If you're in the business of securing contracts, you already know that the bid response process can be a make-or-break moment. Crafting a compelling and well-organised bid response is essential for demonstrating your expertise, reliability, and dedication to potential clients.
In this blog, we'll delve into the art of structuring a bid response that not only meets the requirements of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) but also stands out in a competitive landscape. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting your journey in the world of tender responses, we're here to help you sharpen your skills and enhance your chances of success.
As a bonus, we’ve included a comprehensive tender response checklist that will serve as your go-to guide for bid writing. With this resource, you'll ensure no critical detail is overlooked, and your bid response is a comprehensive and compelling representation of your capabilities.
What needs to be included in a bid response?
This is a common question that we hear from our clients, and one that varies between bids. It is important to remember that the exact requirements of each tender process will differ, however there are common demands that we see across the majority of the bids we write.
The exact opportunity rules and requirements will be outlined in the ITT, for example the tender dates, contract overview and rules for formatting responses and submission.
Where to find specific bid requirements
For response-specific guidance, this will be outlined in the specification, also commonly referred to as the scope of works, which is often a separate appendix to the ITT. Whilst it is vital to read and refer to the ITT, it is the specification which will provide more value as a response guide during the writing process.
Within the specification, the exact work requirements will be separated into headings, providing a valuable tool for reading and cross-checking question specifics to ensure that your bid remains closely aligned to the buyer’s wants and needs.
For example, if answering a quality question relating to health and safety, you would use the specification to search for the buyer’s specific demands, before writing your response to align and evidence compliance with these. This could be done through listing your health and safety qualifications, training and personnel where relevant to the question set.
Answering the question in a bid response
To completely understand what to include in a bid response, you should break the question into sections, as if you were answering an exam question. Typically quality questions will contain clues, or even bullet points, outlining the specific points that the buyer expects to be included within the response. These clues or bullets can act as your headings within the response, ensuring that all areas are covered and guiding the reader through your response, making it obvious that you have responded to their key points.
A core principle of bid writing is ‘People, Processes, Systems’. What we mean by this is ensuring that responses cover the relevant personnel, the processes you will follow and your internal systems (for example, contract management systems) to achieve the scope of the question. Whilst some questions will not allow for this formula, following this system ensures that the core ‘Who? What? How?’ questions are covered within the response, to proactively answer the burning questions that the buyer will have. High scoring quality responses put the buyer’s mind at rest by ensuring they are informed and confident in the ability of your business to carry out their demands. By covering these 3 points, where appropriate, you are threading reassurance and stability throughout your response.
Where evidence is requested within a question, buyers would typically expect to see images, graphs, attachments and case studies, where relevant, to support your claims. If unsure as to whether these are permitted, always check the ITT and, if still unsure, raise a clarification question following the guidance outlined in the ITT.
Whilst fairly uncommon for buyers to prevent the use of graphics and colour, where using attachments as supporting documentation you should check the ITT for any naming conventions to prevent accidental noncompliance. Where non-compliance is identified across the bid, you place your bid in jeopardy of being withdrawn by the buyer.
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How to structure a bid response
Putting this guidance into practice, we have created a test question to dissect below. As touched upon above, the structure of your bid response should follow the structure of the question you are responding to.
Question: Please provide your provisional risk assessments and where required, methods of working based on the proposed scope of Services. (Max 1000 words)
To split this question into smaller, digestible sections, you should pull each sentence apart to find the key quality requirements. For this question, this would be as follows:
Provide a provisional risk assessment that outlines methods of working based on the scope of services
Provide a provisional health and safety plan
Once pulled apart, these points will naturally create your response subheading, mirroring the question requirements and ensuring that no essential demands are missed. For more guidance, see our guide to good and bad tender responses.
Before delving into the response, you should write a short introduction to the response, outlining your compliance with relevant health and safety legislation/best practice to assure the buyer of your knowledge, credibility and reliability from the start. As the question does not specifically request for ‘Who? What? How?’ within a set structure, the introduction is a brilliant place to begin threading this information.
For example, your introduction could cover:
- The name and job role of your personnel responsible for health and safety for this contract
Their responsibilities on this contract
Your compliance with health and safety legislation (referring back to the specification for any buyer-specific requirements)
Our provisional risk assessment
Under this subheading, you would provide an example Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) that details any contract-specific health and safety risks, their likelihood and your mitigating factors to prevent contract disruption. You could do this by using a table.
This risk assessment must be specific to the scope of works you are tendering for, so pay specific attention to the specification.
If your word/page/character count allows, you could evidence your success mitigating risks by including case studies demonstrating the risk you encountered, how you overcame it and the successful outcome.
Our provisional health and safety plan
Under this heading, you should summarise your contract-specific health and safety plan, referring back to the ‘Who? What? How?’. Here, you can outline who is responsible for updating and monitoring the health and safety plan, the processes used to ensure this remains up to date, and the systems you use to store this information. For example, you may use a cloud-based system such as Dropbox to provide remote access and offer a secure location that updates in real-time.
The question asks you to provide this plan, confirming that supporting attachments are allowed. You must check the naming convention of the supporting documentation within the ITT, and state the name of your attachment under this heading.
Within this section, you could also include your health and safety training processes and how you will cascade this contract-specific training/refreshment training across your allocated workforce. Align this to any buyer requirements within the specification and detail the exact training you will provide to evidence your comprehensive and compliant approach to the buyer.
Tender response checklist
Once yor tender responses have been written, designed, proofread and cross checked by your service experts, you are ready to submit your bid. To make sure that you hit every tender requirement and to ensure your compliance, recheck the ITT guidance. Often, buyers will provide a submission checklist that summarises the documents for submission.
These typically include:
- Quality questions
Form of Tender
Commercially Sensitive Declaration
All contract-specific requirements will be included within the ITT documentation.