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Painting a positive professional picture

The key to writing a good tender is to be specific and detail how your capabilities match the client’s exact requirements. By Robert Ashton

You don’t have to be arrogant to sell your firm. Never kick off the tender by saying how great you are.

Instead, show that you’ve listened to the client’s needs and found the right solution. Identify and concentrate on the issues the client is most concerned with. You should have had a chance to ask them about these. But invitations to tender usually give you clues.

Winning themes could include:

  • Completing the job within a tight time schedule.

  • Attracting good subcontractors.

  • Project management skills.

  • Guarantees to stay on schedule.

  • Health and safety procedures.

To some extent, most tenders should cover all these issues. But focus on the ones that particularly interest your client and show how your firm can meet their needs.

One way of doing this with more complex tenders is to draw up a compliance matrix to make sure you’ve got a solution for everything the tender asks for.

This could give you the edge if it’s included it in the tender document itself.

Some people in construction argue that tenders are usually won on price alone. Price is important, but don’t forget that the client is interested in what you can deliver over and above your competitors.

Focus on these and you may well reduce the client’s sensitivity to price.

Unique selling points

This doesn’t mean you should slate your competitors in your tender. But you should have a clear idea of what your firm’s unique selling points are.

For example:

  • Quality of finish and ability to deal with snagging quickly.

  • Regular progress reports and updates to client.

  • Client-satisfaction record and percentage of repeat business.

Make it clear why they should choose you. Don’t make vague and clichéd claims such as ‘we deliver high-quality work within tight schedules’. Say, for example: ‘We have delivered 90 per cent of our jobs within budget and 60 per cent or our business comes from existing clients’.

Include a breakdown of all the various aspects of the work involved in the project. And don’t leave out things because you’re not sure if the client wants them or because you can’t price them accurately; it will look as though you’ve overlooked them. If necessary, put them in as ‘tbc’.

Don’t make assumptions. Just because the client knows you, don’t leave out vital information about your firm. There may be others reading your tender who know nothing about you.

Finally, always go through your tender face to face if the process allows it. That way you can sort out any sticking points.

Robert Ashton is chief executive of business writing specialist Emphasis