Yukk. Tenders and proposals. If we’re honest, tender writing or proposal writing is something most businesses would prefer to avoid. Writing a tender or a proposal takes a lot of time and effort. That’s why getting help is worthwhile.
I’ve written literally hundreds of tenders and proposals for businesses pitching to public and private companies and government organisations. Despite the hopes of many businesses, especially professional services firms, tendering hasn’t yet gone out of fashion.
If you’re challenged by a tender or proposal, here are my Top 10 pointers for writing a good one:
1. Answer the question
It might sound obvious – but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do it! With formal tenders, especially to government organisations, it’s also important to answer the questions in the specific order (and numbering convention) that they are asked in. Many tenders fail to do this and wonder why they are never shortlisted or selected.
2. Keep it snappy
Your prospect 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
3. Get active
The active voice is more succinct and direct than the passive voice, and usually works best in tenders and proposals. The voice of a verb tells us whether the subject is doing the action (active) or whether something is being done to it (passive). For example:
We are submitting our tender.
Rosemary is writing about tendering.
This tender is being submitted by…
This article about tendering was written by Rosemary.
4. Keep it personal
If you want your tender to attract attention, keep the focus on your prospect. Begin as many paragraphs as possible with their name, and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to personalise your tender.
5. What’s in it for me?
Essentially, all that your prospect really wants to know is what they will gain by selecting you – so tell them! Highlight how your skills, knowledge or experience or what you propose will benefit their business or organisation. Every time you make a statement about your business or its service or products, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and ask yourself, “How will I benefit from this?”
6. Prove it
Avoid claims such as “we are the leading/fastest/best value provider of…” unless you have hard evidence to prove it. Use quotes from the media or happy clients, or award wins or good survey results to back up what you say.
7. Give great examples
Give specific – yet short and punchy – examples of how your company makes a difference to its clients. Mini case studies are a great way to make an impact. Provide specific, factual evidence (or even testimonials) showing how you have helped a client to save time or money, or how you devised an innovative solution to a client’s problem.
8. Make it look good
Tenders that are well laid out are visually appealing and easy to read. Use headings, sub-headings, photos, diagrams, graphics and white space. If you are tendering for project work, include a timetable or a project management plan.
9. Jog their memory
If your tender or proposal is to an existing client, remind them how much you have achieved together so far, all the problems you have resolved for them, or the extra value you’ve given at no cost. Describe the benefits of continuing to use your service or product (e.g. they will avoid upheaval, or they will continue to benefit from your intimate knowledge of their business).
10. Make it error-free
Find a colleague, or pay a professional, to proofread your final draft. While a word-perfect tender won’t win you points alone, one with typos could certainly cost you. Take time to check every word, and while you’re at it, check you’ve answered all the questions in the right order, and that you’ve met all the requirements for lodgement and attachments.