May 2024

How to win contracts: 7 secrets to creating a successful tender

7 minutes

When it comes to winning contracts - it’s all in the presentation.
The key to success is not what you offer but in how you align your submission to the client's deepest needs and expectations. So, understanding the nuances of structure, style, and engagement within your tender can set you apart in that big sea of competitors.
1. Understand your client's core objectives

Effective client research increases proposal success rates by up to 50% according to industry benchmarks.
Successful tenders hinge on your ability to resonate deeply with the client’s objectives. So before you even start drafting your response, you must invest significant time in understanding the precise goals and pain points of your client. This means moving beyond surface-level insights to grasp the underlying currents of their business strategy. Engage with their published materials, dig into sector reports, and analyse their competitors - literally immerse yourself in their world.
Remember, each client operates within a unique context that influences their needs. For example, if you’re bidding for a government contract, regulatory and compliance factors will heavily influence their priorities. On the other hand, a private sector client might prioritise innovation and cost-efficiency. This is why tailoring your response to these nuanced needs can dramatically increase your proposal's relevance and impact.

2. Tailor your response to fit the brief

Customising your tender to the specific brief is non- negotiable. You need to start by dissecting the brief thoroughly to understand every requirement and expectation. This step should influence every aspect of your proposal, from the executive summary to the technical details. Construct your response to mirror the language and priorities outlined in the brief, ensuring that it reflects an understanding of the project’s scope and the client’s industry.
Your proposal should clearly align your services with the client’s specifications. For instance, if the brief emphasises sustainability, detail your organisation's green initiatives and past projects with a sustainable focus. Use direct references from the brief to structure your response, demonstrating a meticulous alignment with the client’s criteria. This method not only shows that you are attentive and thorough but also builds a narrative that you are the perfect fit for their needs.

3. Make your proposal clear and compelling

Clarity and persuasion are your best tools in a tender.

Clarity and persuasion are the pillars upon which a successful tender rests. Your proposal should be straightforward, compelling, and focused sharply on what matters most to the client. In your quest to impress, it's crucial to remember that the evaluators may not have deep expertise in your field. Avoid overwhelming them with technical details or industry jargon that could obscure your key messages.

  • Simplify complex ideas: Break down technical concepts into simple, easy-to-understand language. Think of how you would explain it to someone completely unfamiliar with your industry.

  • Focus on benefits: Highlight how your solution addresses their needs directly, using clear and direct language that relates back to the client’s objectives and challenges.

  • Avoid jargon: Whenever possible, replace technical terms with their everyday equivalents. If you must use specialised language, provide a brief, clear definition to aid understanding.

Remember: The goal is to make your proposal as accessible as possible. Assume the reader is intelligent but not an expert in your field. This approach will not only make your tender more understandable but also more persuasive, as clarity breeds confidence in your ability to deliver. You should also structure your content with clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance its readability. Each section should lead logically to the next, creating a cohesive narrative that guides the reviewer smoothly through your proposal.
Incorporate powerful language and persuasive techniques to really highlight the benefits of your offer. Use an active voice to convey confidence and assertiveness.

For example, rather than stating, "Our team can be relied upon to deliver," assert, "Our team guarantees on-time delivery." These statements are direct and resonate more strongly with the decision-makers. Remember, the goal is to make your proposal not only easy to read but also impossible to ignore.

This quote seems appropriate here:

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." – Leonardo da Vinci

4. Demonstrate your unique value proposition

Are you highlighting your strengths in a way that resonates with what the client values most?
Identifying and articulating what sets your offering apart from the competition is crucial. This is your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). In your tender, make it clear why the client should choose you over others. Highlight your distinct capabilities, creative solutions, and past successes that line up with the client’s specific needs.

Support your UVP with tangible evidence. Include case studies, testimonials, and independent reviews that demonstrate your track record of success. Quantify your achievements, for instance, by stating, "Our solution has been shown to improve efficiency by 40%," to provide concrete proof of your claims.

This approach not only strengthens your credibility but also reassures the client that they are making a sound decision by choosing you.

5. Employ engaging visuals and design

"People ignore design that ignores people." — Frank Chimero, Designer

The visual presentation of your tender can significantly impact how your message is received. A well-designed proposal not only looks professional but also makes the information more accessible and engaging. Use visuals like charts, graphs, and infographics to break down complex data and highlight key points. Ensure that these visuals are not only aesthetically pleasing but also align with your brand identity, which reinforces your professional image.
Consider the layout and formatting of your document. Use ample white space, a clean, readable font, and a logical order that intuitively guides the reader through the content.

Here are two things to consider:

  1. Use of white space: Resist the temptation to cram too many words onto one page. White space around text and between headings helps reduce visual clutter, making the content less daunting and more inviting to read. It allows the reader's eye to rest and helps emphasise the sections that matter most.

  2. Consider line length: The ideal line length for text readability is between 50-60 characters, including spaces. Lines that are too long can tire the reader’s eyes and make it difficult to track from one line to the next. Conversely, lines that are too short can disrupt the reading flow and make the text appear fragmented.

Pay attention to the details that reflect your brand’s professionalism and attention to detail, such as consistent colour schemes and high-quality paper for printed submissions.

6. Perfect your executive summary

The executive summary might be the most crucial part of your tender. Often, it's the first (and possibly the only) section thoroughly read by busy executives. Therefore, it must concisely summarise why your proposal is the best choice. Highlight your key differentiators and align them closely with the client’s objectives.
When writing your summary, assume that the reader will not venture further into the document, apart from the remuneration page. Include compelling hooks and key benefits early in the summary to capture interest and encourage further reading. Be clear and assertive, summarising your understanding of the client's needs and how your solution meets these needs perfectly.

7. Follow up strategically

Follow-ups can increase your chance of winning a tender by up to 20%.
After submitting your tender, a strategic follow-up can keep your proposal top of mind. This step is often overlooked but can significantly influence the decision-making process. Plan your follow-ups to enquire respectfully about the review process and to reiterate your enthusiasm for the project.
Timing is key—wait long enough that the client has had time to review your proposal but not so long that the decision process has moved on without your influence. Be prepared to provide additional information and to clarify points that may have raised questions during the review. This ongoing engagement shows dedication and an eagerness to collaborate, reinforcing your commitment to the client's success

So, are you ready to transform your tender submissions using these proven strategies? Or do you want us to take our expertise and guide you through it?

Contact us for winning proposals that speak to your clients and get you that contract.

Let’s make your next tender a success story.

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