A question we are commonly asked is “what makes a good tender response?” Whilst there are many elements to consider when crafting a high-scoring bid, there are certain elements that are essential, but often overlooked.
To help you understand and improve your quality question scores, we have pulled together some of our top tips and examples of best practice and poor performance to help guide your next bid writing exercise.
What makes a good tender response?
Be the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (MEAT)
Effective tender responses demonstrate a deep understanding of the client's needs and a commitment to delivering value, also known as being the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (MEAT). A strong response should begin by addressing each question directly, providing clear and concise answers, using examples to emphasise your capabilities.
You should begin by addressing each question explicitly and thoroughly, avoiding vague or evasive responses.
To make it easiest for the awarding panel to give you marks, you should make sure that the client can easily find the information they are looking for within your response by using headings and bolding important content, such as data you are using as evidence. This creates a flow for the eye to follow and ensures that no important information is missed or overlooked.
Reference specific information
High-scoring tenders will also showcase comprehension of the buyer’s needs and project requirements. This can be achieved by referencing specific details from the tender documents and illustrating how your solution aligns perfectly with their objectives.
All opportunities will be accompanied by a specification which outlines the buyer’s requirements. You should use this to align your service to the buyer’s needs, presenting your company as the ideal solution to their problems.
To instil confidence in your company, especially if you are not bidding as the incumbent, it is important to showcase your company and staff’s qualifications, experience, and relevant achievements.
You can do this by providing evidence of past projects that are similar in scope and complexity, highlighting successful outcomes and satisfied clients, using testimonials as evidence.
Setting your solution apart from your competitors, you should highlight your unique selling points and offer ‘added value’ to the contract.
Added value can take many forms depending on the industry and scope of work, but in short is the additional extras that you can bring to the contract free-of-charge that puts you ahead of your competitors.
A key way to boost your score is to clearly articulate a comprehensive strategy and timeline, outlining how you intend to meet project objectives. Within this, you should describe the steps you'll take to achieve project milestones and how you plan to meet the client's goals within the specified timeframe.
You should use the specification to ensure alignment to the buyer’s needs and use previous successful contract examples to evidence your ability to deliver.
Finally, high-scoring bid responses are well-designed and professionally formatted. Many clients seek Bid Design services to tailor the look and feel of their bid to match the type of industry and services being procured.
This finishing touch can help align your branding to the buyer, presenting your solution as an extension of their organisation and convince the awarding panel of the sincerity of your bid.
What to avoid writing in a tender response
A common mistake made by non-professional Bid Writers is leaving their responses too vague and/or unorganised. Your bid is a professional piece of work that represents your company at its best.
Providing vague or generic responses that do not directly address the client's questions or needs can lead to rejection, as these responses may come across as insincere or unprepared.
In a similar vein, using a one-size-fits-all response template for every tender can make it seem like you haven't put in the effort to tailor your proposal to the specific project. To prevent this, you must customise each response to demonstrate your genuine interest and suitability for the particular opportunity using the specifications provided.
Commonly overlooked, you should always avoid making unsupported claims about your qualifications or capabilities. Where suspicions are raised, the buyer can at any point request evidence such as documentation to prove any assertions made.
Where evidence is deemed unsubstantial, you may risk your bid being discarded. To prevent this from happening, you must back up your assertions with concrete evidence, such as certifications, case studies, or client testimonials, using attachments where allowed to support your claims.
While demonstrating expertise is important, bombarding the response with excessive technical jargon can be alienating, especially if the evaluators are not experts in the field.
To prevent this, your Bid Writer should aim for clarity and simplicity in your explanations. To ensure this, it is helpful to ask a non-technical team member to review your bid, or consult our review and improve service to ensure that your language is clear and consistent.
Perhaps the most obvious but sometimes most difficult to deliver on, it is crucial to remember that failing to adhere to submission deadlines, providing incomplete responses or not following instructions can and will result in your bid being discarded.
To prevent this from happening, you must dedicate a Contract Management Team to be wholly responsible for the submission of a compliant, complete and high-quality bid. Ensure that your team has adequate time to write, review and submit the bid, including working collaboratively across your organisation to provide and cross-check any requested technical information.
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Examples of good responses to tender questions
To demonstrate the differences between good and bad tender responses, below we have provided an example of a good social value tender response which uses the techniques described above to present the information and company at its best.
Question: When considering the objectives of this contract please provide suggestions for innovation or added value opportunities which would benefit or enhance the project and lead to financial benefits to the council and your company. Please provide details of how your business supports social, economic, and environmental benefits. (Max 500 words)
Response: To drive innovation and add value to this contract, we will work with you to develop a bespoke Innovation Plan (example attached) that mirrors our collective goals. At contract start, [the name and role of your dedicated personnel], will hold a meeting with your key representatives to suggest innovations and collect feedback about how you want us to manage the contract. To ensure our commitments are upheld, we will track progress using our bespoke social value dashboard:
Figure 1: Upholding our commitments by using bespoke progress monitoring software
To deliver financial benefits across this contract, we propose to deliver the following innovations, if awarded this contract:
Your innovative feature: The financial benefit you would expect it to bring to the contract/buyer/your company
For example energy performance assessments: To highlight energy savings achieved and potential further savings we offer residents post-installation energy performance assessments
To improve the economic and social well-being of the [contract area] community, we will work in line with the Social Value (SV) Act 2012 and your environmental policies. We will appoint [name and job role of your allocated personnel[ as our dedicated SV representative for this contract.
Our proposed commitments include:
Social responsibility: Outline the benefit of your commitment and what you will do to achieve this. For example, “To provide young people across the local area with training and employment opportunities, we will hire 1 Electrical Engineer Apprentice specifically for this contract.”
Economic growth: Outline the benefit of your commitment and what you will do to achieve this. For example, “We will allocate a percentage of our procurement spend to local Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to support their growth and development. This will be done by setting targets for local SME participation in procurement activities and measuring progress towards those targets. Approximately 30% of our supply chain spend is with SMEs and we will encourage keeping it local and aim for over 90% local contract spend within [contract area] on this contract.”
Environment: Outline the benefit of your commitment and what you will do to achieve this. For example, “To minimise our impact on the environment, we are working towards our ISO14001 accreditation. As a commitment to this contract, we aim to have this in place within the first 12 months. To help address the impacts of climate change, our staff will commit 1 day per year to tree planting. We will contribute to this by working with the [name of an appropriate industry body] and making contributions to [name of an appropriate industry body].
The key elements to this high-scoring response are as follows:
The response is clearly structured, using headings to track through the question requirements and lead the reader in a thought-out manne
Highlighting the benefits of all propositions within the same sentence as the proposal to ensure relevance and impact is understood
Providing images and figure captions to help explain/evidence claims
Using bullet points to break down and condense
Including local contract data, such as names and local causes, to tailor responses and prevent vague writing
Where uncommon terms/jargon are included, fully define before using (see SME in the text above)
Using bold to bring out key data
Use concise sentences and ensure excellent spelling and grammar
Were this to be a branded and designed bid document, the colours would reflect your/the buyer’s branding, and attention would be taken to ensuring images/page layouts look professional
Examples of poor responses to tender questions
Using this same question, see the following response as an example of a poor, low-scoring response:
Response: Our innovative feature would entail a comprehensive exploration of energy performance assessments. This entails a focus on energy savings, with a secondary emphasis on potential further savings. The details and outcomes of these assessments will help you to save money across this contract lifetime.
Social/Economic/Environmental Benefits: Our approach toward social, economic, and environmental benefits will adhere to our environmental policies, with the appointment of a dedicated SV representative. We will ensure Social responsibility, economic growth, and environmental initiatives throughout all our works.
We propose a set of commitments encompassing social responsibility, economic growth, and environmental considerations. During mobilisation we will meet with you to discuss our social value impact and implementation strategies. For instance, we may hire an Electrical Engineer Apprentice to support young people or allocate a percentage of procurement spend to local SMEs Additionally, we aspire to minimize our environmental impact through efforts such as contributing to tree planting.
There are a number of key differences here which would result in this response being marked very poorly. For instance:
Adhoc use of capitalisation
Vague and unclear commitments
Poorly organised and confusing formatting
Long sentences which confuse the reader
No concrete evidence, such as a specific number of Apprentices/% of spend with SMEs
No industry knowledge shown, such as specific accreditations held or procurement knowledge shown (such as the inclusion of the Social Value Act in the first response)
No images or attachments to help explain
Bold is used but not on important data. This distracts the eye and takes value, rather than adding it
Should you invest in bid writing support services?
Has a tender question got you stuck? Or perhaps you need a pair of expert eyes to review and improve before you press submit? At Thornton & Lowe, we offer a wide range of Bid Writing solutions, including:
End to end Bid Writing: Remove your stress and let us take your bid into our own hands. Take advantage of our 75% win rate and allow us to craft your high-scoring responses and manage your opportunity for you.
Bid Writing Training: For a more hands-on approach, join our Bid Writing Masterclass and learn the top tricks of the trade. Tailored for beginners through to professionals, stay up-to-speed with best practice and join our workshop.
Bid Design Service: Stand out from the crowd by seeing how we can help to professionalise your designed bis document.
Bid Templates: Refer to our pre-designed range of templates to see best practice formatting and response content, without the financial commitment of a Bid Writer.
For more information and guidance on writing a high-scoring tender response, get in touch and see how we can help you today!