Tips for writing a comprehensive tender response

Attain’s Commercial team have considerable experience in shaping, managing and evaluating tender responses supporting commissioners across health and care. Samuel Naxton, a Senior Manager within the Commercial team at Attain, provides some key insights and tips for provider organisations to produce a comprehensive tender response, with a better chance of being successful.

You have found a great opportunity for your business and your instinct is that your organisation can deliver what the commissioner needs – good news, but there are still many hurdles in front of you before you secure the contract. Here are some aspects to consider when applying to provide services which will help your organisation stand out.

Be prepared

Prior to proceeding with a bid it is important that you fully qualify whether you wish to proceed – creating a tender response is an investment in time and money for your organisation. It is essential that you fully familiarise yourself with the tender documentation. You need to make sure you can answer YES to the following:

  • Is the opportunity fully aligned to your organisation’s objectives?
  • Can you deliver what is expected and it is not too risky or costly for your organisation?
  • Can you meet all the deadlines and minimum requirements as set out in the tender documentation?
  • Have you got the resources and skills you need to be able to create a compelling response and deliver client expectations?
  • Do you fully understand the local provider market dynamics?

Do not be afraid of saying “no”; it is better to deploy your resources on something that you can really add value to.

Understand the requirements

A good tender response will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of what is required and will propose solutions to meet those requirements. If requirements are not clear within the tender documentation then you must ASK the commissioner (how you raise a clarification will often be set out in the tender instructions). You will not be penalised for raising a clarification question. Please note that questions do normally need to be raised within a specified timeframe, so please make a note of any deadlines and don’t leave it until the last minute!

Create a compelling response

One essential component of creating a strong bid is selecting the right team to support the bid. This will be a mix of people, from senior leadership, operational managers and subject matter experts but don’t make the team too unwieldy, select people with the appropriate skills and agree roles and responsibilities upfront. If appropriate, make sure their time is protected, and not expected to do on top of their ‘day job’.  The way you draft your response must:

  • Be clear on what you are offering, concise and compelling – always ask yourself ‘so what?’
  • Be easy to read – use bullet points and headings to clearly structure your responses
  • Address each and every requirement with a comprehensive response providing evidence and examples – do not assume the person reading your bid knows everything about your organisation and the services you deliver!
  • Use examples, case studies, patient/carer stories or client testimonials of your work elsewhere – this really brings to life what you do and gives the evaluator confidence that you can deliver. This is a good way to showcase your innovative solution to a problem
  • Have one author – whilst it is tempting to have many different authors for each section of the bid have one author throughout the bid. This helps with flow and is easy for the evaluator to read
  • Clearly reference any supporting documents e.g. policies (if permissible)
  • Make sure it is grammatically correct, with proper use of punctuation and spelling
  • Be provided in the format requested from the commissioner and keep within any specified word counts. The word count acts as a guide for how long to make your answer, for example, 100 words is a quick overview, 1000 words requires a more detailed response.

A commissioner may ask for and take up references at any stage.  Be sure to (i) approach referees who know your services well and seek their permission prior to submitting your tender; and (ii) provide them some background to the opportunity and prime them about what may be expected of them.

Your commercial offer

As part of your tender submission you will normally be required to submit a pricing schedule, or finance template. The pricing schedule will reflect the tender requirements and you will expected to submit pricing based on your proposal for delivering these requirements. It is vitally important for you to understand the pricing criteria (Commercial Offer) detailed within the tender documentation and how this will be scored/evaluated. Sometimes a standard schedule/template may not allow you to present your service model neatly into the template. It is often worth challenging this (if appropriate) to see whether you could provide a variant offer. On most occasions you will have to submit a complaint bid, but an addition of a variant offer would enable you to clearly demonstrate why your solution is better value for money for the commissioner and any other related benefits.

Polishing your response

Attention to detail is absolutely essential. Before submitting your response make sure you:

  • Proof read your tender submission – even better try to get someone who hasn’t been involved in writing the bid to review your response objectively using the criteria set out in the tender documentation
  • Check calculations and formulas within pricing schedules/finance templates
  • Have uploaded the right documents, policies, response documents in the right order before you press the ‘submit’ button

Evaluation insights

Tenders are usually evaluated by a panel (normally a minimum of three persons) and the process is rigorously controlled to ensure objectivity, transparency and fairness. Scores are often weighted highlighting areas that are most important to the commissioner and highlights how the overall ‘value for money’ (balance between quality and cost) will be assessed. This is a vital piece of information within the tender documentation that will help you understand how to meet the requirements, and how to prioritise your team’s effort in responding. Don’t forget evaluators can only score responses based upon the information presented to them. If the composition of the evaluation panel isn’t included in the tender documentation it may be worth asking the commissioner because if you have knowledge of the evaluators, and their specialist interest/knowledge, you may wish to tailor your response accordingly.

Learn

Whether you are successful or unsuccessful take the opportunity to receive feedback from the commissioner about why you were, or were not selected to strengthen your offer for next time and make the most of the experience. All bidders should be given the opportunity of a debriefing prior to contract commencement.

Do not limit your feedback to the commissioners; learn from inside your organisation and take the time to undertake a thorough lessons learned on the bid response approach.

In summary

  • Plan and prepare properly
  • Research as much as possible
  • Make sure you understand what the commissioner wants (read the specification!)
  • Make sure you understand how your response will be scored and evaluated
  • Answer all of the questions and address requirements providing evidence and examples as appropriate
  • A clear and concise response is essential answering the ‘so what?’
  • Do not make any assumptions
  • Definitely, assume no prior knowledge on behalf of the commissioner
  • Make sure you have included all the necessary information and documentation needed
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the commissioner clarification questions throughout the procurement process
  • Don’t leave it until the last minute!
  • Seek feedback and improve your processes for next time

For more information please contact Chris Walker, Director