This guide to responding to tender questions also relates to PQQs, RFPs etc. If you follow these simple steps, you will improve the quality of your tender responses and your chances of winning the bid.
Guide to Responding to Tender Questions
These basic actions explain tender writing best practice and how to avoid making common tendering errors.
Answer All the Questions
Simply put – don’t leave any gaps. If you do, you cannot get marked and that means zero points / no score.
Answer the Question
Don’t fudge an answer – if you are not sure then ask.
Also check that you have really answered what is being asked – not what you think is being asked.
Tell the Truth!
It’s often tempting to give the answer that is expected e.g. “Is your company ISO 9001 accredited?” Too many companies have responded: “The company is in the process of getting 9001 accreditation”. Buyers know this normally translates to “No, and no intention of getting it unless you really push me”.
Therefore give a positive response by adding when it is due to be completed (if you really are in the process) or state that you do not have 9001 but do have quality processes in place / would be willing to get it. Or just say no. NB if it is a mandatory requirement, then you may just have to pull out.
Provide All the Information Requested
Double check that everything is included. Buyers cannot give good marks to no response or missing information. A typical issue here is not enclosing correct company accounts, insurance documents or policies etc. Or not completing the pricing schedule correctly.
Keep to the Point
Make sure that you are really answering the question and be concise. Copying and pasting a similar question without prudent editing can often lead to meandering and inaccurate answers… again risking low scores.
Many tenders now restrict the amount of content that you can provide. This guide shows you how to deal with page or word limits when responding to tender questions.
Use the Evaluation Criteria
Most public sector tenders (and many corporate tenders) will provide you with an evaluation criteria – how they are going to score your response e.g.
- 30% price
- 60% method statements
- 10% presentation / site visits
This will often be broken down into more detail. Use this to see where you should be concentrating your efforts. In the example above, you can see that method statements are more important than just being the cheapest.
You don’t always receive this with a tender. If not, ask for it!
Very few organisations want to stand still, they want to do better; this is why showing how you can bring new ideas to a contract is important. In this fast-moving world, things are always changing so innovation also demonstrates that you are flexible and capable of providing more than a ‘me too’ solution.
Customers are always looking to get a better deal so adding value is always going to be an important part of your bid. This means offering more ‘value for money’ NOT being cheaper eg you may be able to add a service to your bid that costs you little or nothing but saves your customer money. This will interest them!
Innovation and added value also help you stand out from the crowd. If they receive five bids that are all very similar but you have shown new ideas, improvements and added value then you are increasing your chances of success.
For public sector tenders, you now often need to demonstrate social value too. This concerns economic, social and environmental well-being of the “relevant area”.
You need to be careful with alternative bids. Make sure that:
- You do submit a compliant bid first
- Your alternative bid shows benefit to the customer – not just convenience for you
A client had a great example of this: the tender specification of a component had a lifespan of 10 years but our client showed that for 20% extra cost, a better-quality component would last 20 years. That’s a saving worth having! (They won the contract.)
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
- Who you are tendering to – the organisation and its style of working?
- What exactly are you tendering for – specific aims and requirements (not generic)
- Who is involved in making the decision?
- The individuals and what they want or are looking for e.g. HR will have a focus on people whereas H&S will first look at safety
- Do they have any pre-conceptions (or miss-conceptions) to overcome?
Once you’ve considered these aspects, show your understanding in your tender response – this will help to engage the individuals on the panel who will then see that your response is all about their needs… this will help increase your score (and therefore increase your chances of winning the tender).
Think about the issues they face e.g. aims, problems, needs etc. Then show your understanding – if you can also show how you will help solve their problems – that is powerful!
What’s in It For Them?
Remember that you are not just looking to provide your service or product for a price – you need to offer a solution that helps them move forward / solve a problem / get better / save money and so on. This means using benefits:
Tell them what is in it for them by showing the benefits of choosing you. In sales training you learn the difference between features and benefits:
Features are what it is e.g. a dedicated contract manager
Benefits say what is does e.g. you will have someone managing your contract on a daily basis who will be on-site / on-call to personally resolve any issues immediately. This will not only save you management time but also ensure that a high quality of service is always delivered.
An easy way of finding the benefit is to say “which means that…”
If you can say “so what” then you haven’t got a benefit.
The old adage in advertising and in selling is that “benefits sell”. This is so true and is a key ingredient of a winning tender. Remember that tendering is still selling – just very a very formal way of selling!
This guide goes into more detail on answering tender questions to score high marks.
And this guide explains how be positive when answering tender questions.
Make It Easy for The Reader
Remember that several people will be evaluating your tender or PQQ response. So, make it easy for them to read, find appendices etc. This will make it easier for them to give you good marks!
Make it easy to navigate
- Index page at the beginning
- Use page numbers
- Show company name & contact details towards the front – so they can contact you easily!
- If possible, use the headers & footers to contain useful information eg section name, content, company name etc
- Cross-reference where appropriate and explain so they easily can find the cross-referencing
Make it easy to read
- Take care with the layout, style and copy
- Bullets help emphasise points and make them easy to absorb
- Use images – a picture paints a thousand words
- Charts are often a better way of showing information when compared to long tracts of words eg flow charts showing a process
Complete any pricing schedule, clarify any confusing issues and explain assumptions. If you are unsure how to cost your bid, see this guide to tender pricing.
Your tender response is your shop window so make it look smart, be clear, concise and better than the competition!
But Don’t Be Too Modest
Do let them know how good you are! So, use evidence:
- Case studies
See Write Good Tender Submissions – Use Evidence for more on this last point.
If you need help responding to tender questions, contact us to get professional with winning tender bids.
Hopefully, you can see that all of the above measures are pretty simple and easy to implement. Follow them and you will improve your tender responses. And win more bids!
As always, any thoughts or comments on responding to tender questions are always appreciated.