How to be Successful and Write a Winning Tender

This factsheet covers the issues you need to consider in order to write a successful tender.
What is the purpose of a tender?
The purpose of writing and submitting a tender (or bid) is two fold: 1. To tell the commissioner how you will meet their requirements and offer them value for money 2. To get them to pick your organisation to do the work. A tender has to communicate the total offer you are making to the commissioner on paper. It should be an accurate representation of your organisation which you can be legally held to if you are successful in winning the contract. A tender should clarify what you will do and how much for. In other words, what a commissioner will get in terms of value from you. Commissioners want suppliers who are good to work with and who deliver. The tender proposal is your opportunity to give them the information they need to make the decision to work with you!

Why does it matter?
Contracts are won, and lost, on the quality of the bids submitted. Although it is just one step in a competitive bidding process, your proposal is critical. It is your main, and sometimes only, opportunity to: • Introduce your business • Explain your approach and solutions to the commissioner’s needs • Stand out from the competition. Being able to write a good tender proposal is essential, and though there is no one right way to prepare and write a tender, there are many wrong ones.

Silent Salesperson
A tender is sometimes referred to as a ‘Silent Salesperson’. This is because a tender is selling your business to a potential commissioner. This is an important point about tendering that many people, especially those who do not consider themselves to be ‘sales people’, do not always realise. Your tender will either sell, or fail to sell, your solutions and proposals. In order to sell successfully, it is helpful to: • Know who your competition is; their strong and weak points • Know what the unique selling points of your organisation are and what sets you apart from the competition.

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As well as the specification. commissioners will expect that certain minimum standards will be met. If you fail to do any of the following in your tender. The reasons they don’t get through are: • Simple administration failures such as not signing the tender or getting it in on time to the right place and person • Additional or supporting information is not provided. which you must read.a few weeks after the contract has been advertised. The evaluation criteria will tell you the areas that are most important to commissioners. In other words. The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service . you must make sure that you understand what is being asked for and why. Commissioners may also hold ‘Industry Days’ or ‘Clarification meetings’. it will tell you the balance between quality and cost. so that you can respond appropriately. and to gauge the competition. This means being able to compete in terms of price and quality of your proposals. you may risk it not even being read or properly considered: • You understand and respond to all of the requirements • You can offer value for money • You explain how you will carry out the work and help the commissioner to achieve their objectives • You have a positive and professional approach • You follow the instructions. to discuss the tender documentation and the contract that is being tendered. This usually happens at the early stages of the process . the evaluation criteria – the way in which bids will be scored – is a vital piece of information that can help you to understand how to meet the commissioner’s requirements. along with any additional information that may be sent to you before you submit your response. Commissioners read hundreds of tenders a year. or bits are missed out entirely • The tender does not answer the questions. or meet the requirements • The tender is unclear and inconsistent • The tender is not competitive Being competitive means being able to stand out amongst your competition and putting forward the best offer that gives the commissioner good value for money and meets all the requirements. including meeting the deadlines for submission • Your bid is well written and easy to read Why tenders often fail Tenders often fail for reasons that are avoidable.Understanding the requirements A good tender will demonstrate an understanding of what is required and will propose solutions to meet those requirements. The commissioner’s requirements will be set out in a ‘Specification’ (sometimes called a ‘Brief ’). These are important opportunities to seek clarification on what is required. and how overall ‘value for money’ will be assessed. What is expected? When you submit your bid. so making sure that you comply with these minimum standards are critical. where potential bidders will have an opportunity to meet commissioners (and each other). To maximize your chances of success.

Both the structure and writing style of your bid are important to get right. as commissioners will have to work a lot harder to understand your proposals. illogical and fails to get across the key messages of the offer being made. Tenders can be effectively ‘broken up’ into sections and points with the use of diagrams. contracts are often lost on the basis of poor writing that is unclear. Use the structure of your bid to get your proposals across clearly. somewhat) • Use plain English • Keep sentences short and punchy • Be consistent in your use of terminology and language The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 3 . • What information is being asked for and how long it will take to gather this. an Executive Summary should be no longer than one side of paper and commissioners should be able to refer to it to recall details of who you are and what you are proposing to do. images can be very useful in helping to get a point across but too many that appear to ‘litter’ a bid may put commissioners off and not provide enough detail. To help you get an idea of how much time and what resources will be needed. Ideally. In very poorly laid out bids important bits of information can be missed by commissioners. and make sure that: • You want to bid for this contract (you can deliver it. it is good practice to draw up a work plan before you begin to prepare your tender. Structure The structure and order of your bid should be logical. and it is important to recognise that putting together a winning tender will take dedicated time and resources. Writing style The way you write your tender must be: 1. What makes a quality bid? A range of factors determine whether your bid will stand a good chance of winning you a tender. These can be summarised as: 1. This will detail: • How long you have to submit the information. really. However. very. Good presentation Quality of writing Writing skills are absolutely critical in tender writing. A thorough response to the requirements 3. be wary of over using these. link points and sections together and try not to jump about between sections and pieces of information. • Who else in your team you might need to help you pull the tender together • When you might need to available for clarification or interviews. pictures and charts.Preparation and Planning Before you put pen to paper. edit and check your tender response. Quality of writing 2. familiarise yourself with the tender documentation. meaning you run the risk of losing marks. • How long you will need to draft. it is not too risky or costly) • You can meet the deadlines for submission of information • You have the resources you need – including staff –to be able to write the tender Only the best tenders win. Clear and concise You must write in a way that is clear and unambiguous and gets to the point.This means: • Do not waffle • Try to avoid weak qualifiers (rather. Try to include an Executive Summary – this should be written last – which summarises the offer you are making and the key messages you want commissioners to take on board when reading your tender. coherent and should follow the order of the specification or invitation to tender documents which you have been sent. quite.

Poor grammar and spelling can also lead to misunderstandings about what is being said. or let the commissioner make assumptions about what you are proposing. Remember. you may be held to your proposals in a binding contract and you must be able to meet your commitments • If you unclear about any of the requirements do not be afraid to ask for clarification Evidence and examples Do not leave anything to the commissioner’s imagination. Ideally. Your tender is your opportunity to communicate your total offer to the commissioner and to show the commissioner that you can supply them with exactly what they want. Personable and professional It is important to get the tone of your tender right. tenders should be personable and give the commissioner a sense of the people behind the bid.. It looks unprofessional and will make your tender seem hurried and poorly thought through. legal offer and should be written as such. rather than ‘can I answer that question?’ • Address each and every requirement with a concise. your tender is a formal. what added benefits you can bring and how you will offer value for money. professional and positive. a basic requirement of a good tender is that it responds to all the requirements and it answers all the questions. It is better to write something than nothing at all. tenders should be written in a way that is straight forward. i. However. in particular: etc.g. this does not mean that you should: • Attempt to be funny • Condescend or patronise • Be over familiar or gush with warmth and praise Above all. you both want to achieve the same things. Interesting It is important that your bid gets the commissioner’s attention and they will remember it. • Try to avoid the use of abbreviations and acronyms.2. if you do not know what to put down do not miss it out and hope for the best. with proper use of punctuation and good spelling Do not run the risk of losing a contract because of bad grammar and poor spelling. A thorough. A thorough response to the requirements Along with good writing skills. You can make your tender interesting to read by: • Good opening sentences that get to the point • Telling the commissioner something they don’t know (as long as it is relevant!) • Proposing interesting and innovative solutions 3. so tell them what you will to do help them meet their requirements.e. It is essential to provide evidence and examples to back up statements and commitments that you make in The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 4 . comprehensive response Many bids fail to address all the requirements or answer all the questions and as a result are unsuccessful in winning contracts. as this can make the tender difficult to read. • Be honest about what you can and can’t do. comprehensive response • Attach any supporting information as an appendix to your tender rather than in the middle of it. You must address all of the requirements set out in the specification. your experience and the skills that you would bring to the work • Try to work with the commissioner. e. et al. • Show that you understand the requirements and the context of the commission by submitting information and proposals that demonstrate your knowledge of the area you are working in. including how flexible you can be. • Check for spelling mistakes • Check use of apostrophes. and proposes to work with commissioners to meet shared aims and objectives. think ‘how can I answer that question?’. commas and so on. 4. Grammatically correct..

a well presented tender will nearly always do better than a poorly presented bid. use the same typeface all the way through. depending on what is required. This does not mean that you should sacrifice quality in favour of glossy but unsubstantial material. You will normally be required to complete a ‘Pricing Schedule’ as part of your bid. However. • Read the instructions • Raise any queries you may have early on • If there are any instructions you cannot comply with speak to the commissioner immediately Financial information and costings You will be asked to provide costs against the proposals you put forward in your tender. bullet points are useful to clearly set out information • If you are copying and pasting. the following recommendations will help you to make the most of your opportunity to win business: • Type. taking into account overheads and on-costs • You provide enough information for the commissioner to make a decision on whether or not your tender offers value for money • You provide the information that is asked for in the format requested A well presented tender Last. do not hand-write. Commissioners can only make a decision about whether a bid meets their requirements or not based on the information in front of them. your tender unless this is completely unavoidable. but not least. do not write too small or too large (Arial point 12 is about right) • An index is helpful. and may even lose marks. the points that should be addressed and when and where they should be submitted. Even people with nice hand writing lose their way after a while • When typing. a rate per end user. you can very quickly and easily fall out of favour with commissioners. • Do not make ‘empty’ statements without backing them up • Provide relevant examples that illustrate your point • Do not just repeat the requirements. This may be an hourly rate. Commissioners may specify how tenders should be laid out. You must make sure that: • You fully cost your services. or journey. explain how you will meet them and what you will do Follow the instructions Instructions on how to submit your tender are given for a reason and you must follow them. which will specify what kind of financial information is required. product. If you do not follow the instructions.your tender. be careful that the information is consistent all the way through The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 5 . with pages clearly numbered and supporting information clearly labelled • Submit your tender in a file or have it professionally bound • Keep sentences and paragraphs to a reasonable length.

buyer wants. Answer the questions and address the requirements. Back up statements with evidence. Buyers like and will also be a contact name in the tender documents who you can contact if you have any T: 0207 280 4937 www. remember that bidding takes time and resources. Make sure you clearly referenced and understand what the Guidance on how to write well is in abundance on the web. • Is clear about the value that you are offering and is competitive.fullcostrecovery. but stick to the point. Plan and prepare properly. logical structure is essential. fresh approaches. • Is well written and well presented The table below summarises the main points to remember when you are preparing and writing your tender ACEVO Commissioning Support Helpline Contact us for advice and support on procurement and commissioning issues: E: commissioning. Make sure you have included all the necessary Write clearly. do not make any assumptions! Read the instructions. Further reading and guidance The best guidance on how to prepare your tender will be in the tender documents you are sent. Guidance on how to prepare a tender can be found on the The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 6 . in particular www. These instructions will explain exactly what you must to do submit your tender and what information is required. Illustrate points with relevant examples.acevo.businesslink. Above Do not and. under ‘Instructions for Tendering’. A clear. Present your tender well.Summary and top tips In order to win a contract it is essential that you produce a good quality tender. which: • Addresses all of the commissioner’s requirements. and guidance on how to cost your services can be found at www.