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What makes an engaging tender response?

An evaluator’s perspective
By Steve Rowland on 4 January 2021

At eXceeding, you could say that we sit on both sides of the fence. On one side we are bidding consultants, helping our clients to craft winning bid responses; on the other, we are procurement consultants advising clients on how to run best practice tender processes to procure products or services.

In our capacity as expert procurement advisors,  we have acted as independent evaluators to review hundreds of tender documents for clients. We understand what a winning bid looks like and what it takes to create an engaging tender response.

It’s amazing how many responses simply don’t follow the basic instructions outlined in the tender documentation. We’ve read through vast numbers of poorly written and badly conceived responses and a much smaller number of well-written and interesting documents which captivate the reader.

How are tender documents evaluated?

Did you know that tender documents are always broken down into sections and that there are associated questions for each section?

Those questions are then scored using a point system  – commonly using a 1-5 scoring method. Bidders need to keep it in mind that they will need to score highly in each of these sections in order to win the bid.

There is a common misconception that evaluators put ‘price’ at the top of the list of requirements for a winning bid. In our experience this is generally not the case. The areas we would look at include:

  1. Compliance – some bids are disregarded very early on because the respondent doesn’t meet the minimum requirements laid out in the tender documentation.
  2. Understanding – bidders need to demonstrate a good understanding of the client’s requirements.
  3. Price – though maybe not top of the list, price will always forms part of the scoring criteria.
  4. Experience – examples of relevant and relatable experience of delivering a similar experience will score highly in a bid response.
  5. Resource – clients need to be certain that the bidder has the necessary resource available. Ideally the bid response would detail the team involved and introduce the client to senior management, as well as the day-to-day contacts.
  6. Methodology – a bid response should detail the bidder’s approach, which should be tailored to the specific requirements of this client.
  7. Technical – often clients want to understand the technical skills, systems and processes adopted by the bidding companies.

So, if these are the common themes that evaluators look for and you have ticked all the main boxes, how can you stand out further?

Believe it or not the answer is to engage the reviewer through presentation and attention to detail.

It’s the quality of the document as much as the price that will eventually win the coveted contract, so what advice can we give you from the evaluator’s point of view of what to do and what not to do?

How to make your tender response stand out from the crowd

Tender documents have got to work hard to convey your organisation, brand and sales proposition in your absence. Engaging the reviewer is an essential part of this process, and this doesn’t always come down to content.

Decision makers will often have a large number of tender documents to review for any new contract, so it is important to understand what will make yours stand out from the rest. Only too often, not enough effort and quality is given to this last and absolutely key part of the sales process; losing organisations deals that they have already significantly invested in with cost of sales.

In most cases we find the ultimate responsibility for the response is with the sales department and most sales personalities do not always have the correct skills, or ability to write well written tender responses.

Here are our ‘dos and don’ts’ of writing engaging tenders:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    Don’t underestimate the importance of creative input: good design and creative thinking will grab your audience’s attention and demonstrate how your organisation can communicate effectively. One option is to use an external creative expert or designer to work with you to produce a professional tender document that accurately represents your company and makes you stand out. First impressions are really important, and this is your only opportunity to get your message across without being in the room.
  2. Don’t be complacent in your response
    Even if you are re-tendering for an existing contract or the client already knows you, treat every tender as if it is your first and highlight recent achievements that the client may not be aware of. Don’t assume that the client already knows your strengths, remind them of what makes you stand out from the competition. Complacency is a killer, and your competitors will be putting in the effort to win the contract so make sure that you do the same.
  3. Don’t get caught on the back foot
    Start to compile a bid library of responses and key documents and certificates that you will need for each tender. One of the areas where suppliers seem to struggle most is in making time to produce the tender response in line with the timeframes issued by the client. Get organised and never leave it all to the last minute as a rushed proposal will be obvious to the reviewer and poor organisation will reflect badly on your business. It’s not uncommon for businesses to have little to no resource to dedicate to managing bids and this is an area that can be easily outsourced to a tender expert to help write a response within the necessary timeframes. It’s also not as expensive as you think and extremely worthwhile if the contract you want to win is a really important one for the future of the business.
  4. Do research the competition
    Find out what your competitors are up to by doing some research and identifying what your unique selling points are – what makes what you do different from everyone else in the market? This should help to reinforce your message and identify your company values.
  5. Do think about presentation
    Think about quality design input in making the document visually appealing: images, design and branding can all make a difference. Keep a simple layout and make it easy for the reviewer to keep tabs on the sequence of pages by correct page numbering and tables of contents.  When creating sections ensure that they are well defined and easy for the reader to refer back to. Be consistent with font and colour schemes and make sure that you use high resolution print quality images, not ones copied off the web. Invest a bit of money in good images that represent your business, and they can be used in all your marketing.Tables and charts can be a great way to liven up a proposal and is a much more appealing way to display vast amounts of data. Bring your data to life with clear and engaging charts and tables which tie in with your brand and colour scheme.
  6. Do check and check again
    Finally, and of vital importance to any document, is a good proof reader . Your attention to detail and level of competence will be questioned if you present a document full of spelling and grammatical errors. Pass the document round to as many people as possible, to proof before sending it out.

 These are just some of the considerations that we wish we could see more of when we review tender responses. Don’t forget, your documents need to speak on your behalf, so make sure your responses are giving out the right message. We are living in an ever more competitive world and now is not the time to be complacent.

If you would like to speak to us in more detail about anything from creative input to copywriting tender responses feel free to book an appointment with us.

As well as helping to craft responses, we offer bid training to give you the tools to be able to continue to craft winning bids within your own team.




Steve Rowland

Before eXceeding, Steve spent 16 years working on the supplier-side of outsourcing. During Steve’s 24 years’ experience, he has worked on global and UK outsourcing deals, ensuring the creation of win-win partnerships.

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