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How to Write a Tender Proposal: Cracking the Writing Code

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Pedro Bernardini



5 min

Writing a winning tender proposal is like crafting a key. Imagine a high-stakes opportunity. Just like the right key unlocks a door, the right proposal unlocks a specific opportunity.

Writing that proposal, however, is not without its challenges. Complex requirements require expertise. Writing demands time and teamwork. It only pays off if you write a proposal that unlocks that door.

Ready to crack the writing code? Become a writing key master with these tactics. 

The Requirements

Want to unlock the door to your next lucrative project? Begin by understanding the client's needs and priorities. Otherwise, you're just sitting for an exam without studying.

  • Face Value. Read the Invitation to Tender (ITT), then, read it again. At face value, what are they looking for in your response?
  • Meaning. Read between the lines. Look for the implied meaning. What are they thinking about? What are they really asking for, and why?  
  • Misconceptions. Identify and discuss with your team. But avoid opinions and interpretation. Use the ITT's process for clarifying questions. Just be careful not to reveal anything strategic.
  • Scoring. Read with the requirements in mind. What do they prioritize? What do they value?

The Outline

Your outline is essential for ensuring you design the right key for the right door. Without one, you’ll end up with grooves in the wrong place. With the right outline, you’ll leave no detail behind.

  • Order. Do not stray from the outline mandated by the ITT. Instead, use it  to your advantage. For example, showcase your ability to communicate value within the given outline.
  • Flow. Within the outline, design a logical flow of requirements and information. Between the sections, create coherent transitions. Both help readers follow your reasoning.
  • Visuals. Improve understanding by using visuals to support your content. A good rule of thumb; complex (flowcharts, drawings), some complexity (charts, graphics, timelines), simple (improve your visual appeal).
  • Space. Allocate more space for where you shine and score big. Strive for balance and contrast; help readers see and understand the relationship between items on the page.


A common misconception is that experts know exactly how to respond to requirements. They certainly have the expertise, however, they are not writers. Annotate to give them direction and clues to get them started. This helps minimize rewriting as you design the right proposal for the right opportunity.

In fact, teams who begin with a pre-writing plan are more likely to deliver on expectations without rewriting.  

  • Expectations. Include how you and the team interpret the requirement.
  • Value. Include the points that appeal the strongest to decision maker drivers.
  • Evaluation. Include how you and the team believe you will optimize your score.
  • Annotate. Point to existing content for reuse and tailoring. Identify evidence that helps writers support their claims.

The Team

Assembling your team is about more than just assigning tasks and deadlines. Often times you're bringing together a group of cross-team experts from across your organization. Each with their own full-time jobs, shifting priorities and conflicting schedules.

Be flexible, and use their time wisely. For example, make time for upfront questions and concerns about strategy and process. Foster an environment of clear communication and seamless collaboration.

Depending on the complexity of your tender submission, your team might include:

  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), for example engineers, contribute to the requirement responses.
  • Manager, for example a project manager, contributes to the approach and work plan.
  • The Legal Department contributes to compliance, and uncertainty that could disqualify you.
  • The Pricing Team contributes cost estimates and pricing scenarios for optimizing your score.
  • Writers weave expert information and writing tactics into a cohesive and persuasive narrative.
  • Reviewers contribute feedback on accuracy and improvements for strengthening your proposal.

How to Write a Tender Proposal

Copy and paste a generic proposal and evaluators will overlook it. Tailor a custom proposal and you will stand out from the crowd. And increase your chances of unlocking that opportunity door. 

  • Educate. Establish your team as a credible source by keeping your content relevant. Dive into problems, and the consequences of inaction. Support claims with data and statistics.
  • Persuade. Demonstrate your value beyond the technical specifications by making it easy to visualize the outcome.  
  • Connect. Humanize your solution by connecting with the reader's frustrations and aspirations. Describe how you will help them overcome their fears and achieve their dreams.

Reviewing and Editing

When time is tight, this step can easily fall by the wayside. Hold firm.

Reviews confirm compliance and accuracy. Editing corrects shortcomings, and strengthens your narrative. Would you read this blog if you found errors and it was tough to understand?

Assign different types of reviewers to cover readability as well as accuracy and strategy. Throw in some reviewers who are unfamiliar with the opportunity. Be clear what you expect from them; actionable feedback, not "this needs more" opinions.

  • Accuracy. Inspire confidence by delivering an error-free proposal that demonstrates your attention to detail. Identify and correct where accuracy is in jeopardy.
  • Clarity. Foster acceptance by delivering a proposal that is easy to read and understand. Identify and shorten sentences and simplify word choice.
  • Compliance. Avoid noncompliance by following requirement and formatting guidelines. Identify and correct compliance concerns.
  • Score Yourself. Optimize your score by testing yourself. Identify and improve areas that increase your score. For example, shifting a feature into a benefit.  

Writing Tools

When it comes to writing a tender document, there are a range of tools available to support your process. They can eliminate repetitive manual tasks and process detours. They can also boost your efficiency and help you enhance the overall quality of your proposal.

  • Content Library. A library stocked with accurate content, evidence and visuals, eliminates recreating the wheel on every bid. Just be sure to tailor what you use.
  • Writing Software. A writing tool centralizes documents and writing activities, easing collaboration and boosting efficiency. It eliminates redundant manual effort while helping managers keep their finger on the pulse of progress and status.  
  • Smart Document Builders. Combine these guided, step-by-step questionnaires with your content library for faster turnarounds on less complex tenders.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI). An AI tool can help you evaluate the ITT, and identify relevant content in your library for reuse. Giving you more time to invest in clarity.

Now you hold the key to cracking the proposal writing code. Take a deep breath, put your newfound know-how to the test, and get ready to unlock the door to your next lucrative project. 

Read more: Achieve Your Proposal Management Goals with XaitPorter


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Pedro Bernardini

Pedro Bernardini is a Junior Business Development Manager & Sales Development Lead at Xait. With a Master’s Degree in Sport Management from UCFB, he has a strong background in sales, marketing, and recruitment in the sporting industry. His passion is helping sales and bid teams resolve complex business-critical issues relating to their bid-management processes. When he's not working hard at Xait, he avidly reads sales books. Chances are, if you find yourself at any random electronic music festival on the planet, Pedro will also be there.

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