Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bid Writing Golden Rule Number 4: Do What You Are Told

Human nature often makes us want to jump straight in and get the job done. In tendering, this is a recipe for disaster.Once you have your tender document stake a step back, breath and read the instructions, the service specification and the evaluation criteria. Then read them again. As you write, reflect what you have written back to the instructions, to ensure you are on track.
Sometimes formatting and length restrictions are imposed on your response so ensure these are adhered to. For example, the instructions may ask you to respond to each question within a two page limit. In this case, it is worth asking questions to the commissioning authority regarding the following:
  • What is the minimum font size tenderers can use in a response? (Don't forget that your answers need to be readable so try to use a minimum of font size 10. Font size 12 is a better option if there is space).

  • What font type are tenderers required to use? (You can fit more text on to a page if it is written in Times New Roman than Arial).

  • Are there any page border restrictions? (If needed, page borders can be set to narrow to fit text on to the page. Try to use normal settings where possible as these make your answers more readable and aesthetically pleasing to evaluators).

  • Are there any line restrictions? (If needed the paragraph lines can be set to less than single e.g. multiple 0.95. This will enable more text to fit onto each page).

  • Does the text of the question need to be included within the page limit for the answer? (If not, then you can simply include the question number on the page, or create a separate page for the question, followed by your two page answer.
Other tenders may require you to respond within a fixed number of words for each question. Often, the word limit will vary from question to question within the tender so be careful to read each question properly and answer within the word limits for that specific question. Sometimes, word limits can feel very tight and after you have written your first draft of a response to a question you will need to go through and condense your sentences and alter your writing style.
The crucial part is to ensure that you do not cut out the parts of your answer that specifically respond to the question being asked. Writing within word limits can be a challenge which takes time and multiple revisions. Don't think that by working on a tender that only requires 250 words per answer that it will be a quick process and a breeze. Remember to set enough time aside to ensure that your answers fit into the word limits, still read well, and answer the question that has been set.
Another way in which tenders restrict responses is by issuing character limits for each answer. These are usually found on tenders that need to be completed and submitted online, through a tender web portal. These can be very tricky to complete.
Often people make a mistake of writing all of their answers in a word processing package and then pasting the answers in to the online form in one go on deadline day. They then find that answers that were under the character limit in their word processing package are rejected in the online form or are truncated with a last paragraph missing. As you would expect, this can cause panic, frustration and the submission of incomplete answers.
Do not trust your own calculation of characters within your answers. You generally have to abide by what the online forms do, so paste your answers in the online form early, to check that they fit and adjust if necessary. If it is clear that the online form is wildly out in terms of character counting, then raise this with Commissioners early on in the process. This may result in you being able to submit your responses as attachments in Word as opposed to using the online form.
The level of detail required in tender responses and the number of instructions included in tender documents can often mean that in-house tender writers become consumed by the tender to such an extent that they cannot see the wood for the trees. It is useful to ask colleagues or a bid writer to proof read your tender and score it against the published evaluation criteria well in advance of the submission deadline. This will enable you to make any required changes so that your tender will maximise its potential for achieving a high score.

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