Lesson 3: The Tender Structure

The tender structure will be critical to your success. Having a simple yet comprehensive tender structure is important.  The structure may be predefined by the client, and if so then you must follow that structure. If you don’t, you risk being disqualified.  

If there is no pre-defined structure, then you have a free format. This is the perfect opportunity to create your own structure in a way that sells your business whilst meeting all the clients’ requirements. 

Isolate the Response Schedules 

In the case of tenders, RFPs and EOIs, the client will often define the Response Schedules. They are usually provided as a separate Microsoft Word document (and sometimes unfortunately even Microsoft Excel), with spaces for your responses to a series of questions.  

Your tender response document should now have some or all of: 

  • Title page stating the name and number of the tender and the client responsible. Other details may include submission date, time and location or submission method. 
  • A table of contents that lists the various parts of the Response Schedules. 
  • The Response Schedules themselves 

At this point you will have a Microsoft Word document that lists all the questions, but none of the answers yet. Before you hand this bid document template over to your bid team to fill in, I suggest you sort out the Microsoft Word features such as styles (including headings), along with the headers and footers to each page. 

Sort out the Microsoft Word features and definitions for the document 

The tender response document you are creating will have all the Word features and definitions of the client’s original tender documentation. I suggest you don’t change these, as they will reflect the ‘style guide’ used by the client for the production of any documentation. 

The following Microsoft Word features could help the productivity in filling out the responses to questions. 

Set up a ‘Response’ text style 

You can either use your template you have previously designed, or you can create another response specifically for this tender. 

Headings and Heading Styles 

If the client has Heading Styles set up in the document, then use them when they support the setting out of your response. If you wish to delineate your text (font and colour) from those used in the questions, you may need a separate set of Heading Styles to delineate your response text from the client’s questions. 

Sections 

The client may have divided the document into Sections. This could create subtle documentation and pagination behaviours at the boundary of one Section to the next. You may wish to use Sections to allow the creation of different headers and footers – new section headings for example. In any case, you will need to keep track of Sections to ensure consistency in the formatting and structure of your document. 

Common formatting glitches generated by Sections include: 

  • Inappropriate page layout swaps between portrait and landscape 
  • Margins expanding or contracting 
  • Header and footer text appearing out of nowhere, or disappearing 
  • Page size changing – A4 to Letter, for example. 

Header and Footer 

Make sure you follow the client’s instructions for identifying your response. They typically ask you to include your company’s name on each page of the bid document. Headers and footers are great places to include text and logos that provide simple identification of your response out of the many submissions the client will receive from others. 

Title Page 

The Title Page of your response document should state the following information: 

  • The name of the client 
  • The name of the document/tender  
  • The tender number or a reference number,  

Then you should add information about your company 

  • Your Company Name 
  • Then add your company’s logo to complete the branding of your submission.
  • And if possible a graphic or image that reflects your offering. 

Table of Contents 

On page one insert a Table of Contents. Use the standard Table of Contents format derived from the styles for each of the Headings within the document.  

A Compliant Tender? 

Ill say it again! 

All documents that are part of the RFT should be read thoroughly.  

Make notes to understand the key criteria and mandatory requirements.  

Complying with format requirements 

Formatting is key – RFTs will often require a strict response format to be observed so the client can easily compare each submission. Check if there is a specified format that you must use. In some instances, clients may provide a template for you to use in your response.  

Changing the response format may result in your disqualification through non-compliance. 

A compliant response 

A compliant response meets all the clients’ requirements and specifications regardless of the model or value and the price.  A compliant solution will meet the first round of evaluations and potentially will be shortlisted.  The key to a compliant solution is to address all the mandatory criteria and ensure you comply with the tender response format and the requirements. To have a compliant tender response you must: 

Using your own format 

Some RFTs do not specify a response format or the requested format can be general or unspecific. If you’re able to use your own structure, you’ll need to develop a framework that suits your proposal. 

Content Spelling and Style 

A tender document generally utilises formal, business language. However, in narratives such as case studies or your own company profile, you may have the opportunity to make the language more informal, if that is the style of your company or industry.  

In all cases you should obtain the services of a formal or informal proofreader/copy editor to ensure that the language used is appropriate to the target audience.  

It is vital that you spell-check and proof-read your tender document before you send it. If it reads poorly and is riddled with spelling mistakes, this will reflect on your levels of competence. 

Personalisation 

Why not make this personal? You should know the name of the company, and of the decision maker your tender document is being sent to. A tender document with personalisation has an extra dimension when it comes to engaging someone.