Losing a tender can be heart-breaking.

As with any rejection, you have two choices – wallow in misery; or pick yourself up, figure out where you went wrong, and try again.

Put simply, a tender is a proposal for a relationship with a client. As with any relationship, you will need to invest time, commitment and energy to make it work – and that is what the client wants to see from you, starting with your tender. If you’re losing tenders based on your non-price attributes rather than price, maybe the clients just aren’t feeling ‘the love’. If a tender is your first impression on the client, what does it say about you?

First impressions count

Imagine for a second that you were trying your hand at online dating –Tindering instead of tendering.  You’ve written a profile about yourself, which mentions how important humanitarian work is to you. Finally, you receive the following three expressions of interest. Which are you most likely to pursue based on the first impression?

Suitor A: Hi there! Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you. -Suitor A
Suitor B: Hi there! I am tall, athletic and caring. Everyone says I’m extremely attractive and I should have been a model. I love sports, especially diving and snowboarding. Pick me! - Suitor B
Suitor C: Hi there! It’s refreshing to meet someone who values humanitarian work. You are obviously a very caring person. Would you like to come to a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser with me? It’s an organisation I volunteer for. - Suitor C

What do these ‘first impressions’ say about Suitors A, B and C?

Suitor A: I’m unoriginal and lazy. I copy and paste the same response every time.

Suitor B: I’m self-obsessed. I talk only about myself and haven’t even mentioned the one thing you said was important to you.

Suitor C: I’m genuinely interested in you and share the same values.

How does this apply to tendering?

“Oh, come on. We would never write a tender that looks like Suitor A or Suitor B’s responses.”

Is that what you’re thinking? Are you sure? OK, so the examples were a bit extreme. But take a look at a recent tender you’ve submitted and see what first impression the client is getting from your writing by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Is the first company name mentioned in your tender yours or the client’s?

2. What’s the ratio of the number of times you mention your company name (or say ‘we’ and ‘our’) vs. the number of times you mention the client’s (or say ‘you’ and ‘your)’?

3. Does it look like you’ve just recycled the same old attributes from the last tender or your company website?

4. Have you specifically identified the client’s wants and needs and shown how you are going to meet them?

Consider the following opening sentences from the Executive Summary of a tender to Elvis for security services.

With over 50 years of experience in security services and a team of 30 qualified guards, Company X has the know-how, resources, and skills for the job.

Our track record includes the provision of incident-free guarding services to Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly, both of whom are happy to act as referees.

Company X’s service includes 24/7 bodyguarding, alarm monitoring and CCTV surveillance.

On the face of it, this doesn’t look too bad, does it? It actually comes across as rather impressive. But if you are Elvis reading it, are you feeling the love? When you analyse the response against the above four questions, you start to see that Elvis may think that this is just copied and pasted from a website or prior tender, is lacking in originality and effort, and is not at all focused on him and his unique needs.

So how can we write a better response?

The first and most important thing to do is to find out what the client actually wants. Ideally, whoever is in charge of your business development should have met with the target client before a tender even comes out (though for probity reasons it’s best to avoid meeting after a tender has been released). If you haven’t done this initial research, you can still brainstorm what you already know about the client based on industry reputation, branding image, recent media etc. This will at least give you some idea about what is important to them.

Then it is just a matter of turning your writing around so that it focuses on the client instead of your company. Here’s an example of a different tender to Elvis that does just that.

Elvis, it is obvious from your lyrics that, over and above even your house and your car, you value the security of your blue suede shoes more than anything.

For that reason, Company Y’s proposal incorporates the latest in blue-suede-shoe security protocols. You’ll also benefit from around-the-clock bodyguarding, alarm monitoring and CCTV surveillance by a team of 30 qualified guards to keep you and all of your assets safe.

Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly have counted on our 50 years of experience to protect them and the things they value and will attest to the fact that we can do the same for you.

As you can see, Company Y has the exact same experience, resources, skills and track record as Company X but their tender focuses on the client and offers unique differentiation as a result. If you were Elvis, who would you choose?

At Plan A, we work with companies to make sure that every document is written like this. We love what we do and so we’re passionate about writing tenders that are crafted with care and client focus – from the initial strategy session through to the end result.

If your tenders have ‘lost that loving feeling’ and are being marked ‘return to sender’ a bit too often, give us a call or email, and we’ll help you get ‘all shook up’.