This guide on how to answer tender questions will help you to create better tender responses. Previous posts have been combined with some new information to provide a comprehensive resource on answering tender questions.
To win a tender (or get through a PQQ) you need to score high marks. Answer tender questions well and submit a competitive price then you should score highly. And hopefully win the bid!
Answer Tender Questions Effectively
Part 1 explains how to approach each response so that it is correct, complete and succinct. So often I see answers where waffle or irrelevant information is used in place of a crisp precise answer. Sometimes this is due to copy and pasting of a past response which is similar (but not identical) to the current question. It is important that you focus your response on the question in hand.
Part 2 looks at using the evaluation criteria. It also looks at the need to show added value, innovation, how you stand out from the competition and using alternative bids (if appropriate). For public sector tenders, you often need to demonstrate social value too. These all help elevate your score from medium to high.
Part 3 considers the more subtle aspects of understanding needs and empathy. You need to clearly explain the benefits i.e. what’s in it for them. This is what sells!
Writing Answers to Tender Questions – Use the Right Language
If you follow the approach above, you should get higher scores when you answer tender questions. The next important element is the language you use. Nowadays most people write in the first person eg:
- We have ISO 9001
- Our staff are all fully trained
Firstly these statements need a benefit added to make the information worthwhile:
- We have ISO 9001 which means that all work will be carried out to the highest quality
- Our staff are all fully trained and so able to deal with all requirements
However, it reads from the perspective of the writer not the reader. It’s all ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’. It should be written for the reader. Over the years extensive research has been undertaken on what engages people. It’s talking about them that works best. A simple technique is to replace ‘our’ with your company name. You can also use the second person to talk to them as ‘you’:
- XYZ has ISO 9001 – you can rest assured that all work will be carried out to the highest quality
- All XYZ staff are all fully trained and so able to deal with all of your requirements
Or the third person to replace ‘you’ with their name:
- XYZ has ISO 9001 – ABC Council can rest assured that all work will be carried out to the highest quality
- XYZ staff are all fully trained and so able to deal with all of ABC Council’s requirements
For formal high-value tenders (e.g. public sector or corporate) I prefer the third person. This is because you are writing to a larger audience (the Procurement Team) and how the bid will support the corporation. However, using ‘you’ (second person) is very powerful – especially when writing to a small audience with individuals seeing how the bid will help them. It also helps saves word or characters when space is limited / restricted. You can mix them too. Whilst not grammatically correct a tender isn’t an English exam – it’s selling your product / service.
Either way, you move from writing about yourselves to writing about them. Add benefits and it all becomes very engaging / compelling… and scores higher marks. I often give the example of bumping into an acquaintance and all they do is talk about themselves. It soon gets dull. But if they ask about you or talk about you, you then feel engaged. It’s just the same for the reader of a tender.
Using your company name repeatedly can be as boring as using ‘our’; especially if you start each sentence with it. But you do not need to continually show ownership:
- ISO 9001 ensures quality so ABC Council can rest assured that all work will be carried out to the highest standards
- All staff are all fully trained and so able to deal with all of ABC Council’s requirements
NB if the tender requires that you write anonymously then do not use your company name.
Conclusion – Focused Tender Responses Get Results
I often feel a bit sorry for the people marking tenders. Many public sector opportunities have multiple lots and so the procurement team could be reading dozens of bids. It’ll be much more at the PQQ short-listing stage. Many responses must be dreadfully dull or hard to read. So it’s our job to make our bid stand out from the crowd. The readers will be more interested and engaged and so take more time to read our tender response. Hopefully seeing the answers they are looking for and so give us better marks.
If you answer tender questions by following the tips above, you should succeed in elevating your bid above the competition. Your tender answers should be:
- Correct, complete and succinct
- Written in terms of ‘them’
- Benefit driven
- Supported by evidence
- Differentiated from the competition
Good luck with writing your next tender answers!
Feel free to leave your comments or tips on answering tender questions.