Writing a winning tender is more than just telling a company what you can do for them.

You have to sell them your services. And to do that, you first have to create the mindset that your services are the ones that they want, indeed, the very ones that would solve all their problems.

How many times have I seen a would-be supplier open their tender document with the words “We (strongly) believe that xyz is the most effective way to ....”.

Now, we know – because we work with procurement managers – that whenever they hear those words “I believe”, tender evaluators’ immediate reaction is to think, “well, good for you, but I really don’t care what you believe. I will weigh the available evidence and then make up my own mind on the matter.”

XYZ could be anything. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that ‘xyz’ is ‘using elephants to wash the windows of commercial buildings’.

So Strategy #1: Never tell the purchaser what you believe.

They don’t care. It’s utterly irrelevant. You could believe that Dumbo the elephant was real and really did fly, and they still wouldn’t care.

Which leads me to Strategy #2: Tell the purchaser why they want what *you* have to sell them. 

Create the need for them to buy from you.


As the leading supplier of fancy women’s hats in Timbuktoo, you need sparkling clear windows to showcase your goods most effectively. [It’s hard to argue with that. If they didn’t mind grimy windows, they wouldn’t be looking for a window cleaner.]

Fancy Hats needs best practice window washing that:

Gives you windows that sparkle like diamonds in the sun
Is delivered by a local company who cares about delivering great service to the local community
Offers a chemical-free washing method that supports your corporate culture of caring for the environment.

Elephants R Us offers you a safe, chemical-free way to have gleaming windows every day.

Now, that is starting to sound like a winning proposition.

Strategy #3: Differentiate yourself from the competition.

No doubt all the bidders can clean windows. That is their job after all. But if your competition includes big global players, emphasise the benefits that a small local player can provide.  If another company offers window washing by monkeys, emphasise how much more cost-effective/better quality/innovative elephants are. Make them want what you have to offer.

Which is closely tied to Strategy #4: Find out what the purchaser cares about and sell to that.

Does their website boast about their green credentials? Write to that.

Have news reports lately talked about customer dissatisfaction with their dirty windows? Emphasise your quality control.

Offer them what you think they will most want.

Strategy #5: Position your company as the experts.

Show how you are the best in your field. Make the supplier feel they would need a good reason to go anywhere else. After all, don’t they deserve the best window washers in town?

Do this through the use of Strategy #6: Give concrete examples.

Anyone can say that they are the best, they clean windows the best, their elephants are the smartest, they are a tremendous success and everyone says so, but without real, concrete evidence, all these claims are just so much hot air. Give real examples, include customer references if possible, and back up everything you say with proof.

In 2016, the 15-strong Plan A team wrote over 300 tenders across all sorts of sectors.

As a team we’ve developed winning bid strategy, written compelling content (often from scratch), reviewed, edited, designed and produced tenders that have won billions of dollars’ worth of work for clients – for contracts in Australasia, Asia Pacific, North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

And Strategy #7: Include pictures.

Remember that a picture is worth 1000 words, which is great when you are on a tight word count. 


Dr Catherine Sneyd is a writer with Plan A, a specialist tender writing company dedicated to helping customers in a wide range of sectors in Australasia and around the world to win work through developing high-scoring tenders.