Part 2. Tender Loving Process

We are all pictures at a #saatchi exhibition.

More than anything, tendering is a process. You see the opportunity, assess your chances, and then you have to come up with a seductive pitch that can take you from that first date, right through to the altar and a certificate of marriage. And the grand seduction must be undertaken alongside the day job. No small challenge!

Happily there are some good guides around, and none more so than the clear and insightful Successful Tendering Guide: The Tender Process produced by Invest Northern Ireland. This forms the basis of this quick overview of key stages.

The dating game!

OK, the opportunity has been identified. Now you need to start preparations.

  • Download and store tender information
  • Inform core bid team and circulate documents
  • Read and assess opportunity

 To court or not to court?

This is the big question: Putting together a successful bid is a time-consuming and ultimately expensive. Make sure that it is right for you by reviewing these key factors.

  • Mandatory requirements
  • Relevant experience
  • Competition
  • Right size for us
  • Profit potential
  • Resources to respond professionally

Planning the seduction

So you have decided that it is worth pitching so now you need to put together a team.

  • Manager
  • Technical experts
  • Writers
  • Contributors
  • Administrators
  • Proof reader
  • Fault finder

Hold a kick-off meeting

  • Distribute documents in advance
  • Brainstorm the solution
  • Identify required resources
  • Allocate roles and responsibilities
  • Agree a proposal schedule
  • Outputs
    • Document strategy points to include
    • Identify questions to feedback to Buyer
    • Update ‘Why us’ details
  • Develop the plan
    • Summary of submissions terms
    • Finalise bid team and timetable
    • Mandatory requirements list
    • Evaluation criteria
    • Winning strategies

Sweet words

Aim for a simple and professional document which delivers only what the buyer asks for in a consistent writing style, professionally formatted and presented. Make sure that you follow the exact structure and requirements outlined in the Tender. Build in review cycle and sign-off to the production process.

This is the typical format of a tender document.

  • Executive summary
  • Contents
  • Introduction – format and purpose of tender document + contact details
  • Understanding requirements
  • Approach / solution
  • Pricing

Other information

  • Company introduction
  • Case studies and references
  • Staff CVs
  • Added value
  • Alternative offers
  • Examples
  • Standards and policies

Making your move

Today it is quite likely that your bid will be made electronically but in most cases the buyer will also want hard copies.

Hard copies

  • Safely stored and backed up files
  • Printers are working and sufficient stock of paper and ink
  • Delivery instructions including numbers of copies
  • Reliable delivery service

Soft copies

  • Make sure you know how to use system
  • Check any word and file size limitations
  • As larger documents take longer to load, start with them
  • Save, save and save again
  • Tender portals tend to time out after 15 minutes so hit save as soon as completed
  • Check that everything has uploaded successfully
  • Save a copy of your submission

The morning after

  • Tender evaluation
  • Internal debrief before award

 Meeting the parents

  • Leader
    • Develop structure
    • Co-ordinate content
    • Individual contributions
    • Organise rehearsals
    • Manage logistics
    • Introduce the team
    • Identify one person to play Buyer during rehearsals
  • Considerations
    • Precise as per executive summary
    • Do not cut and paste from document – use bullets
    • Expand on ideas but don’t add new ones
    • Allow time for questions
    • Presentation should be by the delivery team
    • Prepare a good final statement
    • Provide printed copy as takeaway

More information on Tenders

In Part 1. Tender Tips for a Smooth Bid we take stock of the challenges involved in creating a successful tender.

In Part 3. Tender Tips in Practice the focus is on the lessons learnt while working on a major tender with the team at leading food and beverage PR agency, William Murray, plus some links to other useful resources.

Part 3. Tender Tips in Practice

Meeting with remarkable spacemen at Saatchi's

In Part 3. Tender Tips in Practice the focus is on the lessons learnt while working on a major tender with the team at leading food and beverage PR agency, William Murray, plus some links to other useful resources.

Style guide: every organization needs a Style Guide so that it written work conveys a consistently professional image to the outside world. Before soliciting content for your Tender document decide how you want it written. Read The Economist Style Guide for guidance.

Forms of address: use capital letters for Names, Titles, Teams and Headlines; use upper and lower case for subheads and after colons; single inverted commas for quotes and ‘special words’ and double inverted commas for speech, “I say I say”. And no full stop on short bullets

Mind your language: eliminate ‘that’ where possible and don’t use ‘&’; cut out superfluous words like ‘therefore’ and ‘in order to’ ; and use simple words like ‘use’ instead of ‘utilise’ and ‘with’ instead of ‘in conjunction with’

Designs on you: the design and print process needs to be fully understood. Have a schedule and process and share with stakeholders. Team leaders should ensure regular update meetings and that everyone sticks to the timetable to avoid extra expense in terms of time and money.

Make it easy: try and standardize on a format – all copy in Microsoft Word and images JPEG – and avoid adding other formats such as Excel which is not design friendly. If possible use portrait format as opposed to landscape. And avoid double-sided pages – they may not be so easy to read and create difficulties if pages need to change

100% Proof: make sure that you do all your editing and changing before supplying copy to the designer. For proofing, collate all changes and mark-up complete document. Ideally you should Adobe X  Pro which enables you to mark up corrections on PDFs

Beware numbers: if you need to refer to another part of the document or a schematic / appendices, DON’T use page numbers but simply give the name of the section. For example ‘See 5.1 Logistics’.  This way you avoid problems with page numbers changing when new copy or pictures are added.

Box pretty: check early on that your email system does not have a limit on the size of files that it will accept or that it is putting team emails into a hidden junk folder. If there are problems consider using an online service like

File disciplines: agree a standard format for naming and filing documents with time and date, which allows you to keep track of the latest version. For example if you are writing the 1.0 Executive Summary for BuyerCo tender you might call it: Buyerco.1.0 Exec Summary 1350 20Oct.

Follow the leader: ensure Bid Team Leader has absolute authority and the full support of the management team. Stakeholders within the organization need to be fully briefed on the nature of the tender, timelines, stage gates, and their responsibilities in supporting the bid.

Useful links

Successful Tendering Guide: The Tender Process produced by Invest Northern Ireland. 

10 Top Tender Mistakes and How to Avoid Them 

Ten Lovely Tips for Producing Great Tenders


Adobe Acrobat X Pro

Read on

In Part 1. Tender Tips for a Smooth Bid we take stock of the challenges involved in creating a successful tender.

In Part 2. Tender Loving Process there is an overview of the theory and process based on Successful Tendering Guide: The Tender Process produced by Invest Northern Ireland.


Part 1. Tender Tips for a Smooth Bid

Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go!

Anyone who has put a tender together will tell you the opposite is true … except for ‘never let me go’. Marshaling a good team, gathering the right information, and packaging it into a compelling proposition in a timely manner is very challenging. But it need not be a complete nightmare. These tips will get you closer to the place where ‘happiness will follow you, everywhere you go’.

In Part 2. Tender Loving Process there is an overview of the theory and process based on Successful Tendering Guide: The Tender Process produced by Invest Northern Ireland.

In Part 3. Tender Tips in Practice the focus is on the lessons learnt while working on a major tender with William Murray, the UK’s leading food, drink and hospitality PR agency. It includes links to other useful resources.

Many tender documents suffer from obesity as a result of easy access to cut, paste and scan. So in addition to your work meeting the technical requirements of the tender, consider the creation of a trim executive summary that captures all of the salient points and delivers them in a seductive manner.

These tips should help you put together a smooth bid but there is no guarantee that ‘all your dreams are fulfilled. And if there are moments when the path of true love is rocky, take a few minutes to be inspired by Elvis. He managed to say all that mattered in well under 3 minutes.

10 Lovely Tips for Producing Great Tenders

Preparing a tender is  a tough job and if you are not careful they can get out of control.  I wrote down these tips after a  traumatic experience; a few simple things  to set yourself up for success instead of heartbreak.

1. Focus on Requirements

It’s worth investing the time in really getting to grips with this. Have a clear idea of what is required and if in doubt go back for clarification. Then measure everything you do against this. Remember those school essays and ‘answer the question’!

2. Brainstorm the Answers

Bring an open and empty mind to the opportunity. Avoid reaching for stock answers and solutions and instead see what fresh thinking the team can come up with. Engage with the challenge and enjoy (and record) the process!

3 Storyboard the Response

Once you have your answers, work together to storyboard your response. Create a document with a natural flow; one that sets up the challenge and then shows how to engage with it and bring things to a successful resolution.

4 Planning the Document

Set a word count for each section and then allocate writing responsibilities.  The rule for contributors is that you deliver on time, the exact number of words (or less) for your section. Be strict or you may receive a ‘cut and paste’ approximation that takes you ages to pull into shape.

5 Setting the Format

Make sure that everyone is using the same word-processing package. For example, different versions of Microsoft Word are incompatible and lead to formatting problems. Consider providing a pre-formatted document (fonts, typefaces etc) for contributors to work with.

6 Standardise on Formulas

To make your document easy to produce and understand, standardise the way you present information. For example:  Tactics (What it is, How it works, Benefits); Profiles (Skills, Successes, Qualifications); Case Studies (Challenge, Solution, Benefits).

7 When in Doubt

Cut it out! If parts of the document seem dull and don’t do the job delete them.  Make it easy and interesting to read. And avoid squeezing information in at the expense of good spacing. A bullet’ed list condensed into a paragraph is a brick wall to the reader.

8 Read it Out Loud

When all is done, get the team back together and have everyone read out their section. Does it have pace, and does it engage? Use this opportunity to further refine and polish the document so that it has vitality and momentum to it.

9 Executive Summary

Now translate this ‘film script’ into an elevator pitch. Your Executive Summary should inspire and delight the prospect. It should give a clear idea of what you are proposing and the benefits of you solution, while leaving the readers hungry to tuck into the document and find out more.

10 Dotting and Crossing It

Now make sure that spelling and grammar is good, sections are properly headlined and numbered; and the index and page numbers are correct. Hard copie,s and soft copies on a disk, will need to be produced and the courier booked to deliver the document to client in good time.


So that’s my top ten tips! Did I miss something? What else should we be watching out for? I love to hear your tender tips!