Lesson 1: Basics of Writing a Response

A tender is a reflection of your organisation’s products and services. Your writing style should convey your business. It should market and sell the benefits of our products and services; whilst meeting the tender and compliance requirements of the client. 

When responding to tenders, it is essential to link the prospective client’s needs, wants and issues with what you are offering. What you write should be client focused. It should also be easy to understand by any reader (including those who are not familiar with your industry, product or service). The style of your writing needs to be persuasive, as a tender document is a mix of a business or technical document, and a marketing/sales document.  

The tender document needs to be: 

  • Logical 
  • Well organised 
  • Factual 
  • Concise 
  • Persuasive. 

Writing style and the professionalism of the presentation will vary with industry sector – a bid for media communications strategy will have higher standards of presentation, than a bid to do some kerbing, for example.  

Choosing correct words and aiming for shorter sentences makes tender documents more persuasive, effective and easier to read. Simplify or replace wordy phrases, use correct words in context, avoid words or phrases that increase contract risk, do not use clichés or sayings (e.g. “the big picture”, “thinking outside the square”), minimise the use of words only used in your industry, and do not use redundant words (e.g. “past experience” (all experience is past!)).  

Your tender should answer the question: “Why should they buy from you?” You need to show the features and advantages of your product or service and how these elements will benefit the client and fulfil their needs and vision. 

Tender Tip

Keep your writing style simple and be customer focused. 

Always remind the client, what the benefits of your offering are. 

“You convinced us you understood what we wanted, and could deliver it – that’s why you won”– government client 

Too often, the actual writing within the tender is an area that is not given sufficient attention, and it can be detrimental to the business. Putting together a successful tender is not just about responding to the RFT. You could respond to every schedule, providing all the required information and be the best fit for the client, yet if it is expressed poorly through sub-standard writing you will jeopardise your opportunity and potentially rule yourselves out. If you submit a document that is sloppy, the client is likely to assume that all your work is sloppy. 

If a document does not read well the assessor is likely to lose confidence, or worse, lose interest in your submission. To maintain an assessor’s interest in what you have to say you need to have strategies in place.  

For example, a common strategy is the ‘pyramid’ where the writer presents the most important information first, and then to the less important information.  

Bad grammar, spelling errors and poor attention to detail (for example typos, extra spaces etc.) undermine a tender document, and leave the reader questioning your capabilities. And it will reflect on your organisation and its professionalism. 

It’s unlikely that a technical staff member will be focusing on writing great copy, they’ll be focusing on getting the spec’s right, making sure things are technically correct. Which is why it is important to have an independent person edit or write the content in a way that is professional and engaging.

Tender Tip

Keep it Snappy 

Your client will almost certainly be reading more than one tender or proposal.   Yours will stand out if they don’t have to read through lots of long-winded waffle. So cut it out. For example: 

  • In order to… instead use…To 
  • A wide range of… instead use… Many 
  • For the reason that… instead use…Because, Since 
  • For the purpose of… instead use…To 

A tender that has a well thought out strategy and meets or exceeds the requirements of the agency, but has careless mistakes or poorly written content will not be compelling. If a tender response is not compelling, it will not win business.  

If you’re having trouble starting, a useful exercise to get things moving is to write down what you want to achieve with the document, your tender strategy. If you are not clear on this, it will show in your work. Knowing your purpose will give you direction. Your audience will be your compass. Keeping in mind what the reader wants to know as this narrows down the possible directions your writing may go in. If you start with a clear vision it is likely that your reader won’t lose their way. 

These seemingly small issues that we have mentioned, such as typos and poor expression, chip away at credibility. It is your credibility (along with your offer) that will make your response compelling. A panel member will choose the company that provide a slick well-written tender, over one that provides a response littered with sloppy mistakes.  This is why it is critical to get this part right. It is worth the investment, as it can be a ‘deal-breaker’.