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Top tips for formatting an engaging tender response

An excellent tender response is about more than just the quality of the content. Customers are influenced by what they see and form subconscious opinions of your business based on the presentation of your response. What would a messy, disjointed response say to a customer about how much you care about the service you're proposing to deliver? A well-designed, clear document assists evaluators to find the information they need and portrays professionalism.

Here are our top tips to get your bid response into winning shape:

  1. Don’t ignore formatting guidelines. PQQs, ITTs and RFPs usually come with guidelines regarding word-count, structure and font size. Ignoring these could put your response on the reject pile.
  2. Use a template. A well-structured template is essential for a uniform format and it saves time too. Make sure the styles are clean and not corrupt. If you are copying and pasting from other documents, paste text into your response document unformatted. This avoids transferring nasties from one document to another and prevents formatting problems just before submission.
  3. Customer focus. Small tricks like making your customer’s logo larger than yours’ and placing it first on the front page all adds to visual customer focus. Think how you might incorporate your customer’s branding colours into diagrams and consider the emotions evoked by the colours you use.
  4. Use white space. White space on a page allows evaluators time to absorb information. It also acts as an opportunity to draw attention to graphics.
  5. Left justify text. Evenly spaced words are easier to read and an uneven right margin assists the reader in picking up where they left off when they break from reading.
  6. Use descriptive figure headings. Take advantage of figure headings to articulate benefits and add value e.g.

    Figure 1: Our self-service tool will streamline X's global HR function and automate the induction process for new recruits. Self-service improves corporate communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing and transfer.

  7. Don’t forget page numbering. Imagine the key decision maker settling down to read your winning proposal when someone brushes past their desk knocking the whole response on the floor. There are pages everywhere and no page numbers – this is not going to end well. It may seem obvious, but it can be easily missed.

Would you like us to format your PQQ or ITT response? Call us today on 01525 402966.

Responding to tenders – what’s the urgency?

An ITT has landed and the response deadline is six weeks away. There’s a flurry of relief. Six weeks is more than enough time to prepare the response and possibly squeeze in that long weekend by the beach – making a start next week won’t do any harm. Wrong.

Underestimating the time required to prepare a winning response is easy to do, especially when we should consider adding on 50% of the estimated production time as contingency.

Investing in good bid preparation pays dividends in the long run. Here are our top tips on preparing to win:

  1. Bid / no bid decision. Chasing the wrong tenders wastes valuable time and resource, and changing the decision at a later date is no better. Therefore, weighing up risk vs reward is a crucial part of the bid process and one that needs to be executed with certainty. Many factors influence the decision to bid, such as:
    • Are you positioned to win?
    • Is this a benchmarking exercise?
    • Do you have a relationship with the decision makers?
    • Who is the incumbent – are they in a favourable position?
    • What risks are involved?
    • Why would you lose?

    Once you have answered these critical questions, you can arrive at a bid decision promptly.

  2. Engage core resources early and ensure regular communication. Being parachuted into a bid halfway through causes frustration and dents morale. Engaging subject matter experts early allows time to combat availability issues and regular communication means everyone is receiving the same message at the same time.
  3. Response strategy. A winning response is one that has consistent, aligned messages supporting its solution. Decide win themes and be concise throughout. Contradictions will cause customers to doubt what you say.
  4. Kick-off meeting. A bid team with no direction will wander off the winning road, so when it comes to planning, a kick-off meeting including all stakeholders is key. Topics covered at the kick-off include:
    • Submission date
    • Bid milestones
    • Bid team roles and responsibilities
    • The customer’s vision
    • The customer’s challenges
    • The customer’s hot buttons
    • Who are your competitors?
    • Proposed solution
  5. Storyboard. Writing high-quality responses is made easier if the approach to each section has been pre-defined. Storyboard each section by writing down discriminators, risks, relevant experience and key messages.
  6. Mock-up is the stage between storyboard and draft and aims to sketch out the skeleton of your response. It should be done quickly while the storyboard is fresh in the mind. Aim to set out headings and sub-headings using the customer’s language. This makes the evaluators job easier. Once you have the layout, go back and insert the detail from your storyboard.
  7. Now it’s time to draft – it’s much easier to build a draft response around the storyboard detail. Drafting is all about getting thoughts down on paper. Quality doesn’t matter at this stage – it’s about content. Improvement comes later and you can’t improve on a blank page.

Do you need support planning your tender response? Call us on 01525 402966 to discuss your requirements.

Top tips for writing a winning executive summary

The term 'executive summary' implies that you must take on the enormous task of summarising your entire tender response in just one page. That’s enough to put anyone off. In fact, it is not a summary at all, but your opportunity to demonstrate clearly that you understand your customer’s issues and explain how you are going to solve them.

A well-written, customer-focussed executive summary could make or break your chances of winning that all important deal. Often it is the only part of your response the key decisions makers will read. So why, when it is so important, do many people put it at the bottom of the to do list?

It’s easy to get weighed down and distracted by the tasks required to meet bid milestones and reach submission with some degree of sanity, but dedicating time and giving thought to the executive summary in the beginning could be the best thing you do to increase your chances of winning.

Here are our top tips for writing a winning executive summary:

  1. Start writing early. Drafting the executive summary early sets the tone of the response. It gives those involved in the bid a clear understanding of your customer’s needs, your solution and what value your solution will add. It also allows time to re-draft, review and perfect key messages.
  2. Prioritise customer focus. Simple things like naming your customer more than your company and naming them first in a sentence, makes all the difference to enhancing customer focus. More importantly, demonstrate you understand your customer’s issues and clearly state your solution.
  3. Echo your strategy in the executive summary. Think about how you will emphasise your company’s strengths and mitigate weaknesses. What will your competitors be saying? How can you highlight their weaknesses?
  4. Back-up all claims in your response by providing proof. Use case studies and testimonials to evidence your success stories and reference the most compelling ones in the executive summary.
  5. Make it visually appealing. The executive summary is your opportunity to get creative. Use call-out boxes to highlight key messages. If your response is particularly large, create a standalone document or, if you have the budget, invest in a brochure design.

Do you need support creating an executive summary? Call us today for a chat on 01525 402966.

How to answer Social Value questions in Public Sector Tenders

Social value questions are common-place in public sector responses, but what does social value actually mean?

As part of any procurement process the government must consider how it might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the local area. Public Sector tenders often ask suppliers to explain how they will contribute to social value through the contract they are proposing to deliver.

How you answer social value questions depends very much on the service you provide, local area initiatives and the Authority’s social value objectives and requirements. However, here are few examples of how suppliers can demonstrate their commitment to delivering social value:

Economic

  • Provide x number of days of work experience for local students
  • Support young people in finding work by providing advice and careers guidance to x number of college students

Social

  • Provide facilities for local voluntary organisations to use for x number of days per year
  • Work with voluntary organisations to create x number of new volunteering opportunities

Environmental

  • Reduce the amount of waste generated by x% compared to the previous contract
  • Reduce carbon emissions by x% per year

Top tips for answering social value questions

  • 1. Read the question thoroughly and any associated tender guidelines.

    Ensure you understand each element of the question and read the Authority’s social value objectives, along with any guidelines in the tender documentation.

  • 2. Structure the response logically

    If the question has been broken down into set social value themes, structure your response in the same way using reflective headings – this approach will make it easier for evaluators to assess your answer.

  • 3. Offer tangible ways you will add social value

    Simply taking excerpts from company policies and stating organisational objectives will not do. Be specific about what social value benefits you are offering, make sure they are quantifiable and commit to them.

Do you need help responding to a tender? Contact us on 01525 402966 to discuss your requirements.