If you’ve ever been involved in writing tenders and proposals, you’ll know that they take a lot of effort and drain resources. You’ll therefore almost certainly agree that tender writing and proposal writing is a business activity to avoid.

However, if submitting tenders, bids or proposals is something you have to do to win new business, the Tender Writers’ team has advice for you on the 10 things to avoid when writing a tender.

Mistake number 1: Not answering every question

It might sound obvious – but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t answer all the questions in the tender response schedules! With all tenders, including government tenders, be sure to answer every single question. Don’t insert ‘N/A’ if you think something doesn’t apply to you. Explain why it doesn’t apply. Equally, don’t refer the reader to a previous response. That is, don’t answer question 5 by writing: ‘See response to question 2’. You’ll need to give a whole response to each question, even if the questions seem repetitive. You can copy and paste a previous response but edit it so that it’s not word-for-word.

Mistake number 2: Writing too much waffle

Keep your responses snappy – the procurement person or team will be reading more than one tender or proposal, perhaps hundreds. Yours will stand out if they don’t have to wade through long-winded waffle. Use bullet points and subheadings to break up the content. Use pull out boxes too, for short testimonials or mini case studies.

Mistake number 3: Using passive, not active, voice

Active voice is more succinct and direct than the passive. The voice of a verb tells us whether the subject is doing the action (active) or whether something is being done to it (passive).

Active: We are submitting our tender. Passive: This tender is being submitted by…

Mistake number 4: Thinking that the prospect wants to know all about your business

Another common mistake that businesses make when writing tenders is to write only about their business, product or service. They forget that a tender response is basically a means of sharing the benefits, outcomes or results that their product or service brings. Therefore, make your tender stand out by focusing on the prospect. Begin as many paragraphs as possible with the prospect’s name, and use ‘you’ and ‘your’ to personalise your tender.

Mistake number 5: Not revealing what’s in it for the prospect

All that your prospect really wants to know is what they will get by selecting you – so tell them! Highlight how your skills, knowledge or experience or what you propose will benefit them. To do this, you’ll need a value proposition. Successful tenders all have these important elements.

Mistake number 6: Making wild claims

Avoid making statements such as ‘we are the leading/fastest/best value provider of’. That is, unless you can back them up with proof from the media, happy clients, award wins or good survey results.

Mistake number 7: Not giving evidence for what you can do

It’s vital to give evidence for your claims. Use short, punchy examples of how you make a difference to your clients. Short case studies are great. 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.

Mistake number 8: Forgetting about presentation

Whilst you don’t need to go to the extent of graphic design, make sure your tenders look professional. If yours are well laid out, they’ll be visually appealing and easy to follow. Use headings, sub-headings, photos, diagrams and white space. If you are tendering for a project, include a timetable or a project management plan.

Mistake number 9: Forgetting to jog their memory

If your tender or proposal is to an existing client, remind them how much you have achieved together so far, all the problems you have resolved, or the extra value you’ve given. Describe the benefits of continuing to use your service or product.

Mistake number 10: Overlooking typos

Proofread your final draft. While a word-perfect tender won’t win you points alone, one with typos could cost you. Check every word, and while you’re at it, make sure you’ve met all the requirements for lodgement and attachments. Proof Communications, owner of Tender Writers, has professional proofreaders to give your tender a thorough proofread.

Contact us for help from our professional tender writers, or for a review of your tender or proposal. You can ring us on 02 8036 5532 or 0448 566 377.