How to Answer Tender Questions to Score High Marks

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!

How to Answer Tender Questions and Score High Marks

Answer Tender Questions Effectively

Once you have qualified the tender and made a plan, you can start writing. NB make sure you avoid the most common tendering mistakes.

An earlier post explained best practice for Answering Tender Questions:

It 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. You must focus your response on the question in hand.

It then 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.

It 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!

And concludes with advice on exhibiting a professional image with an easy to read (easy to mark!) tender response. Then use supporting evidence to prove that you really can deliver what you say.

Talk in Terms of Them and Explain Benefits

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

Choose Your Style

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

It’s not necessarily wrong to use ‘we’, ‘our’ etc. Some businesses want to reflect a softer / gentle image. But do try and reduce their use.

Some tenders require you write anonymously and not use your company name. In these circumstances, you have use ‘we’, ‘our’ etc.

Answer The Question – What They Have Asked, in that Order

Most tender questions are multi-faceted. For example:

“Explain your approach to recruitment, selection, vetting, training and development”

It’s a common fault when writing the answer to simply start writing about the subject without first drilling down to what exactly has been asked. This can lead to an unstructured response that might even miss something. I recommend highlighting each element:

“Explain your approach to recruitment, selection, vetting, training and development

You see this gives you 4 distinct areas to cover:

  1. Recruitment – what type of people you look for and how you attract them / advertise
  2. Selection – experience, qualifications, interviews etc.
  3. Vetting – references, DPS etc.
  4. Training – induction, ongoing and specific training
  5. Development – CPD, helping staff progress etc.

Make these 4 subjects headings. This ensures that you will:

  • Answer every topic they have asked, it’s so easy to miss something and this acts as a checklist
  • Respond in the order they have asked, making it easier for them to mark, resulting in a better score

This approach is even more important when the questions are lists eg:

Explain your approach to:

  • Recruitment
  • Selection
  • Vetting
  • Training
  • Development

So often I see answers to these types of questions written without structure or headings. Just paragraphs covering the topics randomly. This invariably results in areas being missed. It also makes it harder for the evaluators to find the answers. This means a lower score!

If you want help with creating great tender answers, contact us for tender writing services.

Summary – 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. 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, succinct and in the right order
  • 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.

4 thoughts on “How to Answer Tender Questions to Score High Marks”

  1. Tony, I liked this post because you clearly demonstrated how to do things differently. Very often with blogs, the problem is highlighted – i.e. don’t write in the first person, but there are no examples to illustrate. I liked how you explanation covered how to move from the 1st person to 2nd and then the 3rd person. I also agree with adding a benefit statement as opposed to just we have ISO: 9001 – which says very little. I would also add that tender answers should be grammatically correct. A correct, complete and succinct answer is far less convincing if it is written incorrectly. Even to this day, we are still judged by how we write. As you have said before, if you are not sure, get someone to read over the document before submission.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Morton. Good points! Although I said it’s not an English exam, you are so right in that it must look like a professional response from a credible supplier.

  3. This is helpful, we have express interest in several energy project and would be involved in public sector energy and infrastructure tenders pretty soon.

    We want to find out your terms and if we can enter into some frame work agreement to look after our tenders for us.

    Is it sometime you would like to do?

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