How to write a tender: The Complete Guide

9th April 2020

The complete guide on how to write a tender

Last updated: Mar 17, 2022 @ 3:56 pm

It’s safe to say that tendering for contracts is a great opportunity to develop your business, providing services for the public sector. With over 150 tenders uploaded to our 11 portals each day, there is an opportunity for every business – including yours.

Once you’ve found your opportunity, you’re going to want to make sure you maximise it. So, in this blog, we’re going to run through how to write a tender properly. 

Don’t just jump in

One of the more exhaustive, yet essential processes before writing a tender is to make sure you know what you’re writing about – not to mention this process is often overlooked by many taking on tendering for the first time.

Yes, it’s easy to quickly jump in and try and answer the question in front of you without a moment’s hesitation, but this can quickly snowball into missed requirements and drafting something that doesn’t answer the question.

More often than not, those who are new to tendering can often end up ensconced in their own echo chamber – putting down the answer to the question they think the evaluator should be asking, not what they’re actually looking for.

This approach to writing tenders will, more often than not, score poorly.

Know what you’re writing about

Before you start writing bids – make sure you can actually fulfil the criteria as set out in the specification, avoiding wasted time. Consider:

From here, you can make a bid/no-bid decision – if you can’t meet the likes of the above, you’re likely to be excluded from the process altogether or end up scoring poorly.

PQQs/SQs

So now we can get into the fundamentals of how to write a tender. So, we’ve evaluated the specification, and now we’re ready to tackle the submission.

PQQs or pre-qualification questionnaires (or sometimes referred to as selection questionnaires) typically ask questions regarding what you have done in the past previously and are used as the first stage of selection, as part of the restricted tender procedure – open procedure tenders seldom use PQQs.

As discussed in the previous point, we are going to want to explain how our experience makes us suitable for delivering the contract.

Typically, completing a PQQ involves:

  • Filling in basic company information, such as registration numbers
  • Confirming that you haven’t breached legislation, or became a James Bond villain overnight
  • Technical and professional ability – or case studies (see next section)
  • A declaration and contact details

Some PQQs are different than others, however, this is the typical process. Some PQQs, such as PAS91s in the construction sector, consist of several additional sections, which often entails a far more detailed, evidence-based approach.

Case studies

Normally included in the PQQ section under ‘Technical and Professional Ability’, case studies ask you to describe 2-3 contracts of a similar nature that you have completed, or are currently undertaking, in the past five years.

These case studies are an opportunity to sell yourself and demonstrate previous successes, and how you can bring similar results for buyers.

With word counts typically within the 500-word mark, you could consider:

  • What is the scale of the contract? For example, how many properties do you renovate within a given period?
  • What is the nature of the relationship? How did this start?
  • How did we mobilise and deliver the contract?
  • Have you had any key challenges, and how have we learnt from them?
  • To summarise, what are the results? Did you finish on-time and within budget, and has the contract been renewed or extended?

ITT section

Now we move to the ITT section. This is where knowing how to write a tender will come in handy, as this is the proposal section. This is what we WILL do.

Typically, questions in a tender may cover the likes of:

  • Quality management
  • Health and safety
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Social value
  • Mobilisation
  • Service delivery
  • Experience
  • Complaints handling
  • Continuous improvement
  • Supply chain and subcontractor management

Deconstruct the question

Tender questions are often made up of several key points which a buyer will want you to address, with marks distributed equally across each section. Consequently, to maximise your marks, you should always deconstruct the question in such a way that all points are addressed. You can’t know how to write a tender without first breaking down the individual elements of the tender questions. Let’s look at this example:

The principal contractor must provide details of how you propose to manage your sub-contractors and supply chain (including placement of orders to ensure appropriate lead times).

In your response, please include details on the below:

  • Provide 2 examples of a problem which occurred completing similar work and how did you overcome this?
  • Provide 2 examples of problems you have faced with sub-contractors in the past and how did you overcome this?

So – let’s deconstruct this one. The bold sections are the mini-questions, shall we say, which should inform our structure. Note, the buyer has been kind to us on this one also, with some bullet points to point out some other points they want to see covered.

We could, therefore, adopt the following headings and subheadings:

  • Management of our subcontractors and supply chain
  • Placement of orders to ensure appropriate lead times
  • Problems occurring during similar work
  • Problems with subcontractors

As such, this clearly highlights to the buyer that we have addressed each point of the question, making their life easier. Not to mention it makes sure we cover the points they’re asking!

Make life easier for the buyer: be concise

Buyers will, potentially, have hundreds of tender submissions to evaluate, and as such, you want to write content that is easy-reading and clearly highlights conformance with the specification. Some pointers to make your submissions as easy reading as possible include:

  • Use headings matched to the deconstructed parts of the question
  • Don’t use filler or fluff content, this doesn’t add anything of value, and instead could frustrate an evaluator
  • On a similar note, be to the point – if you can say something in fewer words, do it
  • Bullet points are your friend – they are easy to read, and can often allow you to say a lot more with tight word counts

You still want to make sure that, even when you’re being concise, that what you’re writing both:

  1. Is coherent, makes sense and answers the question
  2. Is grammatically correct, free from colloquialisms and mistakes

The above will leave a negative impression with the evaluator; we’re all human, so we don’t want to put them in a bad mood. An unhappy evaluator is one that is more likely to deduct marks.

Avoiding filler content

This idea of being to the point is especially important when we consider word counts. It’s not uncommon to see these restricted to as little as 200 words, for example, whilst asking for several things to be covered in a response. Here, being concise and avoiding ‘filler’ or ‘fluff’ content is vital – see the example below:

‘Here at Tendering Company Ltd, we are passionate about quality and strive to implement quality into all we do’

This is a particularly empty statement which doesn’t answer the question, especially in the context of a short response. Think about it – this is 19 wasted words, nearly 10% of the word count saying absolutely nothing. No company is going to say they don’t care about quality, right?

Review and proofreading

So, once you’ve written your response, you should always make sure it has been proofread. After all, spelling and grammatical errors reflect badly on your submission, highlighting a lack of attention to detail.

Ask a colleague, a manager or director – an additional pair of eyes will always prove useful when:

  • Identifying mistakes, such as sentences that do not make sense
  • Contradictions or points which may come across negatively
  • Additional content or points that could be fed in

For example, here at Hudson Succeed, we use a three-stage checking process for all tender responses:

  • The writer will conduct a self-review before sending it for proofreading
  • This will be passed to another member of our bid team for review
  • Our Head of Bid Management, or Bid Manager, will review the content before finalising

Submission

Tender submissions can be requested by buyers through a variety of means:

  • Email submission

  • Postal submission

  • Uploading to a procurement portal

The latter is, by far the most common. To mitigate the chance of any potential IT errors, it’s always best to ensure you handle the submission in advance – usually days – to eliminate the chance of any last-minute mistakes and stress. Late submissions – even by 1 second – are often disregarded and won’t be evaluated. So, plan ahead, and get it submitted in good time. We always try to get tenders submitted at least a day prior to the submission deadline.

Sit down with our Managing Director, Jill Hudson

Jill has over 20 years’ experience with Tender Writing. She knows how lonely it can get when you see rejection in the early days.

I quite quickly went from a success record of <15% in my very early days of tender writing to >70% just by spending the time needed to digest feedback and eliminate silly mistakes. Mistakes I seemed to be making all the time without evening realising I was doing it.”

The thing you need to realise very early on is that feedback is the route to success.

No one really likes reading the feedback of how they’ve missed the point of the tender document. The response didn’t hit the mark – at all, or you’ve forgotten to proofread and your response to a question is littered with mistakes. Queue – kick yourself under the table and put the kettle on. It’s important to get back to the ‘Tender Basics’ every time you’re writing a bid.

However, without this feedback, you will continue to make these mistakes. The most common mistake you will make is not understanding the time it takes to respond to a bid correctly. Assuming you’ll write a winning submission in 2-hours is unrealistic whilst ABC Ltd are using all their resources.

Tender Basics:

You need to quickly realise that the only way you will start to win is to get back to the tender basics:

  1. Believe you can win it – ensuring you have the right credentials.
  2. Do your homework – research is key.
  3. Spend the time needed to write a winning submission.
  4. Don’t leave it until the last minute – this is how mistakes happen. Time Management when tendering is key.
  5. Ensure you understand the point scoring mechanisms to ensure you are maximising your answers to the questions asked.
  6. Answer the question with the information they have requested, not the information you believe they should know about your business.

We’re sure you’ve established that our main piece of advice over the many blogs we have written, is to be sensible with your expectations.  If you turnover around £100,000 per annum, you’re not going to win a £2,000,000 contract. Nor should you want to put all your eggs in one basket like that. So, if this is the course of action you’re taking you will continue to receive the rejection letters.

Tender writing is an art form. It isn’t for everyone but you will reap the rewards if you spend the time learning and assessing what you need to in order to win.

Jill states “I’m a firm believer that the only person you should ever be in competition with is yourself. That way you will always get better.”

Eliminate the noise and … focus!

The 6 most common mistakes made when tendering

Throughout our 60 years of bidding experience, we have seen many mistakes made by suppliers who don’t understand how to write a tender. We want to share these with you to ensure that you never fall into these traps.

  1. Not answering the question that is asked

Many companies answer a question based on what information they think the tendering company should know about their business, their processes and their experience.  Instead of what they’ve actually asked for.  If you are being asked to submit a response to a question, double check you’ve answered what they’ve asked of you.

  1. Not doing your research

Research is king! The tendering organisation will want to see that you’ve taken the time to do your homework.  Your tender response will be stronger for it.

  1. Not taking the time to submit your best response

If you’re not going to give it your all, it’s pointless submitting a bid.  Someone else will put all of their company efforts into winning this work, and is it really the impression you want to leave for your business?  We’ve all been there when we’ve seen the tender response 24 hours before its due, but sometimes it really is best to pass than to enter a response that isn’t your best work.

  1. Missing the deadline, but sending it anyway

This shows a lack of respect for the tendering process, making it look like you can’t or won’t achieve the deadlines.  Your tender response would be disregarded anyway, so if you’ve made a mistake and missed the deadline, don’t send in your response and use it as a learning experience.

  1. Ignoring the requirements of the Invitation to Tender 

Many tender documents will ask you to complete the tender documents in a specific way.  Don’t ignore these requests.  If the ITT asks for you to submit your response using their pre-defined questionnaire, don’t ignore this, use it.  The client may fail your response for not following the guidelines provided.  It’s a lot of work to get your tender dismissed.

  1. Bidding for absolutely everything 

So many businesses make the mistake of tendering for absolutely every piece for work and wonder why they don’t win anything.  You’re so much better off responding to five tenders extremely well, then 15 tenders quickly and rushed.  Create a tender checklist that gives you an understanding of the tenders you would like to win, can deliver well, and stick to it.

Need Support?

Using these tips and pointers, you should be well on your way to figuring out how to write a tender properly and take control of your Bid Management. If you’re struggling with writing tenders and need a bit of help – we offer four tender writing services.

Our Success

Bidding for tenders is a vital process for securing new contracts and growing your business. Depending on your industry, it is likely that your competitors are bidding for the contracts they’re securing. As well as other strategies such as marketing, tendering is one of the most effective ways to grow your organisation.

Hudson Succeed is a Durham-based business development consultancy. We were founded by husband and wife team, Jill and John Hudson. Jill has been supporting global organisations with their business growth efforts for almost two decades. Hudson was founded based on her experiences of tendering and procurement.

Across the Hudson Group, our mission is to make tendering a fairer and more transparent playing field for all businesses.

Whilst working with the 700+ businesses that we support, we noticed a common misconception from SMEs in particular. It seems that some SMEs are under the impression that they are too small to tender for work. This is not the case.

Our Head of Bid Management, Daniel Hall, said:

“You have to be realistic when making your bid/no-bid decision. You should always consider the contract value and assess the experience requirements before bidding.  

However, there are advantages to being an SME when tendering for work. For example, the UK government has a target to spend £1 in £3 with SMEs. This means that public sector organisations want to work with smaller companies.

SMEs also have the advantage of not competing with industry giants on smaller projects. Larger businesses tend not to bid for contracts with smaller values, therefore increasing your chances of winning.”

Since launching our Hudson Succeed suite of bid writing services, we have been thrilled to work with businesses around the world. However, as a company with strong roots in the North East, it is always a pleasure to support local businesses. 

Securing 4-years’ income for Imagine You Can UK

Imagine You Can UK is a leading provider of the National Citizen Service (NCS) in Redcar and East Cleveland. They also work across the North of England, delivering opportunities for personal development and employability skills for young people.

The company’s Director approached the Hudson Succeed team and enquired about our bid writing services. They required support with the submission of a tender for the provision of additional delivery partners to provide capacity for delivering an NCS programme.

Challenges 

When bidding for tenders, there will inevitably be challenges that you didn’t foresee. With experience, these obstacles become easier to mitigate. Due to the nature of this tender, we knew that we would encounter challenges with sensitive information. The work required detailed information regarding Imagine You Can UK’s safeguarding and data management procedures.

Tight deadlines also posed an issue to our time management. As the company was a new client, we did not have a bank of information at hand, as we do with returning organisations. This meant that the team had to extract the necessary information in a short timeframe to ensure maximum quality marks.

A detailed communication procedure was therefore created to obtain the information needed. The team then underwent a thorough bid plan, outlining the necessary activity for both parties.

Due to the deadline of the tender, work was allocated across our team of bid writers. They proactively took charge of each response and produced high-quality, well-researched and detailed tender responses.

Results

Our team produced 5,000 words within a little over 24 hours of the work being commissioned.

As a result, Imagine You Can UK were successful with their endeavour and they were accepted onto the framework. This secured them sustainable, ongoing income for the next four years. Due to this success, we have developed an excellent relationship with the company, and we look forward to working with them in the future.

“Daniel and the team gave me excellent instructions on the content they needed to complete this tender. The whole process was seamless and I’m glad to say we were accepted onto the framework. It was a pleasure to work with Hudson and we look forward to collaborating in the future.” – Dave King, Director at Imagine You Can UK.

Find more case studies. 

Winning a DPS place for APM Cleaning Ltd 

APM Cleaning provides commercial and domestic cleaning services on a national scale. The company contacted Hudson Succeed for support after identifying a tendering opportunity. They expressed concerns with developing the quality responses and providing the evidence required to win a place on the framework.

After our initial consultation with APM Cleaning, the Hudson team found another contract opportunity using our Facilities Tenders portal. The team made the client aware of the second opening which was a Facilities Management DPS with Prosper Housing.

Once the work was agreed upon, our team began working on both tenders for the client.

Challenges

The deadlines were very close together which meant that both submissions needed to be developed in tandem, necessitating splitting the workload between two bid writers. This, combined with ongoing tenders we were already compiling for other clients, posed a challenge to our time management.

APM was also a new client with Hudson Succeed which meant that required company details needed to be extracted.

Through the creation of Hudson’s staple bid plan, a communication procedure was implemented between us and the client. The two assigned bid writers collaborated effectively to ensure no overlapping in requests for information from APM.

Once completed, the tender response underwent a thorough, internal review process. Our Head of Bid Management took the lead on all stages of content development.

Results

Both tenders were signed off and submitted four days ahead of the deadline.

As a result of our team’s combined efforts, we successfully secured APM a place on the second DPS. We were successful in all the LOTs applied to.

We are still awaiting the results of the initial tendering opportunity.

Due to this success, we are pleased to say our working relationship with APM Cleaning has continued. We have since supported the submission of four more tenders. One has been successful. We’re awaiting the results for the others. We also look forward to working with the client on a future bid, later this year.

“The Hudson team was very reactive in their ways of working and handled all communications very effectively and efficiently. This partnership is credit to the recent win for the Prosper DPS for Facilities Management, which we were successful on all LOTs applied. We would recommend Hudson to any company who require bid support of any kind!” – Samantha Reid, Director at APM Cleaning Ltd. 

Find more testimonials.

Advice for SMEs

We understand that bidding for contracts can seem daunting during a pandemic. However, it is important to remember that businesses are still actively seeking suppliers.

Understandably, some SMEs don’t know how to tender for work. The practice is more prevalent in some industries than in others. In construction, for example, most businesses are either actively tendering or have been involved in the process before.

However, bidding for tenders does carry advantages. For example:

  1. Public sector contracts guarantee pay

It might seem strange to sign a contract and not be guaranteed pay. Unfortunately, we hear of this happening in the private sector more often than we would like.

The Crown Commercial Service’s Prompt Payment Code means that this won’t happen in the public sector. The code stipulates that invoices must be paid within 60-days. This gives suppliers peace of mind, knowing that income is guaranteed, and the profit can be accounted for.

  1. Build your experience

If you’re a relatively new business, building a portfolio of experience is crucial before you go after the big contracts. By securing smaller value projects, you can demonstrate relevant and impressive experience when the time comes to “bid bigger”.

Also, building a portfolio of experience means building a bank of contacts. Bidding for tenders helps to connect you with buyers that you may not have had access to previously.

  1. Frameworks can help your sustainability

Winning places on long-term frameworks increase your chances of securing contracts sustainably. Some frameworks can last up to 10-years or more. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to bid for this work as the projects are published.

So, time to get cracking

Our team of experienced bid writers and managers are on-hand to provide whatever level of support you require with your qualitative submissions, from writing bids, to help with the tending process. 

Call or email us for a free quote and find out how we can help your business grow.

Find more helpful tips and advice in our blogs. We cover topics including:

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