Tender responses are like puzzles. There are a lot of pieces to put together but do you see the big picture?

A lot of the time when we are approached to help with a tender, the focus immediately jumps to writing content. The client assumes that they more or less have the answers but need writing expertise to make it relevant, read better and fit the word or page restrictions. This is not a good place to start.

A fundamental practice in tendering is answer planning. It is adapted from the process of storyboarding, used widely in the film industry to pre-visualise a film sequence through individual panels. It is well documented that Hitchcock was known for his extensive storyboarding down to the finest detail of production, working closely with screenwriters to map out the actions and visuals of key scenes. It helped to convey the flow of the story and how different scenes worked together – and potentially saved a lot of money avoiding shooting scenes that would end up on the cutting room floor.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

A similar approach is undertaken during answer planning where we focus on breaking down each part of the question alongside the evaluation criteria, exploring the clients’ needs and challenges. This forensic process helps to build the answer and capture relevant evidence to develop win themes. It saves so much time during the writing stage and ensures consistency of messaging to avoid making assumptions and telling the wrong ‘story’. Think about the last time you saw a trailer that raised your expectations, only to be left disappointed by the actual movie.  

Don’t fly solo

The process of answer planning should be open and collaborative, drawing in others from your team and potential partners or sub-consultants. If the format allows for creative input, make sure your graphics person is involved right from the start (technical vs non technical audience – and making the complex simple). Check if the question is asking you to describe a process or provide evidence – or both. Are there any words or labels that keep cropping up in each question that reinforces a concern or desire? Does it add value to the response to mention new regulations such as Social Value? Be open to suggestions and ideas but always refer back to the question and the evaluation criteria.

Don’t miss any important pieces

Answer planning each question enables the person who is leading the tender to validate the content (pieces) because they can now start to see the bigger picture. It also offers a chance to correct inconsistencies and connect important themes to strengthen the value of your tender. Just make sure that when you are putting together the final pieces that you don’t drop any important ones on the floor!

Caroline Brock

Caroline Brock

Co-Director of Talent Lab. Bid Strategist. Bid Writer. Social Value Practitioner. Likes facts. Negroni lover. Get in touch if you would like to discuss anything in this post or want to know more about any tools I've mentioned.
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