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8. Focus on benefits Most tenderers mistakenly focus on their business instead of on what they can do to help the prospective client to achieve their needs, goals or manage business issues. All prospects want to know “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM) And this means more than a statement about the facts or features of your service or product. For example, if one of the features of your service is response within 24 hours instead of the 48 your prospect is currently receiving, then clearly your service is attractive. But it will be more attractive if you point out the benefit your speedy service will bring to the prospect’s business. If it means that the prospect will get their product to market in half the usual time, say so. To find the WIIFM factor, put yourself in your client’s shoes. Imagine you are the client. What is the benefit to me of this offer? Then ask yourself “So What?”

9. Executive summary Always have an executive summary and keep it to no more than 2 pages. Opinions vary on when to write this – when you’ve finished writing the tender, or before you start. Do whatever suits you. Either way, your Executive Summary is your opportunity to present your selling points to the prospect. It is the place where you can pull all your selling points and benefits together, and express your keenness for the work. The first word in your Executive Summary, and therefore your tender response, should be the prospect’s name.

Conclusion If you succeed...ask the prospect why. Tell them how pleased you are and do a good job – then perhaps they won’t request a tender next time, but will keep asking you to provide the product or service. Share the success with your staff and thank everyone involved. If you are unsuccessful ask for a debrief, preferably face-to-face. Afterwards write to thank them for their time. Use the debrief information to strengthen your future tenders. Add the prospects details to your CRM and keep in touch.

About Rosemary Gillespie When Rosemary started full time work, she fell in love – with her job. Her first job, with BBC Radio in London, was on a news programme for children where she did lots of research, gophering, occasional broadcasting and met lots of people who are now famous (in the UK).

Tender Loving Care: Responding to Tender Opportunities

After 3 years, Rosemary decided to end the love affair and complete her education, so she took herself off to university as an almost-mature student. After completing her degree, Rosemary found herself working in marketing, as people often do. It was then that she discovered her abilities with words, especially plain English. This was highly valued by her first post-university employer, a Fortune 500 company for which she wrote and edited external and internal communications documents, and prepared sales presentations, which meant travel to chilly Switzerland and Norway. After moving to Sydney, Rosemary worked as Tenders Manager for KPMG and later Allens Arthur Robinson. After the intensity of non-stop tenders, Rosemary decided to get back to writing a broader range of marketing and sales documents. She set up Proof Communications in 2000. Today Rosemary writes, edits and proofs marketing materials ranging from one page to 50+ pages. She spends a lot of time advising professional services firms on how to write better competitive tenders and speculative proposals to major corporates and government departments. She is an occasional contributor to Marketing, and she presents training on how to write tenders.

Contact Rosemary at Proof Communications on 02 9314 7506 / 0411 123 216 or email



Submitting tenders is an essential part of business development for any organisation that wants to be in the running for government, private and public company contracts. But, if we are honest, tendering for new business is something that most organisations would prefer to avoid. Tender preparation can take considerable time and effort which isn’t always reflected by a successful outcome. But don’t be put off – it is possible to achieve better results. Here is a tender process that will help you to improve your win rate and make tendering less daunting.

1. Be realistic Perhaps you’ve seen a request for tender (RFT) advertised in the press, or a current contract is up for renewal and your client is seeking tenders. When you’ve got the RFT document in your hands, the temptation is to run off and start writing. Instead – STOP. Ask yourself whether your business has the ability to fulfil the prospective client’s criteria. Do you have the right skills, experience and staff to do a good job? Does the prospect or their industry align with your strategic plan? Do you have time to prepare a good tender? Be realistic about your business’ skills, strengths and limitations. Don’t be afraid to turn down the opportunity, politely of course. It may be that your time and energy would be better spent on other marketing activities.

2. Managing the tender process Preparing a tender or proposal can be life-consuming. It is really important to take a little time upfront to draw up a project management plan, however simple. A timetable is a good start, working backwards from the due date and allowing time for proofing, final edits, printing, binding and delivery. For the tender process to work, there needs to be one person with overall responsibility for the process (usually a tenders manager, marketing manager or business development manager). But if you are lucky enough to have some help with the tender, allocate responsibilities for research and other tasks.

3. Remember the basics Allow yourself as much time as possible to prepare the tender. Like most things, it’s far better to do a little every day than cram it all in to the 48 hours before the tender deadline. Before you submit the tender, double-check that you have addressed the prospect’s criteria, completed any accompanying forms, attached any appendices and that the tender is free of typos (ask someone else to proof it for you). And don’t trip up at the last hurdle. Be clear about the basics – how the tender is to be delivered, where to, how many copies, bound or unbound.

4. Do your research Your tender will describe how you will fulfil the prospect’s needs. But first you need to understand what those needs are. Read the RFT, and not just once – read it at least twice. You will be able to deduce some of the prospect’s wants and needs by the words used in their RFT. Then ask yourself: Why are tenders being sought, and why now? What is the prospect really seeking from its suppliers? What business worries do they have? To find the answers, do some desk research. Use the internet, press cuttings, annual reports or professional researchers to find out all you can about the prospect’s business, industry and its trends. Ask around – does anyone in your firm know anyone at the prospect? Has your firm previously done work for the prospect? What did your firm learn about the prospect? Often partners and senior staff will have lots of insights into prospective clients. The business world is a pretty small place, and peoples’ paths often cross at functions, events and at previous employers. Best of all, try to meet with the prospect. As well being the perfect opportunity to establish rapport and show your enthusiasm, the insight you glean may give you a competitive advantage.

5. Meeting with the prospective client It may be possible to meet with the prospect before the tender due date. This is a perfect opportunity to show your enthusiasm and find out as much as you can about the client, their business, their culture and people. You can use all the insights you gain in your tender and at any subsequent presentation. For example, it perfectly fine to write in your tender: “When we met you mentioned that...we can help you to manage this by...”.

6. Define the strategy for your tender key messages Very simply, your strategy is the key messages (value propositions or selling points) that you want to communicate in your tender to the prospect in response to their needs as described in their RFT. To work out what your key messages are, look at your research findings. You may have discovered that the prospect isn’t happy with the service provided by their current supplier, so here is your opportunity to establish your credentials by describing your outstanding service and how it will benefit the prospect. Do a good old-fashioned SWOT analysis too. This will throw up other factors that you may need to address in your tender. Perhaps you feel threatened by the long-standing relationship the incumbent has with the prospect. Don’t be put off by this. Counteract it by presenting the strength of your skills, experience, people, and very importantly, the benefits you can bring to the client. Or perhaps a weakness is that the prospect may not have heard of your firm. One strategy here might be to ring them and explain that you are interested in tendering and want to introduce your company and importantly find out more about their needs and business before you submit a tender. Bear in mind that your strategy will be different for each tender, as each client is different. Also remember that as your tender progresses, your key messages may change as more information about the prospect and their needs comes to light.

7. How to write the tender Answer the questions in the order in which they are asked (it might sound obvious, but many tenders fail on this point). Keep it snappy – your prospect will quickly get your key messages if they don’t have to wade through lots of waffle. Use active voice and be succinct and direct. For example, avoid writing long-winded expressions such as “It is our understanding that...” Instead, “We understand that you...”. Avoid sweeping statements such as “we are the leading supplier of...”, unless you can prove claims with hard evidence. Instead, describe how you can help to resolve or fulfil the prospect’s problems, needs and goals. And always give examples of what you have achieved for clients, especially time and cost savings. For example, you could describe a client’s problem, your solution, how you implemented the solution and the resulting benefits for that client. Don’t forget, you can also leverage this information for use on your website, in case studies, presentations, brochures and award submissions. Examples of projects that are unique in some way, such as the biggest of their kind, the first of their kind, or for a high profile project or client, can also be impressive. Begin as many paragraphs as possible with the prospect’s name, ‘you’ and ‘your’. Make your tender visually appealing and easy to follow by using headings, subheadings, photos, diagrams, graphics and white space. Use photos, simple diagrams, tables, flowcharts or graphics to present your case, but don’t overdo it. The graphics should enhance your messages, not overpower them. If you are the incumbent, remind the client of what you have achieved for them, how you have overcome problems, your plans for the future, the successful working relationship you have achieved. Explain the benefits of the client continuing to use your service or product – avoid upheaval, your intimate knowledge, no break in service. Don’t be afraid to use quotes from satisfied clients (with their permission), mention awards, include copies of press cuttings and case studies to put your case forward. If you are proposing to undertake a project, include a project management plan to show that you have already thought about how to put the project into action.


Writing a tender  
Writing a tender  

How to write a tender or proposal