How to write a tender response that wins

How to write a tender response that wins – in 12 steps

Are you tired of putting in hours of hard work on tender responses, only to fall short of winning? Or perhaps you are new to tendering and looking for some advice before entering into the tendering world? The tendering world is exciting and full of opportunities that can take your business to the next level, however writing a tender response also requires making a huge investment in a highly competitive business landscape. If you want to have a chance of winning, not only do you need to have what it takes to do the job, you need to be able to write a tender response that is compelling, competitive and persuasive to stand out from the competition. We have put together this step-by-step guide to help you do just that!

Contents: How to write a tender response that wins in 12 steps

Step 1. Find the right tendering opportunities for your business

The first step to writing a winning tender response is about identifying the right tendering opportunities to bid on. To find public or private procurement opportunities that match your business, there are a number of websites that list procurement notices (bid invitations, calls for expressions of interest…) that you can consult free of charge. You can also sign up to receive alerts as soon as they are published. When signing up for alerts, try to refine your keywords (by region, sector, type of contract…) so that you receive alerts on opportunities that are likely to interest you and relevant to your business.

By registering with bid invitation and procurement platforms, and with the right keywords, you will receive emails containing alerts corresponding to your areas of expertise.

Step 2. To bid or not to bid, that is the question!

Once you’ve established a tendering opportunity that corresponds to your areas of expertise, before getting too excited and putting pen to paper, download the tender documentation and conduct an initial to-bid or not-to-bid meeting with your team. Bid writing is a huge investment, so you don’t want to waste time and money bidding on the wrong contracts.

Analyse the documentation carefully. Pay close attention to the type of contract up for award and the procedure involved, the details of the project, the deliverables, the evaluation criteria, the deadlines, the legal and submission requirements. Also take note of the questions frequently asked by other bidders (for this you will most likely need to register or login to the bid portal), as they may give you additional insight into the customer’s needs and any pain points of the project. This will give you a better understanding of what the client is looking for and how you can tailor and write a tender response that meets their expectations.

Next, go through each question and discuss how each of the points will be addressed and ensure that you have all the supporting evidence required. It is also important to identify any challenging questions at this early stage. During this phase, evaluate the client’s needs and objectives. Put yourself in their shoes and identify their pain points, challenges, and desired outcomes. This will help you develop a bespoke solution that directly addresses their needs and write a compelling tender response.

When holding a to-bid, or not-to-bid meeting it is important to question yourself objectively: Do you have the resources, know-how and evidence to demonstrate that you can effectively meet (and go beyond) their specific needs? This self-assessment will help you choose the tenders that your company has a real chance of winning.

Careful analysis of the tender requirements will enable you to select the opportunities that are right for your company and develop a response that is tailored to the client’s needs, increasing your chances of winning the contract.

Step 3. Understand the client’s needs

To write a tender response that wins, you need to have a thorough understanding of your client’s needs and concerns. What challenges are they facing? What outcomes are they looking to achieve? What are their values and what drives their buying decision? By understanding their needs, you can develop a response that directly addresses their concerns and offers a bespoke solution.

Online research or your contact list can provide valuable sources of information. This research will allow you to tailor your response to the client’s needs and demonstrate your understanding of their specific requirements, thus giving you an edge on the competition. Also, do not hesitate to ask for clarification of certain aspects of the project if necessary (via the portal). The more you understand the customer’s needs, the more personalised and convincing your proposal will be.

By investing time and effort into researching the client, you are positioning yourself for success and increasing your chances of winning the contract. A well-informed, personalised response will show the client that you are genuinely committed to meeting their needs, enabling you to stand out from the competition and reinforce your position as the prefered candidate for the project.

Step 4. Know what you are up against

Competition for tenders can be fierce, so it’s important to consider the competition. Depending on your industry, you may or may not have an idea of who you are up against. Consider amongst your competitors, who would be likely to take their chances on a bid of this value? Who has the knowledge or resources to meet the client’s needs? Perhaps you have contacts with inside information? Failing that, you will need to ensure that you have done your market research. You will need to be aware of the latest trends and technologies, challenges and opportunities in the sector. This will enable you to identify what you are up against and more importantly to position your response in a way that demonstrates your expertise and the added value you can offer.

By researching the competition, and identifying your added value, you will be able to differentiate yourself from the competition, thus increasing your chances of writing a winning tender response.

Step 5. Develop your win themes

Based on your research and analysis, identify the win themes (your unique selling points) that will demonstrate your ability to meet the customer’s needs in a way that is superior to your competitors. Emphasise these strengths throughout your proposal to convince the client that you are the best choice for the contract.

To develop your win themes, start by identifying your key strengths and differentiators. What makes your business, or your solution unique? What value do you bring to the table? By understanding and articulating your unique selling points, you can position yourself as the preferred choice for the contract.

For this you can do a SWOT analysis:

  1. Strengths: These are the internal attributes and resources that give a company or product a competitive advantage over its competitors. Strengths could include factors such as a strong brand reputation, unique selling propositions, talented workforce, efficient distribution channels, or proprietary technology.
  2. Weaknesses: These are internal factors that put a company or product at a disadvantage compared to its competitors. Weaknesses may include aspects like limited resources, outdated technology, poor customer service, or a lack of market presence.
  3. Opportunities: These are external factors and trends in the market or the broader business environment that could be advantageous to a company or product. Opportunities may arise from emerging markets, changes in consumer behavior, technological advancements, or new partnerships.
  4. Threats: These are external factors and challenges that could negatively impact a company or product’s performance. Threats may include intense competition, changing regulations, economic downturns, disruptive technologies, or shifts in consumer preferences.

Next, align your value proposition with the client’s needs and objectives. How can you address their pain points and deliver the outcomes they are looking for? Tailor your response to showcase how your products or services can solve their specific challenges and add value.

Finally, clearly communicate your win themes throughout your tender response. Highlight your key strengths, differentiators, and benefits, ensuring that they are front and center in your executive summary, response structure, and supporting documents. By consistently repeating your win themes, you are reinforcing your value proposition. This will leave a lasting impression on the evaluators and increase your chances of success.

Developing a compelling value proposition requires a deep understanding of your business, the client’s needs, and the competitive landscape. A thorough SWOT analysis will enable you to differentiate yourself from the competition and position yourself as the preferred choice for the contract.

Step 6. Identify the different elements of your response:

A call for tenders is tender and country specific, but often consists of two main parts: the company profile and the offer/proposal (made up of the financial proposal and the technical proposal). It is important to note, however that each call for tenders may have its own specific sections, and it is essential to follow the instructions given in the consultation documents carefully in order to respond fully and in accordance with the client’s requirements.

Company Profile – Administrative information

The administrative section is typically the first part of a bid response. It is designed to demonstrate that you meet the necessary administrative criteria and are therefore an eligible and qualified contender for the contract. The key elements of the administrative information section include:

  • Declaration of honour
  • Administrative information: Tenderer’s details, legal entity form, full statutes, legal representative information, VAT Number or exemption proof…
  • Evidence of financial stability: A bank declaration as evidence of sound financial standing, submission of accounts, including balance sheets and results for the past 3 accounting years, statement on the overall turnover of the your organisation, statement on turnover specific to the domain covered by the contract, professional insurance guarantees…
  • Evidence of technical capabilities: References and qualifications, case studies, CVs…

The administrative section is essential for evaluators as it enables them to assess whether you possess the necessary financial, technical, and professional capacity required for the contract.

Financial proposal

This section outlines the bidder’s financial offer, including pricing, cost breakdowns, payment terms, and any other financial information required by the tender. It is essential for the financial proposal to be clear, transparent, and aligned with the technical proposal. Typical elements of the financial proposal include:

  • Full details of the proposed price.
  • Price Quotation: The bid price or total cost for the goods, services, or project as required in the tender.
  • Cost Breakdown: A detailed breakdown of the bid price, itemising the costs for different components or deliverables.
  • Unit Prices: If applicable, unit prices for individual items or services, especially in cases where the quantity may vary.

These elements are used to make informed decisions and select the most advantageous offer among the tendering companies. Therefore, it is important to consider your pricing carefully, whilst taking into account the competition and putting emphasis on the added value of their proposal. It is not necessarily the lowest offer that wins.

Technical proposal

This section focuses on the bidder’s technical capabilities, approach, methodology, and understanding of the project’s requirements. It includes detailed information about how the bidder plans to execute the project, the technical solutions they propose, and any innovative or unique aspects of their approach. Typical elements of the technical proposal include:

  • Executive summary: A concise overview of the technical proposal, highlighting key points and the bidder’s approach to the project.
  • Methodology and Approach: A clear and comprehensive outline of the bidder’s proposed methodology and technical approach to fulfilling the project’s objectives and delivering the required goods or services.
  • Project Plan and Schedule: A detailed project plan that outlines the proposed timeline, milestones, deliverables, and any critical activities necessary for successful project completion.
  • Technical Specifications: Detailed technical specifications of the proposed solution, product, or service, including any technical drawings, designs, or prototypes.
  • Appendices: Supporting documents, technical drawings, certifications, and any additional relevant technical information…

A well-structured technical proposal demonstrates your technical expertise, understanding of the project’s requirements, and capability to deliver a high-quality solution or service that aligns with, or exceeds the client’s objectives.

Step 7. Write a persuasive executive summary

The executive summary is one of the most important components of a tender response. It is the first thing evaluators read, and it sets the tone for the rest of your submission. First impressions count!

To write a persuasive executive summary, start by clearly stating your understanding of the client’s needs and objectives. Next, briefly summarise the main benefits of your proposal, focusing on the win themes you have identified and how your products or services can solve the client’s challenges and add value.

Finally, keep your executive summary concise and to the point. Use language that is persuasive and compelling, avoiding unnecessary jargon or technical terms. Make it easy for the evaluators to understand and engage with your response.

By writing a persuasive executive summary, you are setting the stage for the rest of your tender response. It is your opportunity to make a strong first impression and convince the evaluators that you are the best choice for the contract. Invest time and effort into crafting a compelling executive summary, and you will significantly increase your chances of success.

Step 8. Craft clear, well-structured and concise responses

One of the biggest challenges in responding to tenders is keeping the response within the word (or character) limits. To answer the question well, you will need to keep your responses clear and concise. Avoid unnecessary repetition, padding or adjectives. And unless you are addressing an expert in your field, avoid using jargon or technical terms that may confuse the evaluators. Keep to the point, and answer the questions asked. Every word should add value to your submission and contribute to your overall argument.

The structure of your response is also paramount. To craft well-structured responses, break down your response into sections and subsections. Use headings and subheadings to guide the evaluators through your submission, making it easy for them to find the information they need. Address each question or prompt in a logical order, ensuring that your response flows smoothly from one section to the next.

By crafting well-structured and concise responses, you are making it easy for the evaluators to engage with your tender response and tick off the evaluation criteria as they read through your response. Crafting well-structured and concise responses is therefore essential for writing a winning tender response.

Step 9. Backup your claims with evidence

Everything you say needs to be backed up with evidence. Saying you can do something without evidence will not convince the evaluators. Supporting evidence may include case studies, figures, certifications or CVs of key team members. Some evidence can be weaved into your responses. Other documents (providing attachments are permitted) can usually be included as appendices. Ensure that they are clearly referenced in your submission enabling evaluators to review and evaluate the supporting information provided. Like the main body of your response, attachments should also be clear, concise and relevant.

By including relevant supporting documents and references, you are providing evaluators with the necessary evidence to support your claims and validate your capabilities. This additional evidence can significantly strengthen your tender response and increase your chances of success.

Step 10. Organise a Red Review

The final step in writing a successful tender response is the “Red Review“, a comprehensive and critical review of the tender response before its final submission. The purpose of a red review is to identify and address any potential issues, errors, or weaknesses in the tender document to ensure that it is of the highest quality and meets the requirements set forth by the client.

Key objectives of a red review in tender writing include:

  1. Ensuring Compliance: Verify that the tender response complies with all the specified requirements, instructions, and guidelines provided by the client. Non-compliance could lead to disqualification.
  2. Enhancing Quality: Identify and rectify any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, formatting issues, or inconsistencies in the response to present a polished and professional document.
  3. Strengthening Arguments: Assess the persuasiveness of the win themes, value propositions, and key selling points presented in the tender. Suggest improvements to make the response more compelling and convincing.
  4. Checking Coherence: Review the overall coherence and flow of the tender document to ensure that it presents a clear and cohesive narrative.
  5. Addressing Risks: Identify and address any potential risks or uncertainties associated with the proposed solution or delivery approach.
  6. Cross-Referencing Supporting Documents: Ensure that all necessary supporting documents, such as certificates, licenses, financial statements, and references, are included and properly organised.

This final step ensures that your response is polished and professional, significantly increasing your chances of success.

Step 11: The dreaded portals – Submitting the bid electronically

In most cases, you are required to submit your response electronically via a portal. To avoid any potential technical issues, we strongly advise you to test the submission process by attempting to upload your tender documents a few days before the deadline. Also, if the tender requires an electronic signature, ensure that you have a valid electronic signature certificate that meets the current standards.

Our best advice is to avoid submitting your response on the last day, as you may encounter unforeseen technical problems. We recommend submitting your response 48 hours before the deadline to allow ample time to address any technical hiccups that may arise.

Step 12. Continuous improvement

Unfortunately in the bidding world, you can’t win them all. What is important is to use a defeat to bounce back, to improve your offer or services when the next opportunity presents itself. Take the time to ask the client for feedback on why you weren’t selected and do your research on the winning bidder. Learning from failure is invaluable and can help you refine your approach, target customer needs more effectively and become more competitive.

Don’t let a defeat discourage you, but turn it into an opportunity for future growth and success!

Tendering, a world of opportunities

Writing a tender response is a huge investment for a business in terms of time and money. In today’s competitive business landscape, simply meeting the minimum requirements of a tender is not enough. To stand out from the competition and increase your chances of success, you need to go above and beyond. This means crafting a tender response that not only addresses the client’s needs but also demonstrates your unique value proposition and differentiates you from other bidders. Therefore if you have decided to go for a bid, you need to give it your all. And if you don’t win first time round, learn from your mistakes, and wait for the next opportunity. It may also be worth bringing a professional bid writer onboard to support and guide you with the whole process.

A winning tender response can open up a world of opportunities for your business. It not only allows you to secure lucrative contracts but also enhances your reputation and credibility in the industry. Winning tenders demonstrates your ability to deliver high-quality products or services, often creates media attention and shows potential clients that you are a reliable and trustworthy partner.

Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback and experiences in the comments. Happy bidding!

Need some help writing those winning words?

sherrie alvarez moc digital

About the Author

Sherrie Alvarez

Sherrie is an experienced bid writer and has helped numerous clients write successful bids. She has particular experience in the construction sector (other sectors include NHS and fundraising bids) and she is also a highly skilled copywriter and translator (French>English). Her commitment to producing high quality responses and valuing the unique needs of each client makes her an invaluable asset to any tendering project.


Leave a comment