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How to write a bid response


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How to write a bid response

  1. 1. How to be Successful and Write a Winning TenderThis factsheet covers the issues you need to consider in order to write asuccessful tender. What is the purpose of a tender? The purpose of writing and submitting a tender (or bid) is two fold: 1. To tell the commissioner how you will meet their requirements and offer them value for money 2. To get them to pick your organisation to do the work. A tender has to communicate the total offer you are making to the commissioner on paper. It should be an accurate representation of your organisation which you can be legally held to if you are successful in winning the contract. A tender should clarify what you will do and how much for. In other words, what a commissioner will get in terms of value from you. Commissioners want suppliers who are good to work with and who deliver. The tender proposal is your opportunity to give them the information they need to make the decision to work with you! Why does it matter? Contracts are won, and lost, on the quality of the bids submitted. Although it is just one step in a competitive bidding process, your proposal is critical. It is your main, and sometimes only, opportunity to: • Introduce your business • Explain your approach and solutions to the commissioner’s needs • Stand out from the competition. Being able to write a good tender proposal is essential, and though there is no one right way to prepare and write a tender, there are many wrong ones. Silent Salesperson A tender is sometimes referred to as a ‘Silent Salesperson’. This is because a tender is selling your business to a potential commissioner. This is an important point about tendering that many people, especially those who do not consider themselves to be ‘sales people’, do not always realise. Your tender will either sell, or fail to sell, your solutions and proposals. In order to sell successfully, it is helpful to: • Know who your competition is; their strong and weak points • Know what the unique selling points of your organisation are and what sets you apart from the competition. A joint initiative to strengthen support services for the third sectorThe ACEVO Commissioning Support Service
  2. 2. Understanding the requirementsA good tender will demonstrate an understanding of what is required and will propose solutions to meet thoserequirements. To maximize your chances of success, you must make sure that you understand what is being asked for andwhy, so that you can respond appropriately.The commissioner’s requirements will be set out in a ‘Specification’ (sometimes called a ‘Brief ’), which you must read,along with any additional information that may be sent to you before you submit your response.As well as the specification, the evaluation criteria – the way in which bids will be scored – is a vital piece of informationthat can help you to understand how to meet the commissioner’s requirements. The evaluation criteria will tell you theareas that are most important to commissioners, and how overall ‘value for money’ will be assessed. In other words, it willtell you the balance between quality and cost.Commissioners may also hold ‘Industry Days’ or ‘Clarification meetings’, where potential bidders will have an opportunityto meet commissioners (and each other), to discuss the tender documentation and the contract that is being tendered.This usually happens at the early stages of the process - a few weeks after the contract has been advertised. These areimportant opportunities to seek clarification on what is required, and to gauge the competition.What is expected?When you submit your bid, commissioners will expect that certain minimum standards will be met. Commissioners readhundreds of tenders a year, so making sure that you comply with these minimum standards are critical. If you fail to do anyof the following in your tender, you may risk it not even being read or properly considered: • You understand and respond to all of the requirements • You can offer value for money • You explain how you will carry out the work and help the commissioner to achieve their objectives • You have a positive and professional approach • You follow the instructions, including meeting the deadlines for submission • Your bid is well written and easy to readWhy tenders often failTenders often fail for reasons that are avoidable. The reasons they don’t get through are: • Simple administration failures such as not signing the tender or getting it in on time to the right place and person • Additional or supporting information is not provided, or bits are missed out entirely • The tender does not answer the questions, or meet the requirements • The tender is unclear and inconsistent • The tender is not competitiveBeing competitive means being able to stand out amongst your competition and putting forward the best offer that givesthe commissioner good value for money and meets all the requirements. This means being able to compete in terms ofprice and quality of your proposals. The ACEVO Commissioning Support Service
  3. 3. Preparation and Planning Before you put pen to paper, familiarise yourself with the tender documentation, and make sure that: • You want to bid for this contract (you can deliver it, it is not too risky or costly) • You can meet the deadlines for submission of information • You have the resources you need – including staff –to be able to write the tender Only the best tenders win, and it is important to recognise that putting together a winning tender will take dedicated time and resources. To help you get an idea of how much time and what resources will be needed, it is good practice to draw up a work plan before you begin to prepare your tender. This will detail: • How long you have to submit the information; • What information is being asked for and how long it will take to gather this; • How long you will need to draft, edit and check your tender response; • Who else in your team you might need to help you pull the tender together • When you might need to available for clarification or interviews. What makes a quality bid? A range of factors determine whether your bid will stand a good chance of winning you a tender. These can be summarised as: 1. Quality of writing 2. A thorough response to the requirements 3. Good presentation Quality of writing Writing skills are absolutely critical in tender writing; contracts are often lost on the basis of poor writing that is unclear, illogical and fails to get across the key messages of the offer being made. Both the structure and writing style of your bid are important to get right. Structure The structure and order of your bid should be logical, coherent and should follow the order of the specification or invitation to tender documents which you have been sent. Use the structure of your bid to get your proposals across clearly; link points and sections together and try not to jump about between sections and pieces of information, as commissioners will have to work a lot harder to understand your proposals. In very poorly laid out bids important bits of information can be missed by commissioners, meaning you run the risk of losing marks. Tenders can be effectively ‘broken up’ into sections and points with the use of diagrams, pictures and charts. However, be wary of over using these; images can be very useful in helping to get a point across but too many that appear to ‘litter’ a bid may put commissioners off and not provide enough detail. Try to include an Executive Summary – this should be written last – which summarises the offer you are making and the key messages you want commissioners to take on board when reading your tender. Ideally, an Executive Summary should be no longer than one side of paper and commissioners should be able to refer to it to recall details of who you are and what you are proposing to do. Writing style The way you write your tender must be: 1. Clear and concise You must write in a way that is clear and unambiguous and gets to the point.This means: • Do not waffle • Try to avoid weak qualifiers (rather, very, really, quite, somewhat) • Use plain English • Keep sentences short and punchy • Be consistent in your use of terminology and languageThe ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 3
  4. 4. 2. Interesting It is important that your bid gets the commissioner’s attention and they will remember it. You can make your tender interesting to read by: • Good opening sentences that get to the point • Telling the commissioner something they don’t know (as long as it is relevant!) • Proposing interesting and innovative solutions 3. Grammatically correct, with proper use of punctuation and good spelling Do not run the risk of losing a contract because of bad grammar and poor spelling. It looks unprofessional and will make your tender seem hurried and poorly thought through. Poor grammar and spelling can also lead to misunderstandings about what is being said. • Check for spelling mistakes • Check use of apostrophes, commas and so on. • Try to avoid the use of abbreviations and acronyms, in particular: etc., et al, e.g., i.e. 4. Personable and professional It is important to get the tone of your tender right. Ideally, tenders should be personable and give the commissioner a sense of the people behind the bid. However, this does not mean that you should: • Attempt to be funny • Condescend or patronise • Be over familiar or gush with warmth and praise Above all, tenders should be written in a way that is straight forward, professional and positive, and proposes to work with commissioners to meet shared aims and objectives. Remember, your tender is a formal, legal offer and should be written as such. A thorough response to the requirements Along with good writing skills, a basic requirement of a good tender is that it responds to all the requirements and it answers all the questions. Your tender is your opportunity to communicate your total offer to the commissioner and to show the commissioner that you can supply them with exactly what they want. A thorough, comprehensive response Many bids fail to address all the requirements or answer all the questions and as a result are unsuccessful in winning contracts. You must address all of the requirements set out in the specification; if you do not know what to put down do not miss it out and hope for the best. It is better to write something than nothing at all; think ‘how can I answer that question?’, rather than ‘can I answer that question?’ • Address each and every requirement with a concise, comprehensive response • Attach any supporting information as an appendix to your tender rather than in the middle of it, as this can make the tender difficult to read. • Show that you understand the requirements and the context of the commission by submitting information and proposals that demonstrate your knowledge of the area you are working in, your experience and the skills that you would bring to the work • Try to work with the commissioner; you both want to achieve the same things, so tell them what you will to do help them meet their requirements, including how flexible you can be, what added benefits you can bring and how you will offer value for money. • Be honest about what you can and can’t do; you may be held to your proposals in a binding contract and you must be able to meet your commitments • If you unclear about any of the requirements do not be afraid to ask for clarification Evidence and examples Do not leave anything to the commissioner’s imagination, or let the commissioner make assumptions about what you are proposing. It is essential to provide evidence and examples to back up statements and commitments that you make inThe ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 4
  5. 5. your tender. Commissioners can only make a decision about whether a bid meets their requirements or not based on the information in front of them. • Do not make ‘empty’ statements without backing them up • Provide relevant examples that illustrate your point • Do not just repeat the requirements; explain how you will meet them and what you will do Follow the instructions Instructions on how to submit your tender are given for a reason and you must follow them. Commissioners may specify how tenders should be laid out, the points that should be addressed and when and where they should be submitted. If you do not follow the instructions, you can very quickly and easily fall out of favour with commissioners, and may even lose marks. • Read the instructions • Raise any queries you may have early on • If there are any instructions you cannot comply with speak to the commissioner immediately Financial information and costings You will be asked to provide costs against the proposals you put forward in your tender. You will normally be required to complete a ‘Pricing Schedule’ as part of your bid, which will specify what kind of financial information is required. This may be an hourly rate, a rate per end user, product, or journey, depending on what is required. You must make sure that: • You fully cost your services, taking into account overheads and on-costs • You provide enough information for the commissioner to make a decision on whether or not your tender offers value for money • You provide the information that is asked for in the format requested A well presented tender Last, but not least, a well presented tender will nearly always do better than a poorly presented bid. This does not mean that you should sacrifice quality in favour of glossy but unsubstantial material. However, the following recommendations will help you to make the most of your opportunity to win business: • Type, do not hand-write, your tender unless this is completely unavoidable. Even people with nice hand writing lose their way after a while • When typing, use the same typeface all the way through; do not write too small or too large (Arial point 12 is about right) • An index is helpful, with pages clearly numbered and supporting information clearly labelled • Submit your tender in a file or have it professionally bound • Keep sentences and paragraphs to a reasonable length; bullet points are useful to clearly set out information • If you are copying and pasting, be careful that the information is consistent all the way throughThe ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 5
  6. 6. Summary and top tips In order to win a contract it is essential that you produce a good quality tender, which: • Addresses all of the commissioner’s requirements; • Is clear about the value that you are offering and is competitive, and; • Is well written and well presented The table below summarises the main points to remember when you are preparing and writing your tender submission. Above all, remember that bidding takes time and resources. Answer the questions A clear, logical structure Back up statements with Illustrate points with and address the is essential. evidence. relevant examples. requirements. Do not waffle. Present your tender well, Make sure you Read the instructions. clearly referenced and understand what the Twice. labelled. buyer wants. Buyers like original, fresh Plan and prepare Write clearly; do not Make sure you have approaches, but stick to properly. make any assumptions! included all the necessary the point. information. Further reading and guidance The best guidance on how to prepare your tender will be in the tender documents you are sent, under ‘Instructions for Tendering’. These instructions will explain exactly what you must to do submit your tender and what information is required.There will also be a contact name in the tender documents who you can contact if you have any queries. Guidance on how to prepare a tender can be found on the internet, in particular and Guidance on how to write well is in abundance on the web, and guidance on how to cost your services can be found at ACEVO Commissioning Support Helpline Contact us for advice and support on procurement and commissioning issues: E: T: 0207 280 4937 ACEVO Commissioning Support Service 6