Do you make these tender writing mistakes?

Winning tenders  is great for business. But how do you prepare successful tenders? Over the course of Proof Communications’ 20 plus years’ experience of tender writing, we have found that there are always certain errors made by novice or inexperienced tender writers.

To write excellent tender submissions, our expert tender writers review clients’ previous tenders, if available. This helps us to understand the client’s writing style and what they say about their business and product or service.

Also, we often review clients’ draft tenders before the submission deadline. Doing this enables us to identify where the client is going wrong and to put them back on the tender winning path before they submit their tender.

With more than 1,000 tenders behind us, including countless government tenders, we’ve put together this quick cheat sheet to help you avoid making the same tender writing mistakes. Even if you’re not a tender writer, you’ll find these tips useful next time you’re faced with a request for tender.

Tender writing mistake 1:

Not having a compelling value proposition

Before you start writing a tender response, think carefully about your strategy for the response. It’s important to read the Request for Tender (RFT) or the Request for Proposal (RFP) and ask yourself:

  • What is my prospective client looking for?
  • How does my service or product meet those needs?
  • What are the 3-4 key benefits that my service or product will deliver to the prospective client if I win the tender? That is, how will you deliver value?

By putting ‘value’ at the forefront of everything you write, your tenders will be well ahead of your competitors’.

For example, is value for money or pricing a key issue for your prospective client? If so, describe the advantages of your pricing or value for money. This could be your business’ buying power due to its size; it could be your outsourcing of routine tasks with cost savings passed onto clients; or it is your nationwide super-fast service that means clients get what they need very quickly?

Your product or service may be the same for each of your clients, but the needs of your clients are not the same. They may be in different industries or locations, different sizes, and have different briefs. That’s why when writing a tender submission, be absolutely clear that you understand the prospective client’s needs and how you will meet them.

You will find that your value proposition differs for each tender response. This is because each prospective client will be seeking something different, even if only slightly.

The point here is that your tender needs to explain the value that you will bring. By employing a little focus and putting “value” upfront in your tender response, your tender will pack a real punch.

Dr Tom Sant, an international proposal guru, says value matters most when:

  • You’re trying to knock out an accepted incumbent
  • You’re changing a process that will make your client’s life easier, but doing so may mean operational changes or potential loss of jobs
  • You’re proposing a shift of control, such as moving money or resources from one area of your client’s business to another
  • Doing nothing is a viable alternative for your client.

In fact, according to Dr Sant, 40% of businesses that issue Request for Tenders or Proposals choose to remain with the status quo because they can’t see – or haven’t been shown – the real value of change.

The people charged with assessing your submission need to justify their choices up the hierarchy; they have to be confident they’re making the right recommendation – that choosing your product or service will be good for the business, and for their reputation. Naturally, they will be concerned (although they wouldn’t dream of voicing it) that they’re making the wrong decision.

Hence, you need to be the risk free option.

Coupled with this is our status quo bias. We assume that what we already have is better, or at least no worse, than the other options on offer. We work on the principle that “it’s better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.” It’s a bit like our attitude to banks – we grumble about fees and interest rates but believe that no one bank is better than the rest, anyway. And, working on a second principle that “ignorance is bliss”, we don’t want to risk finding out that this may not be the case.

Fundamentally, as Dr Sant explains, clients want to know what their return on investment will be, which may be mostly any or all of the following:

  • A good rate of return
  • Improved financial performance
  • Operational efficiency
  • Reliability for mission-critical systems

It often only takes a few minutes to think about your strategy for the tender response. But it’s time well-invested. You’ll find that being clear about what you are offering from the outset makes your tender easier to write.

Tender writing mistake 2:

Not including an executive summary

Wherever possible, include a 1-2 page executive summary in your tender response. Your executive summary needs to state your understanding of the prospective client’s needs, demonstrating that you ‘feel their pain’.

Executive summaries  sum up how your product or service will meet those needs. These are the key points that you make in your tender response. After all, the executive summaries in tenders are exactly that – a summary of what you understand the prospective client’s needs to be and how you will fulfil them.

Tender writing mistake 3:

Not focusing your tender response on the prospective client

A very common mistake that businesses make when writing tenders is to write only about their business, product or service. Reading these tenders is like going to a party and meeting someone who only talks about themselves.

Businesses forget that a tender response is basically a sales document; it’s a way of communicating the benefits, outcomes or results that your product or service brings to your clients. Therefore, make your tender stand out by focusing on your prospective client.

It’s easy to do: begin as many paragraphs as possible with the prospect’s name, and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to personalise your tender.

Tender writing mistake 4:

Not presenting your business as the risk-free option

The request for tender (RFT) or request for proposal (RFP) will ask about how you run your business, ISO certifications, your methodology, team, customer service, complaints process and so on.

Writing your tender response is your opportunity to address these questions while explaining how you’ll deliver a smooth, stress-free contract from start to finish.

The best tender responses address the prospective client’s need for a risk-free option, especially if they’ve never worked with you before. Use your tender submission to reassure the client that there is no risk for them in selecting your business – you have everything in place as a matter of day-to-day business.

Tender writing mistake 5:

Not giving sufficient evidence for your capabilities

In tender responses businesses often make statements such as ‘we are the leading/biggest/fastest/best value provider of’.

These sorts of statements are very focused on the tenderer, not on the procurement team reviewing the tender submission.

Your business may well be a big player in your industry, but don’t assume that the prospective client has ever heard of you.

While it’s always important to set out the details of your ground-breaking methods, the in-depth experience of your staff, or how cutting edge your equipment is, it’s vital to quantify and strengthen your claims.

It’s important to back up claims for your business’ capabilities with hard evidence. Use short, punchy examples of how your capabilities make a difference to your clients. Evidence can include:

  • Media coverage
  • Client testimonials
  • ISO certifications
  • Survey results
  • Award wins
  • Client list
  • Use images and graphics to highlight price comparisons, before and after statistics, and cost or time reductions.

Showing and not just telling is a really powerful way to get your message across and helps make your tender a more engaging read.

Also powerful are short case studies. Give specific, factual evidence (or even testimonials) to paint a picture of how you have helped a client to save time or money, or how you devised an innovative solution to their problems.

Tender writing mistake 6:

Not checking the tender carefully submitting it

A word-perfect tender won’t win you the contract, but one with typos could cost you. Always proofread your final draft. Check every word, and while you’re at it, make sure you’ve met all the requirements for lodgement and attachments.

If you’ve not attached a document that was requested in the RFT, such as an insurance certificate of currency, you’ll be immediately regarded by the procurement assessment team as non-complying and your tender won’t go any further.

Proof Communications, owner of Tender Writers, has professional proof readers to give your tender a thorough proofread.

Plus, our tender writers regularly undertake reviews of draft tenders to ensure that everything is in order before our clients’ upload their tenders.

Tender writers for successful tenders

Over the past two decades, our tender writers have managed and written many, many hundreds of successful tenders, helping companies to win millions of dollars in new business.

Whether you’re writing a tender for the first time, or this is your hundredth time, partnering with the professional tender writers at Tender Writers can help you increase your opportunity for success. Get in touch or ring us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377 or email

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