The complexity of the bid and the level of service you need (‘full write’, ‘partial write’, ‘check and edit’ etc.) largely determines how many draft versions and on-going discussions I need to have with a client before the bid can be submitted. There will inevitably be a fair amount of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ between me, the client, the client’s team and any other relevant parties, so that the majority of the required information can be gathered together before I start writing; there will also usually be further information required or details that need to be clarified as the writing progresses.
However, in brief, this is generally how it works (based on a ‘full write’ service):
Initial run through
I start to fill in any information about your company that I already have or can easily find (via Companies House, your website, previous bids or other documentation you’ve sent me, etc.)
I make a list of missing information, facts and figures, references, copies of policies, certificates, accounts etc. – all the basic information I need to start creating the draft document. I send this list back to you and, while I’m waiting for your response…
I now start to write the ‘long answers’ – these are the responses to the more detailed questions in the tender. This might include: how your company works; how you measure and monitor performance, quality, etc.; what processes you have in place for health and safety, equal opportunities, training etc.; how you plan to deliver the service and what resources you have (NB: this list is not exhaustive and the actual questions will depend on the individual tender).
At this point, the ‘long answers’ will be in a very rough draft format – I note where I need more specifics from you and ask further questions to build up a really good picture of your business. We can do this over the phone, by email or online – whichever works best for you.
I send you a draft version of the full tender response, including a list of any outstanding supporting information (e.g. policies, certificates etc. requested by the tender) and notes or comments of any further information still needed, clarifications to specifics or other points you should be aware of.
You should read through this draft carefully and let me know any amendments you would like me to make and the answers to any questions or queries I’ve noted, and send through any copies of documents still outstanding.
Once I’ve completed all the remaining answers, I send you a final draft and a .zip file containing all the documents that are due to be submitted, along with a list of the filenames of each document and which question(s) they relate to.
Once you’re happy with the final draft, the bid can be submitted.
E-portal submissions: You can either submit the bid yourself, or I can do it on your behalf – whichever suits you best. If I do it, I will send you a screenshot of the submission confirmation screen so that you can be certain it has been sent. The portal should also send you confirmation by email.
Postal submissions: If you have the resources in your company to print and bind documents, it’s likely to be far less costly than if I do it. Likewise, if the postal address is near to your offices, it may be wise to have someone hand-deliver it for you, to be certain it gets there. If not, then I strongly recommend using a reputable courier service, rather than Royal Mail, as even Recorded and Special Delivery are not fully guaranteed – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
NB: Postal submissions usually have restrictions on how the documents are packaged and delivered, requiring that no identifying information is on the outer package and that the package cannot be identified as yours during delivery.
Nope. There are too many variables beyond my direct control to be able to offer that kind of guarantee*.
I work with the information you give me about your company, along with my own knowledge of and research into the buyer, their requirements, your competitors and your industry as a whole, to highlight your company’s strengths, develop a persuasive response that meets or exceeds the buyer’s criteria and showcases your products, services and experience in the best way possible.
I will encourage and help you to get the relevant accreditations in place and all your policies up to date, and can help you make sure your delivery proposal is accurate, competitive and realistic.
But even after all this, I can’t guarantee you’ll win every bid: no matter how strong a proposal we put together, another bidder may have more experience, more accreditations, lower costs or more staff to deliver the service etc.
*There are some tender services companies that will offer ‘no win, no fee’ or ‘no win, reduced fee’ guarantees. These are generally high-churn services, which can afford to run loss-leader offers to attract large numbers of clients, whereas I develop close working relationships with a handful of direct clients and aim to always remain as an independent specialist.
Neither of these options is necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worse’ – I occasionally work as an outsourced writer for some of these companies myself. The decision is really up to you (and your budget!)
Bids and tenders can seem very complicated and many businesses may be unsure if they’re worth going for.
In general, the tendering company is looking for evidence of several things and this can help you decide whether a bid is right for your company (NB. this list is not exhaustive!):
Relevant history: experience, quality of work, performance record, references
Qualifications: accreditations, certifications, industry standards, trade memberships, policies
Price: best value, added value, competitiveness
‘Fit’: management style, communication methods, reporting procedures
The buyer may put more or less emphasis on any one of the above, depending on their requirements. This is called ‘weighting’ and will be addressed in the tender documentation. For an overview of scoring and weighting, see my post ‘What do points make? Confusion, mostly‘.
Likewise, different types of tender reflect different needs, e.g. frameworks/preferred supplier lists allow buyers to create a pool of suitable suppliers they can call off from as and when; direct contracts are agreements with one supplier only to deliver a service over a set period of time or for a particular one off project. Other types of contracts are also used.
It’s also important to decide whether a tender is right for you and your company – Is it worth it financially? Does your company profile closely match what they are looking for? Do you have the experience, skills and resources to fulfil the contract? – if you are unsure about what a particular tender offers or how likely you are to win it, give me a call – we can look through it and decide together if it’s suitable for your business.
We can also start to develop a ‘bid/no bid’ or ‘go/no go’ strategy that will help you continue to find tenders that fit your specific business aims and growth plans. For more about what you might consider when developing your bid strategy, see my post ‘To bid or not to bid? How to work out which tenders are right for your business‘
The obvious answer is: As soon as possible! The more time we have before the bid deadline, the better.
Due to the timescales involved when tenders are published – which are often subject to a variety of legal requirements – my calendar is usually booked up around two to six weeks in advance.
To make sure all my clients receive the attention they need, I only commit to a maximum of two deadlines per week. Before preparing a quote, I consider the complexity of each bid, the availability of the client or other parties for input, the timescales set out by the tendering organisations (e.g. clarification periods etc.), the time needed for uploading or printing and packaging and the bid’s ultimate deadline. This ensures that I can realistically offer the highest quality of work, without compromises due to time constraints.
If I’m fully booked, I’ll still try to help as much as I can. For example, a potential client contacted me because their in-house writer had suddenly left the company, two days before a crucial bid’s deadline. I couldn’t write the entire bid for them but, using information from past bids, I was able to edit, add to and improve what they already had, and leave them with a winning bid, just in time for the deadline.
Generally, no. Along with other benefits, working remotely helps keep costs to my clients to a minimum and allows me to offer flexible, ongoing support to clients throughout the tender preparation process.
Potential clients often ask if I can visit their offices for a day or two before work begins, to get to know their company better. While this seems reasonable in theory, in practice, it’s rarely necessary. The nature of responding to tenders – answering detailed questions about the company – means that I get to know your business best during the work itself.
I am however more than happy to ‘meet face to face’ via Skype or similar.
How it works
Prior to starting the work I ask you and your team for copies of past bids, brochures and other company information and I have a good look through your website. This gives me enough basic information to start the first draft and I then arrange calls with key people to talk through any further information I need.
This further information can come back to me in any format: by email, over the phone, sometimes a text in the middle of the night if you’ve just had a ‘lightbulb’ moment! You and your staff can send me information as and when you have the time in your own schedules; I don’t need it all at once.
This means that everybody involved has the opportunity to make the best use of their own time. It prevents having to gather together a number of your staff in one place at one time and dig up every item of information that might be needed all at once. Instead, your staff can continue with their daily work and schedule a chat with me when it’s convenient for them.
Further value for money
Likewise, many potential clients ask if I will work from their offices while the bid is being written. Again, this seems like a reasonable proposition, but again, it’s not necessary. Email and online document applications make sharing information easy and with some programs, me, you and anyone else involved can all work on the same document at the same time.
Preparing a bid well can take anywhere from a week to 6 weeks or more from start to finish. However, that period also accounts for a fair amount of waiting or down time, for example, while waiting for more information, approval of a draft or even clarification from the tendering authority.
By working remotely, we can factor in any inevitable down time and you will only be charged for the time I actually work on your bid. This removes the need to charge day rates and travel expenses.
Anything that saves time also saves money. Reducing the opportunity costs to your business – time you and your staff could spend making profits – also helps your bottom line.
But what if we really, really want someone in-house?
I appreciate that some businesses simply prefer to have someone in-house, whether for a number of days or for the full duration of the bid. While remote working works exceptionally well for my client base, which is primarily small businesses, larger companies bidding for highly complex, very high value contracts often wish to build an in-house team, sometimes hiring in two or more bid writers.
If this is your preference, I may be able to help you find other bid writers with the experience you need, who will work in-house, so do please get in touch!
It’s vital that the pricing structures you use in any bid accurately reflect your specific business model and are appropriate not just for your industry but for your on-going business health and growth.
I can check your calculations for accuracy, and I can undertake a certain amount of research into the average costs across your industry and sector. However, each tender needs to be priced individually and take into account any ‘hidden costs’ of managing and providing the service you’re bidding for – it’s crucial therefore that costings are realistic as well as competitive, in the context of your particular business.
You know your business best – far better than I ever could – and if you are unsure about how to put together a realistic and workable pricing structure for a particular bid, I would strongly recommend getting advice and guidance from a financial professional who specialises in this area and who can help you understand the impacts costing models may have on your business in the long term.
Bid writing is a specialism in itself and, although I have many years’ experience across a variety of aspects of business development, sales and marketing (which certainly helps me better understand my clients’ businesses and write great bids), there are:
- some services that I don’t offer because they don’t fit my own business strategy
- some areas where I strongly believe my clients’ own knowledge outweighs my own, and
- some areas where it is wise to bring in further expertise to ensure all elements of the bid are accurate and deliverable
I can help with aspects of business development that are directly related to your bid management strategy, such as creating the policy and procedure documents you’ll need to win contracts, advising you on the types of accreditations you might need, helping you work out whether a contract is worth going for and, of course, writing and submitting the bid itself.
I know many small (and especially new) businesses struggle to find the budget to hire all the specialist help they need to grow their business, and a ‘one stop shop’ can seem like an ideal solution. I also understand that developing an on-going business relationship with just one provider makes life a lot simpler!
However, unless your chosen ‘Jack of all trades’ truly is a master at every one, I’d recommend taking a more measured approach and creating a short-, mid- and long-term plan for business growth, then hiring the relevant specialists as and when you need them. This approach will ensure you receive the right expertise at the most appropriate times to maintain steady and sustainable growth for your business.
For instance, when it comes to developing key relationships on your behalf with potential clients, funders and partners – such as being their main point of contact, making calls or writing emails and letters to them, attending meetings, presenting proposals face-to-face etc. – a sales professional with great networking skills would be a good, strategic choice.
Likewise, developing and running successful marketing and PR campaigns takes time and particular expertise – a marketing agency or independent PR specialist will be able to help you develop and manage your marketing strategy and budget.
If you’re unsure, do talk to me about what you might need and when – I may be able to put you in touch with other organisations or individuals who can provide the services you need.