Tender responses can be complex but a well-written document can mean all the difference between getting your proposal to commercial discussions or it ending up in the bin.
A tender document can be called many different names including:
Request for Tender (RFT)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Request for Information (RFI)
Request for Quote (RFQ)
Expression of Interest (EOI)
Invitation to Offer (ITO)
Despite what the document is called though, the response information required is generally the same. Before you start though, be sure that you’ve reviewed the opportunity and identified that it is something that you want to invest your time and resources into. Tender responses can be very time consuming so it’s important you’re sure it’s business you want to go after before you start.
The quality of tender request documents can vary widely, although generally Government issued tenders will have a number of standard components including:
- An outline of the requirements of the proposal
- Details of the key selection criteria that respondents must meet
- Full instructions about the tender process
- Any relevant appendices such as the terms and conditions or specific guidelines
A well-written tender request document will make your job of developing an appropriate response so much easier. But the opposite can and does happen – I recently helped a client complete an EOI submission based on a PowerPoint EOI request that was confusing and contradictory to say the least. And to make matters worse, the PowerPoint was PDF’d and on a black background – so copying into Word was difficult and printing was very ink-intensive.
Another client needed to submit their response using the issuers prescribed template, which was locked for editing, so there was no ability to check for spelling errors, add tables or graphs, or do any type of formatting at all.
Fortunately, most tender-issuers allow for and expect group briefing and individual Q & A sessions to clarify anything that isn’t 100% clear, so this is your opportunity to make sure you fully understand the requirements. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what the issuer means – if in doubt, ask for clarification.
Here’s what I always do when I’m responding to a tender document:
- I read it from end to end at least twice. Then I read it a third time with my highlighter in hand.
- Next I do some research on the tender issuer – who are they, what are their core values, vision, mission statement? What issues have driven this tender request and what are the roles of the people who will be reviewing the response document and where do they fit in to the organisation? Understanding as much as I can about the issuer really helps me tailor some inclusions in the response document that I hope will hit a positive nerve.
- Develop the pitch. What are my key messages? What is it that sets me apart from my competitors? What materials should I include?
- Plan the response – I usually start with the deadline and work backwards from there to develop my plan. This includes when each draft will be completed, when feedback needs to be received, and any individual material deadlines that are required in order to have the tender response documented completed on time.
- Structure the response. Some tender requests include a response template and if so, I make sure I use this template, and stick to the word limits if these re included. If no template is included, I follow the format of the tender request and I always include a separate section that addresses the key selection criteria.
- Write the first draft. I like to make the response easy on the eye – this means lots of white space, and information broken into chunks. I use tables and diagrams to break up the text and include pictures where relevant. Then I send the draft out to whoever needs to review it and I make sure they know when I need to receive their feedback.
- Add Appendices – regardless of what other information is requested, I always include a company profile and Capability Statement in the Appendices.
- Check that I’ve included compulsory information (such as business name, address, contact details, ABN).
- Write an engaging introduction and a compelling summary.
- Revise the first draft and issue the updated document for feedback (sometimes this step needs to be repeated).
- Allow at least 48 hours for final review and formatting.
So there you have it. This process works for me, although when a client asks for my help and there is only a week before the deadline, things can get a bit stressful, especially when the odd all-nighter is required to get the document into winning shape!
Responding to tender documents can be a challenge, but the rewards can be significant. If you’re not confident about writing your own response then give me a call on 0400 514579 and let’s chat.
Writing is my business, and tender response writing is a speciality.