Tender writing is a technical skill, much like an engineering blueprint or an architect’s plan. A tender writer needs to be able to meet the strict deadline and format requirements of the tender, while working under pressure from the many stakeholders involved in the proposal.
A tender writer must be unafraid to ask the hard questions, some of which a business may not have encountered before. Being self-critical is an important attribute when writing a tender submission, and a good tender writer will keep your company honest about its ability to deliver services as specified.
Tender writing is also a subtle art requiring an ability tease out nuance, as we shall see in our example from the transport industry.
So let’s look at three attributes of a good tender writer and how they help your tender bid to be successful.
Asking the right (and often difficult) questions
A tender proposal needs to be highly focused and the writer can only achieve this if they ask the right questions. These could include:
- What are your key products and services?
- What specific equipment can you provide?
- Why choose your company, over your competitors?
The first two are straightforward, and it’s expected that you would have the information at hand. But the third is one that needs a little more thought because it’s on a different level of thinking. Simply writing the names of the companies with whom you do business does not answer the question.
The question is really asking what your company does that cultivates relationships with clients once you have them. Do you hold regular reappraisals to see how the relationship can be improved? How do you keep clients informed about new developments in your business that could lead to improved services and an upgrading of your tender contract?
These are the questions that an experienced tender writer will ask, pressuring you to look closely at what it is that makes your bid stand out from the pack.
Remaining calm in high pressure situations
We’ve all had the experience of someone standing over our shoulder as we’re trying to complete a report. In such cases it’s easy to become confused, lose direction and fail to meet even the basic requirements of a written task.
A good tender writer will stay calm in all situations, no matter what is thrown at them. Shifting deadlines, multiple filing requirements and last-minute flashes of inspiration from senior management must all be incorporated with a cool head so that the overall direction of the bid remains true to its goal of addressing the tender requirements.
Focusing on explicit and implicit requirements
A government tender reviewer is looking for a specific need to be filled, and if there is no evidence that you can do so, will pass on your bid. There are clear expectations that need to be met, but sometimes more subtle requirements can be intuited.
For example, in October 2016 it was reported that the NSW Government could be considering privatising its State Transport Authority (STA) contracts for Sydney’s bus system in 2017.
The STA has twelve depots in Sydney and about 3,700 drivers, almost all of whom are members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. Any tender proposal would benefit from an industrial relations plan to counter resistance from a union concerned about potential staff and pay cuts.
At the same time, the main thrust of the tender proposal would be delivering the improvement in customer service and cost savings the public demanded. Working these seemingly incompatible objectives into a proposal is the job of the tender writer.
Tender writing is a technical skill, one filled with subtlety and attention to detail that takes time and dedication to develop. Look for a tender writer who asks the right questions, stays calm under pressure and has attention to detail.