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  • Writer's pictureJohn Copps

Getting the basic right: seven tips on the nuts and bolts of bid writing

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

2016 and 2017 sees many public service spin-outs face the prospect of re-tendering for their core contracts. To mark this milestone, we are publishing a series of articles on bid writing and business development. Read the fourth in the series below.

Bid writing is an art, not a science. Convincing a naturally sceptical commissioner takes a bit of flair. But in the race to impress you mustn’t forget the basics.

All commissioners have stories of bids that do a good job of showing off ‘added value’ but fail to convince on the nuts and bolts. Too often this is the fatal error.

To prevent you from getting caught out here’s my seven tips on the nuts and bolts of writing a successful bid:

  1. Answer the question. Read the Invitation to Tender carefully and address all the points you are asked about. You will be amazed how often this is ignored. Even if you are the incumbent provider, don’t take for granted that you commissioners know you.

  2. Anticipate how your bid will be assessed. The bid will be scored according to the criteria set out in the invitation to tender document but you will also need to do some ‘reading between the lines’. To ensure you don’t miss anything, use the structure suggested in the ITT. There is always an element of box ticking in assessment exercises. Don’t fall foul of this.

  3. Make your bid easy to read. Remember it’s a slog reading bids. Make yours different. If you can, use tables and diagrams to break up the text, use short paragraphs and don’t be afraid of white space.

  4. Learn to speak commissioners’ language. Use the key words and phrases mentioned in the tender documents. Show that you are on top of the latest developments in the field.

  5. Make the most of your track record. This is an obvious point but is too often overlooked. The overwhelming concern that commissioners have when selecting a provider is that they will deliver. Quote evidence from your previous work.

  6. Sell yourself and your team. Ultimately commissioning is about a relationship between people. Show that you have worked successfully with colleagues in the public sector before, and that where problems have arisen, you have overcome them effectively.

  7. Show that you learn from mistakes. Talk yourself up but also show that you can learn from your errors. I’m not preaching the virtues of modesty here – it’s about showing your competence. With a bit of thought you can turn your past weaknesses into strengths.

These tips range from the very obvious to general common sense. But it’s always worth reminding ourselves of what we might already know. Follow them and you can’t go too far wrong.

For more articles in this series click here.


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