When responding to a tender document, you need to remember that your response is about your offering to the client. This means that you need to talk less about you. The focus should be on the client, and the benefits they’ll get from working with you.
I have seen many proposals that are entirely focused on the tendering firm: firm history, lists of services, lists of clients, and vague claims about the firm’s general greatness.
The underlying message seems to be that it should be obvious to the client that your firm is the best.
But the client doesn’t care about you; they care about what you can do for them. So this is what you need to address, and you need to make it easy for the client to see how you can help them.
You don’t want the client struggling to interpret your messages, because they won’t bother – they have other proposals to assess (i.e. your competitors’).
In a formal RFT or RFP response, you need to respond to every question, properly and thoroughly within the scope of what’s been asked.
If you do not, at worst your bid will be deemed non-compliant, and at best you may be seen as sloppy and unprofessional.
Unless it’s contrary to specific format and layout requirements, the best way to make sure you’re compliant is to structure your response document following the questions in the request document: copy every question, numbered as per the request document, and make them the headings and sub-headings for your responses.
This way, you are less likely to miss a question, and it will be clear to the evaluators that you have responded to every question.
As part of this, make sure you read each question carefully so that you understand what’s required, and then answer the question that’s asked.
It may seem obvious, but can be easy to fall into the trap of inserting a cut ‘n’ paste of your response to a similar question from a previous bid without tailoring or revising it for the current context.
In some cases, a question may be ambiguously worded or otherwise unclear. If you’re unsure what’s required, ask (but think carefully before asking questions during a tender process – it can sometimes work against you).
So many times, I have heard my clients say, “we are the incumbent, we don’t need to spend much time on this, or I’m good friends with a guy who works at [the clients organisation] so we’ll be fine.” NEVER assume anything!
Treat the tendering process with respect, and never assume that you can get away with a half-hearted effort because you know the client or because you have provided services to them previously.
This tender submission must stand up in its own right, and not rely on your brand or a possible relationship. You still have to provide a competitive offering and show the value you will bring to this contract.
Even if you have an established relationship with the client, and even if you’ve been assured a win, you need to put in a credible, strong bid. Why?
Also, every tender, EOI, proposal is different, if you can keep these three key points top of mind when you’re writing your next tender response you will be ahead of the competition. Remember this tender document is a representation of your organisation, so the way it is presented, the language you use and the look and feel of the documents, reflect your business and the products and services you provide.