Lesson 2: The Tender is About the Client

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. 

  • Your firm was established in 1904. So what? You need to explain how this benefits the client. 
  • Your firm offers the service the client wants. So what? Many other firms will offer similar services, and it’s not enough just to list your services. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) 
  • Why should the client use you rather than someone else? (And the answer is not because you were established in 1904). 

Tender Tip

  • Clearly state the benefits and outcomes the client will get from working with you (don’t assume it’s obvious).  
  • Demonstrate that you understand the client’s problems, needs or objectives and how you can solve, meet or achieve 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’). 

Give the Client What They Ask For 

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). 

Treat the Process With Respect 

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? 

  • You can’t be certain the person you have the relationship with has any power in the decision-making process – and there may be more than one person evaluating responses. Remember companies often use external providers for evaluating tenders. And those evaluators may not know you! 
  • You risk marring your firm’s reputation if you submit a poor quality bid – you may be seen as unprofessional, if not incompetent.  And that could have a long lasting effect on your business. 
  • You will always have competition – and if you rest on your laurels, sooner or later a competitor who has taken nothing for granted will outshine you. 

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.