularly.
If you don't have time to develop the bid writing skill yourself, contact Tenders-UK, we can do it for you.
Not only will this free up your time to focus on the day to day management of your business but it is likely to achieve better results and may not cost as much as you think.
If you look at your overall cost of sales (the cost of the marketing material, advertising, people and expenses it takes to win work) it's probably 10-15% of your turnover. Our fees typically cost clients less than 4% of the work we help them win.
Why not contact us and find out how we can help... it may be the best thing you do today.
Bid And Tender Writing FAQs
In any organisation, it makes sense for the Sales and Bid teams to work closely together in order to establish what the client is looking for. However, there is often a huge disparity in activities between the teams, and even a form of rivalry whereby each team aims to be independent from the other in some respects.
Considering the act of competitor research in a tender writing process may bring to mind images of espionage and underhand tactics, but the truth is that any informed organisation will take time to understand their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, prior to undertaking a bid project.
In any organisation, there is a wealth of information being passed around, shared, utilised or archived, every day. Each team within a company has a specific specialism, and the people who work within the team are experts in their particular niche of the organisation’s overall function. This means that on any given day, thousands of words, images and concepts are bandied around, to be picked up by people and used, or simply filed away for future reference.
The proposal writing process is conducted according to a set process, hopefully supported by a knowledgeable bid manager and a robust bid management system. However, bid writers have varying levels of support depending upon the company which they are writing on behalf of, and even the most talented tender writer can find that there is insufficient pre-work done when a bid document lands on their desk to be completed.
It doesn’t always follow in the world of bid writing that the more experience a proposal writer has, the better their copy will be. As with any industry, familiarity can breed contempt, and over-exposure to our craft can make even the most talented and resourceful bid writers pick up a few bad habits as they continue with their trade.
As bid writers, we are often required to consider the element of risk which any proposal we produce contains. Risk management is the strategy a company uses to identify, contain and mitigate any potential risks which could threaten the successful delivery of a proposed solution, hunting out the embedded risks within the proposition and working out how to deal with them.
When you’re in the midst of bid writing a new project, sometimes it can seem as if there are so many things to consider, it’s impossible for the bid manager to keep track of it all. With content coming through from subject experts sporadically, questions to the client going unanswered for days on end, and an ever-approaching deadline, it can sometimes seem as if the range of considerations which go in to securing a completed bid document are endless.
The public sector spends a huge amount each year and is always looking for new suppliers. This is great news for organisations looking to increase their customer base and generate further revenue through the pursual of public sector opportunities. No matter what size your organisation is, it’s definitely worth trying to win bids within this sector, as there are a wealth of opportunities if you develop a compelling document.
With late nights, early mornings, working weekends and tight deadlines, even the most resilient bid writer can find themselves feeling anxious, prone to infection or suffering with work-related stress. The industry of proposal writing is renowned for being a high-pressure environment, and it’s important to stay on track of mental and physical health when things become chaotic in the office, and deadlines loom.
Tender writing is challenging at the best of times, without the bid writing team wasting their time on the development of needless bids. Writing proposals for tenders which are not viable or have no chance of securing business for the organisation can create a resource shortfall, wasting valuable time, effort and energy on the creation of documents which won’t result in a successful bid.
If you work in a busy proposal team, the chances are that you are rushed from one project to the next, rarely having the chance to pause before the next bid looms large, with all its demands, complexities and tight deadlines.
Let’s be honest. Which bid writers haven’t found ourselves up against the wall, timewise, when it comes to getting a proposal document to the customer on time? With the best possible preparation, anticipation of risks and milestone mapping, we all of us have times as bid managers when we are forced to go all out to deliver a compliant bid at the last minute.
Have you ever been abroad, and been in stitches over some of the unconventional uses of grammar which grace many of the menus and signposts? Proposal writers often have a keen eye for picking up on the small mistakes which many people may gloss over or not register, and having an eye for these errors can support bid writing, as having the kind of brain which detects small mistakes can be invaluable in the bid writer’s proofing process.
The bid management process can either be fraught with tension or a streamlined and effective system which supports the bid manager and proposal writer to create bids of a high quality. As each bid request comes in, the proposal writer has a set list of tasks to undertake in order to ensure the quality and compliance of each bid.
Many people approach bid writing to retain existing contracts as a simple exercise which involves a few ticks in the right boxes and the re-submittal of a previous proposal. After all, you won it the first time, right? Now your position is strengthened further by your having an outstanding relationship with your customer, so you don’t have to do too much to secure a continuation of a contract.SP_READ_MORE
As children, we learn through repetition, emulating adult language and weaving new words in to our vocabulary in order to broaden our world view. As adult proposal writers with a strong command of the English language, we understand that there are a myriad different ways of saying most things, and find a path through the dual nature of language in order to select words which best encompass our thinking, and put our point across in a clear and concise manner.
There’s no question but that bid writers can have a tough time when it comes to achieving a good work/life balance. With the strict deadlines and large workloads which the proposal writing environment brings to bid professionals, it’s unsurprising that bid writers at times can feel overwhelmed by the amount of pressure heaped upon them to deliver on time, to a great quality.
Regardless of how busy an average bid team is, and how many proposals they have passing through the department at any given time, the chances are every bid writing area gets the opportunity to pause in the proceedings for some much-needed downtime every now and again. Seasonal shifts in supply and demand, public holidays and trends in sickness mean that even the most productive bid writing team will get the occasional quiet period.
Bid teams are tightly-knit communities, often seeming like a small world within the bigger business environment. Competitive challenges, strict deadlines and a niche industry can all bring bid writers and bid managers close together, joined in a mutual effort to win more business and secure ever more lucrative deals for their company. Often, in a regular organisation, the bid team can seem somewhat alien to the rest of the firm, as what proposal writers actually do seems to be a mysterious and misunderstood process.
Tender writing. It’s a rewarding, demanding and sometimes stressful job, and the entire bid team need to pull together to work at optimum and ensure a good result when the stakes are high. Companies who have a sound team which work well together are able to achieve near-miracles when it comes to securing wins on important bids, and tender writing can be greatly enhanced by a healthy dose of high morale within the bid team.
When the average writer develops material for a response, the most natural thing to do is answer the questions within the RFQ or RFP, enabling the customer’s own structure to determine the way in which our responses will be organised. While this is usually an outstanding way of providing material, there are also further questions which every bid writer needs to include in their response, whether it is solicited or not.
The majority of meetings tend to be mildly ineffective, with too much time spent on unrelated activities which don’t develop the business, and a number of people all clamouring to be heard. The world of bid writing is no exception. Even the most streamlined and efficient bid writers can find themselves struggling to use meeting time effectively, when faced with a gaggle of enthusiastic fellow proposal writers and an errant bid manager or two.
Often when bid writers approach a new proposition, we are asked to produce different variations upon a similar theme. While some organisations prefer us to use a standard template for bid responses, others are happy to leave us to our own devices, using our initiative in order to produce a compelling bid document.
No matter how hard the bid writer, tender writer or proposal writer works to build strong relationships across their organisation, sometimes issues arise which simply can’t be resolved through the usual means. There are a number of common problems which all bid writing experts have to contend with, and the demands and rigour of the overall bid management process can only do so much to mitigate these potential issues as they arise.
When we consider the role of the bid writer and manager, the most common stakeholders which spring to mind are the Sales team within our organisations. Sales and Proposal teams have a long-standing relationship which stems from the requirement to liaise with the Sales team in order to identify new opportunities, and the two teams are often combined within corporations in order to enhance the working relationship and make it easier for proposals to be developed with a close understanding of what the customer is looking for.
The writing process is usually one which involves a number of attributes. Creativity, discipline, focus and commitment are just a few of the words which can describe bid writing, mixed in with a heady dose of self-discipline, organisation and best practice. If all this seems a little too good to be true, it’s worth thinking about the last time you sat down in your role as bid writer, and produced some great compliant copy. The likelihood is, you managed to somehow shut out the rest of the world and focus intently upon what you were writing. You produced the copy in a kind of haze of intent, without allowing the rest of the world to intrude upon what you were doing.
Seasoned bid writers have a great command of language, and usually come from a strong academic background. Far from being an asset, however, spending time in academia can actually impede the bid writing process, as writers who have attended university tend to favour a wide vocabulary which is peppered with words to obfuscate meaning!
You know the feeling – you have eight bids on the go, all due by the end of the week. Cold coffee is the main thing you can sense, other than the extreme exhaustion that renders you almost incapable of making decisions. You can’t remember when you saw your family last, and all they have seen of you over the past few weeks is a snappy, exhausted person who comes through the door late at night, kicks off their shoes and grabs some sleep before heading back to the office for six a.m.
When your organisation has been established as the preferred service provider with a key contract for a while, the chances are that you will, at some point, be invited to bid again to secure ongoing work. Organisations have a number of reasons for putting out invitations to tender for ongoing work, even if your contract with the firm has proven to be satisfactory and offered them the ideal solution.
It’s easy to become complacent when you know you are doing a great job, and assume that the invitation to re-tender is simply an administrative exercise, designed to ensure compliance with industry regulations, which force companies to put out opportunities for new bidders, even when they are more than happy with their existing supplier. However, this can be dangerous, as you risk losing an established contract unless you treat it with all the passion and competitiveness of a brand new bid.
When a company puts out to tender, they invite people from your sector who are working in direct competition with you to put forward their proposed solution. This is always risky, for a number of reasons:
• A new bidder may deliberately seek to win on price, by reducing the cost of the contract in an attempt to secure the new opportunity, offering a proposed pricing package which is irresistible to your client
• Your very longevity within the contract may put you at a disadvantage, as an ongoing project enables your client to identify any weaknesses which you may have in your organisation, which they may seek to mitigate by selecting a new service provider
• New bidders are likely to devise innovative strategies for approaching the contract, which you may not have considered as your own way of working is established
• Competitors enter the market every day, bringing fresh ideas, enhanced processes and new ways of working which may sway your client in their favour
• Regardless of how much enthusiasm you have in securing the contract again, it’s difficult to approach the bid with the level of analysis and dedication which you apply to new opportunities.
With all these possible negative influences working against you, it is arguably more important to work hard on a re-bid than it is on new opportunities. Your bid writing strengths will lie in the fact that you understand your client well, have built up good relationships with them over the course of your contract, and are in an ideal position to revise your services and introduce new initiatives. When submitting a re-bid for an opportunity, play to these strengths, emphasizing the positives and mitigating any teething problems which you may have experienced when you first undertook the contract, to ensure you maintain your ongoing contract with your customer.
There is much more to tender writing than simply producing a well-written and clear document. Establishing what your potential customer is looking for, and planning the ideal solution to meet their needs is as important, if not more critical, than the act of drafting out your written response to the invitation to tender.
The following tips are designed to support you in planning your tender writing process, to give you the best possible opportunity to sell your products or services to your potential customer.
Planning is everything
Before you even consider writing your bid, you need to be clear what the invitation to tender is asking for, identify the background issues and policies which will affect the purchasing decisions and know the capabilities of the current supplier.
Understand the competition
The likelihood is that you will be one of a number of organisations bidding for the contract. Understanding who you are up against is a powerful and effective way of establishing your own strengths, and mitigating the weaknesses of your competition. Consider who you are pitching with, and establish ways of making your tender response stand out from the crowd.
Storyboard your response
Getting all your subject matter experts together in a room enables you to draft out the ideal response, once you have identified the key win themes which will set your proposal apart from the rest. What is your solution? What will you offer? What will you provide and how? Draft out all your subject areas and discuss any issues, before drafting your response.
If you would like Tenders UK’s tender writing support through the complex tendering process, we are happy to help. We can help you develop your knowledge of how to tender and consistently create winning tender proposals. Our experts can show you how to:
• Research the public sector market, contacts, size and policy drivers to find invitations to tender
• Define your unique product or service positioning
• Work out how to raise your profile with potential customers
• Construct the partnership you need to break into new regions
• Develop your skills and training to write winning tenders
• Provide additional outsource proposal writing resources.
If you would like to develop your knowledge of how to tender to repeatedly create winning tender proposals, then please contact us, today.