Here’s my 10 tips for a relatively painless response to a government request for tender, quote or proposal:

  1. Read the tender documents – every one of them. And don’t just skim them; read them word for word. Rest assured thereĀ is devil in the detail.
  2. Run the response process like a project. Assign a PM, assign roles to other team members who need to be involved, conduct a kickoff meeting, delegate tasks, agree the collaboration approach and timing, and so on. There’s likely to be many moving parts to the response, and you need to be very organised to ensure you comply with all the requirements.
  3. Divide the response into sections, then assign each section to the specialists in your team. Depending on the number of people involved, you might want to consider preparing a template for each team member, so they are very clear on what elements they need to respond to.
  4. Start preparing your response immediately. There’s a cut-off date where you cannot ask any more questions, and you won’t know what questions you have until you’re deep in the detail. And if you miss the date, your questions will go unanswered and you will risk the success of your response. You also need as much time as possible up your sleeve as a contingency.
  5. Capture the key milestones in your tool of choice – include the cut-off date for questions, the date of the briefing sessions, the date submissions are due at a minimum.
  6. Prepare your response outside the templates provided. There are usually many and varied limitations placed on the structure, format and content of your response, so its much easier to focus on your content using tools like Word or Excel, then simply copy the text into the template.
  7. Organise someone outside the response team to QA the response. Ask them to check each mandatory requirement, so you can be 100% sure you have all items covered. If you miss one small element, your response can be thrown out.
  8. Once the response is almost complete, put it down for a few days. Tender responses can be energy-sapping exercises; you get too close to the content, and run the risk of missing key requirements as a result. When you pick it up again and re-read it, you will find things you need to revise.
  9. When it is complete, read through the response in its entirety to ensure the language and tone are consistent (particularly if there were multiple authors). Cross check the response against the specified requirements to ensure you’ve covered every element.
  10. Prepare the response in the required hard or soft (or both) formats. Do exactly what is asked for – no more, no less. And make sure you allow enough time to either submit it online or run to the Tender box! The online process can take time, so don’t leave it until the last minute.