It is interesting to note that most of the logistics companies I speak to admit that their tender writing capabilities can be considerably improved.
Indeed, many even go as far as to say that they often choose not to respond to tenders because either they don’t have sufficient time to respond, or they don’t feel that they have a realistic chance of winning.
Why do logistics companies fail to respond to tenders?
I find a certain irony in the second reason for not responding to a logistics tender, because I for one recognise a fundamental rule about tenders: every tender response you write makes the next one even better. In other words, practice makes perfect. So why turn down the opportunity to respond to a tender you’re not confident in winning, when it can help you produce an even better response to one you are confident of winning?
Of course, there will be times when you might choose to respond to a particular tender instead of another and for sure, there will be those that you think are just benchmarking exercises. However, in my view the most successful companies are the ones who respond to all tenders that meet the necessary service criteria. And given the low success rate of winning logistics tenders, it is perhaps unwise to be too selective.
Key questions to ask when writing a tender response
So how do we know we are writing a superlative tender response?
How do we determine what will catch the customer’s attention and what will turn the customer off?
How can we present a convincing and compelling offer?
Have we ever been in a situation where we lost the bid but were told we did a great job in responding to a tender, and if so, what were the key learnings from this experience?
10 tips for writing a tender response
I have spent over 25 years being involved with tender responses, and over the years there have been many wins and a fair few losses. But, one thing is for certain: there is no magic formula for success.
Much of my experience in winning tenders was gained through trial and error, and I have always had an obsession for identifying our failings and how to overcome them.
It was only by doing this exercise that we could claim to have influenced the success of future bids. Performing this exercise also enabled us to recognise certain guidelines that can be followed when writing tenders in a way that maximizes the chances of success.
The following are 10 simple tips for writing a successful tender response. They are by no means all-encompassing, but if applied they can give you the best opportunity to be considered a serious contender.
1. Always keep to the format
If the tender calls for you to answer questions, always answer them and ensure they are in the correct sequence. Never veer away from the format of the tender.
2. Add an Executive Summary
It is vital to start your response with a personalised Executive Summary stating the key facts about your bid, showing your enthusiasm to participate and eagerness to win. Outline what you believe is your unique selling proposition, ensuring that it relates to the client’s exact needs – thus demonstrating a full understanding of them. One page should cover it.
3. Personalise with commentary
Add commentary in all sections, personalising your approach to differentiate from the competition. Demonstrate excellent grammar and articulation to highlight the professionalism of your organisation.
4. Use examples to support and illustrate your answers
Be clear, concise and relevant, with plenty of visuals to break up the text. Good graphics can make your document come alive!
5. Use your customers as your product endorsement
Publish the names of some of your key customers where they will get maximum attention and then, with some subtlety, repeat some of them through examples given when answering key questions to maximise their endorsement. Always aim to use customer names that are relevant to the tender, either in terms of their industry or the services that you provide. Of course, both would be ideal.
6. Keep the response flowing
Other than when it is essential, all questions should be answered within the relevant sections so that the reader does not have to revert to appendices and other supporting material, thus losing the flow of the response. Remember, the customer will be reading through multiple responses so their attention can easily wane.
7. Don’t fob off the customer
Always be prepared to answer the questions in the tender. Do not fob off the customer by suggesting that their request is “client specific” and would be answered at a later stage after further assessment. They want to assess you now, not later!
8. Never assume the reader will understand the jargon
Try to avoid using too many acronyms and industry jargon as often the most senior people reading a tender – who may have the greatest sway in the outcome – will not understand their meaning. Never introduce your internal terminology without explaining clearly what it means.
9. Practice what you preach
If you preach your values, company mission or include your strategic business objectives, make sure you demonstrate them in your response. For example, if you claim to be customer-centric, then ensure you demonstrate this in your response so the customer can clearly see how you are customer-centric. Words are not enough.
10. Validate, validate, validate
Ensure all figures are checked, grammar and spelling are proof-read, and repetition is avoided. Always use more than one pair of eyes to check your work!
Writing a good tender response isn’t rocket science, it merely involves identifying what the customer is asking for, highlighting your unique selling points and core capabilities, communicating your ideas clearly and effectively, and including real-world examples to demonstrate your points.
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice writing tender responses, this will help you identify weaknesses in your response, and perhaps even gaps in your service offering. Over time, the process of writing tender responses will be the easy part of growing your business.