Do you have what it takes to write a winning tender? Take this quiz.

I admit it. Tenders can be a bugger to write. A nightmare. They’re time consuming. Intense. Detailed. Tedious. And sometimes, they’re incredibly stressful. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. Or the inexperienced.

I’ve been writing tenders for many years. I’ve written more tenders in my lifetime than I can count. I probably fell into the role more by chance than by design, because I could write well, and was very organised. Perfect fit, so my boss thought. And he was right. Partially.

With a few more wise, and some well-disguised, grey hairs on my head, I know that to be exceptional, and to write a winning document, takes much more than good writing and organisation. To write a winning tender you have to answer yes to most, if not all, of these questions.

How do you think you’ll rate? Can you write a winning tender?

1. Are you more organised than an army of ants?

Yes. It takes much more than organisation. But organisation is most important aspects of tender writing. If you’re disorganised, say good-bye to writing a quality document. And you might meet your tender deadline, but you may end up on stress leave with severe post-tender distress. Tender deadlines are often suffocatingly tight. Sometimes one week. Sounds like a long time, but it’s not. If you don’t draw up a tender timeline, share it with your tender team and stick to it, the end result won’t be pretty. You and your team need to know what needs to be done, who needs to do it, when it needs to be done by and, most importantly, when it’s due. Oh, and someone needs to be firmly in control of the ship.

2. Do your detective skills outshine Mr Watson’s?

The difference between a good tender document and an outstanding tender submission is the quality of the background research that’s done before writing starts. Notice I said quality. Not quantity. Research well and you’ll be off to a great start. Showing an understanding of the potential client’s needs, goals, challenges – in a clever way throughout the document – will put you in good stead to attract positive attention. Don’t forget to find out who the decision makers – and influencers – are. And what’s important to them. And why they’re tendering. A bit of detective work goes a long way.

3. Do you have more stamina than a marathon runner?

To run a marathon, you have to be well-trained, calm and pace yourself. And always be prepared for the unexpected. Because no two races are the same. Just like tenders.

Always be prepared for curly questions. Ambiguity. Repetitive questions. And always go back to the potential client for clarification. Don’t fall into the old copy/paste trick (and aren’t we all guilty of that at times). Be ready for seemingly endless rounds of edits and reviews. For reworking and tweaking. And on a big tender, just like in a marathon, at some stage you may hit the wall. Responses come in thick and fast. Usually at the end of the day when a new draft is due tomorrow. Fortunately, just like a marathon, you get a second wind and you’ll (hopefully) glide over to the finish line, on time. On a high. It isn’t a marathon. But sometimes it sure feels like it is.

4. Can you gather enough empathy to sink a ship?

Veteran tender writers know the golden rule of writing tenders: focus on the client. Focus on the client. And focus on the client. If I had a dollar for every page of every tender I’ve reviewed that do this, I’d be retired and living on a sun-drenched tropical island sipping on cocktails. Actually I’d probably own the island, too. Instead of perpetually using “we” and “our,” why not try “you,” “you’ve told us that ..” or “your need for ….” They want to know that you’ve heard them and that you’re thinking of them and showing how you can help. Speak to them. Don’t blow your own trumpet.

5. Are you more effective than a working sheepdog?

Writing successful tenders is a bit like rounding up sheep. There are multiple authors, personalities, thought providers and opinions about what, and who, should and shouldn’t be included. You’ve got to be as tough as nails and a great leader to make sure everyone is on the same path and gets through the gate unscathed and with ease. And that team members are delivering the goods. Not to mention keeping tender meetings as short, sweet and productive as possible. Not an easy task.

6. Is your voice clear, consistent and compelling?

Picture yourself as the decision maker. Imagine reading over 10 tender submissions. Even over four. Instant gratification is the name of the game. So get to the point quickly, concisely and compellingly, and be consistent in the messages you deliver. And your tender submission will stick out like a sore thumb. In this case, that’s a good thing. So forget the jargon and the buzz words. Use their language – phrases and words they like. They’re easy to find on their website, in the tender questions they’ve asked or any other material they send your way.

7. Do you have a go-to professional proofreader with eyes as sharp as a sniper’s?

Sometimes you may need to answer more than 50 questions. That’s a lot of writing and reviewing. Even if you do have eyes as sharp as a sniper’s. By the time you’ve finished writing, you can’t see the wood from the trees. To protect your reputation and save your, and your client’s, bacon work with a professional proofreader. And avoid the red faced, ridiculous mistakes that a 12 year old could spot, but you missed. It’s not taking the easy option. Far from it. Even professional tender writers get their writing proofread. You’re taking a huge risk if you don’t.

How’d you go?

If you didn’t answer yes to all questions, it’s probably not a good idea to give up your day job and tackle a tender document alone. Get the help of a professional tender writer. And fast. It makes a difference. And you'll have a better chance at winning the tender. Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want to win?

Belinda Findlay is a professional tender writer in Sydney who helps small to medium-sized businesses overcome their tender heartache and stress, putting them on the path to tender success. If you didn’t nail the quiz, chat to Belinda on +61 419 603 359 or email

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