I have been writing bids for many years now and I often get into a debate on what “voice” a tender should be written in. Some will argue that we should be writing the tender in third person and shouldn’t use terms such as “we”, “you” and “our”. Others will say that you must as these are a way of letting the customer know that you are communicating with them directly to meet their requirements.
What we should remember is that often, any proposal that is written can be legally binding as it may form part of a contract. Writing it in a fashion that is too informal may not necessarily be appropriate. It is important to consider the audience at which the tender is aimed as this will often provide some guidance on how to pitch the tone. Remember, it will be this audience that will be marking the response. If you have a pre-existing relationship with the customer, use it to your advantage. Any nuances with the customer you know of can be used to impact the readership, as it will give a sense of personalisation.
The customer’s impression of you as an organisation can be strongly influenced based on the tone used in any proposals you write. It also sets the scene for the quality of documentation they can expect throughout any project you might end up working on. Remember, your proposal can be regarded as a “silent salesperson”. It should leave the customer with an impression of your organisation that demonstrates the values and ethos behind the submission.
There is no right or wrong way to respond to a tender. Each response will be unique as it will be addressing a specific requirement set by the customer. What is important is that you consider the ask carefully and make sure that your submission is written in a way that engages the audience and at the same time leaves a lasting impression where the customer wants to work with you.
Dos and Don’ts
I’ve compiled a short list of dos and don’ts to bear in mind the next time you write a tender response. For some this will be seen as common sense whereas for others who are new to writing tenders may view this as a good starting point to build your experience.
- DO set a tone that is right for you. Remember the “silent salesperson” analogy above.
- DON’T write the tender so it looks like a contract. Your audience will thank you for it!
- DO keep it personal where appropriate. Using terms like we, you and our helps the customer see that you are speaking to them directly.
- DO use plain English! Long, complex sentences are difficult to follow and a sure-fire way of making sure the reader loses interest. Keep your responses short, concise, and snappy.
- DON’T use technical jargon unless necessary. If you do have to use it, explain in plain English what it means as this may impact the reader’s understanding of the rest of the tender.
- DO remember to respond with answers that are compliant. Non-compliant answers are a one-way ticket to a low score.
- DON’T ignore the detail. Read all the documentation provided with the tender to extract the detail. If there is a word count limit, stick to it. Is there a portal with additional information, visit it. Does your response answer the question? The adage of “the devil is in the detail” plays a big part in responding to tenders.
- DO answer the question!
- DO write your responses with the customer as the focus and not you as the organisation that is bidding. Remember, if the customer didn’t know about your company, the chances are you may not have been invited to tender!
- DO show where you can add value to the project.
- DO make sure there is consistency – especially if there are multiple contributors to the response.
In conclusion I believe the key thing is to understand what the ask is. Be succinct with the responses and use plain English! Take advantage of any customer knowledge you have and most importantly, answer the question!