Confessions of a tender writer

People often end up as their employer’s tender writer, even if it’s not what they signed up for. The problem is, most people who are asked to join the ranks of tender writers would prefer not to. It’s time consuming, challenging to get all the right content together, and if you work for a large organisation, there’s usually lots of politics at play.

I’ve been a tender writer for more than 15 years now. During this time, I’ve worked on more than 450 tenders, and written about 400 of these for professional services firms – lawyers, accountants, business consultants – and for services businesses. I’ve also reviewed countless tenders written by large multinationals, local large corporates and lots of SMEs.

I often reassure smaller businesses who are concerned about their tendering skills that even their much larger competitors struggle at times. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the larger the organisation, the bumpier the tender process. The more people involved, the harder it is to get clarity about the response strategy, a decision about content and final sign off.

I’ve come across:

Professional services firms where everyone wants a say, but no one wants to take the lead. The result? Lots of stress for everyone and a dog’s dinner response which is only finalised at around 4am the morning the tender is due in.

The law firm where three different partners each rang me separately one morning to ask for help with the same tender. The partners all had offices next door to each other.

The professional services firm where the partner leading the tender failed to make time to discuss a response strategy but pored over every word of the draft tender with his red pen.

The global consultancy that believed it should be chosen as the auditor by a massive global business because its accountants are ‘nice people’.

The services firm that wanted to show it was ahead of the technology game by submitting its tender on CD. This was in 2012.

Endless tenders where there is no mention of the prospective client’s name so readers have no idea which companies the tenders are to.

The global professional services firm which cobbled together an important tender by using content from tenders from other countries. The outcome? A document with numerous ‘voices’ and styles, no consistency or key messages.

Tenders with content directly copied from competitors’ tenders which have mysteriously found their way into their hands.

Fortunately, I see well-written tenders and proposals from global and local businesses alike. These are professionally presented, focus on the client and are written in a clear, succinct, benefit-focused way. And they answer the RFT or RFP questions.

I’ve come across:

Great examples of diagrams and charts that make key information visually appealing, backed up by a clear written description.

Executive summaries that are all about the prospect and what they are going to gain if they select the tenderer.

Team photographs that personalise tenders and show prospects who they’ll be working with.

Personalised thank you messages to the individuals at the prospect who met with the tenderer to discuss the tender opportunity.

Tenders that portray the personality of the tenderer with warmth and assurance and no loss of professionalism.

It’s not easy to be your company’s tender writer, especially if you didn’t sign up for the role. If you would like some help, contact Rosemary Gillespie at Proof Communications on 0411 123 216 or 02 8036 5532, or email

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