I once had a fellow leader in an organisation say to me, “We don’t bid for tenders as we never win them anyways”. When I heard that, I didn’t think much of it, but so many years on (and it has been years), it has always stuck with me.

Being in the consultancy space for 10+ years now, I have seen my fair share of wins, losses and learnings when it comes to the art of selling in the tender response space. I thought I should share three tips from some of my experiences writing a countless number of them. Hopefully, they’ll help those looking to crack their first eggs responding to tenders or grow their skills in the presales and technical presales space. If that interests you, read on!

Tip 1: Using Templates that are lean and ‘mean’

Templates are a must when it comes to organisations responding to tenders. A few times, I’ve seen tenders submitted with the wrong requesting company name buried somewhere because of a bad copy-and-paste job!

When you’re building your templates, keep them lean and something to build upon. The ‘mean’ element is about keeping it simple, so it’s quickly able to adapt to the various styles of responses people want!

Another common pitfall I’ve seen, which breaks the ‘mean’ approach, is to fill them with marketing material that is more suited to a public website than a tender response. People reading your tender responses will likely do their own research about you and your services. So long as you point them in the right direction, they’ll find their way to know what you’re all about.

Another important decision on the template front is the document format. I’ve had experience in using Word, PowerPoint and even Figma to respond to tenders. Ultimately, this is a personal choice, but above all else, professionalism must shine through in your design. There is nothing worse than a PowerPoint tender response exported to PDF only to be ruined because the fonts used are not universally installed on everyone’s computers! I blame you, Mac users! 😜

Tip 2: To conform or not conform, what is your WHY

When you get a request for tender (RFT), this question always comes up, and personally, I think there is a game of chess with this one that must always be played.

Firstly, those who say not to conform are usually those whose opinions or viewpoints get in the way of writing a good tender. They are also usually the ones who love to sell themselves and not necessarily the outcomes the respondent could offer. Countless times have I seen scenarios where bids were submitted entirely contradictory to what the business was asking for because of some weird excuse like “design first”, “we’re an agile-only shop”, and “we will do X instead of Y because Y won’t ever work”. When this happens, you’re generally putting yourself 30 or more steps back from those who will conform, and no doubt, for some of the bigger tenders out there, you’ll be off the list almost immediately.

There are two key moves to this chess game. The first move is to make sure the decision to conform or not is made early. Don’t waste time reviewing it once you’ve made that first move. Like chess, once you’ve let go of the piece, you can’t move it back!

The second key move is about the writing style and how that changes when you conform or not. If you do conform, your writing style should use words that compliment, endorse and reaffirm the approach and path suggested. If you don’t conform, then it’s the active voice language you have to use. Check out Active v passive voice | Bids and tenders | Aurora Marketing if you’re new to Active vs. Passive writing styles.

Additionally, to non-conforming responses, your best A game (or A team) has to be brought in to explain the WHY as simply and elegantly as possible. This WHY is about responding again to the tender itself and not to opinions. For example:

Company X requires the services of the responder to migrate workloads to Microsoft Azure, supporting an approach that makes use of Cloud Native technologies where possible.

A Good Response
Respondent Company Z is able to offer a wide range of services in helping Company X migrate workloads to Microsoft Azure.

To achieve this, our services team can offer a pragmatic approach to review Company X’s footprint and first seek to understand your environment better in an initial discovery phase. This will involve working with the right people in your business to map out suitable workloads for rehosting as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or rearchitecting to Cloud Native solutions wherever possible in a timeframe agreed during our discovery phase. The people we would expect to work with would be not just your internal IT team but also your Product Owners and Users of the various applications and services to be migrated.

From there, our Azure experts will work with you to map out a plan of how to work with your internal timelines to progress through the migrations as effectively as possible with minimal downtime and out-of-hours work. We would expect this approach to take no more than X weeks based on the information you have provided in your supporting documentation.
A Bad Response
Respondent Company Z is able to offer a wide range of services in helping Company X migrate workloads to Microsoft Azure.

As a market leader in Azure Cloud migration services, we apply an agile approach to our delivery methods, enabling us to move your workloads more quickly to the cloud than conventional waterfall migrations. Our team will be able to work with your team to plan and lay out a plan in the form of sprints to deliver a migration approach for your workloads and solutions.

At Respondent Company Z we believe in an agile approach to cloud migration delivery, and our team has successfully delivered these projects before.

As you can see here, both of these answer the question, but the good response explains in much greater detail the WHY using the active voice language.

Tip 3: Have your plan of attack to differentiate and shine

Tender responses, no matter how hot or cold, are read by the same people or committee of people who have likely repeatedly spent the last week looking at the same request responded to by multiple providers. By the time they have gotten to your response or, worse, read all the other responses, they have probably forgotten what you’re offering and what you can provide.

This is where it’s so vital to have just ONE plan that’s the polished differentiator to your competitors. Don’t over-complicate by having more than one either, as that just loses you the message of your best foot-in-the-door pathway.

If you’re not sure about this, here are some examples that are a good differentiator:

  • You’re a local presence with a local team in Company X’s main office location.
  • You can offer complimentary services for the response, such as longer-term Managed Services.
  • Current programs of work, not necessarily on the same technologies, showcasing your working style and approach (ideally with a reference)

And personally, here are some I avoid and reasons as to why:

  • Your internal values and beliefs – A company doesn’t need to know your internal beliefs to work with you. They need to know your capability, and the rest are given!
  • A reduced rate for services – This is a dirty selling tactic, and if your first step is to always show a discount, then your going rate (rate card) is probably wrong!


In conclusion, crafting winning tender responses requires a strategic approach. To maximise your chances of success, if you can remember these three essential tips, you’re already three steps ahead of the next respondent.

Happy tendering!

By Trent Steenholdt

I have developed an in-depth skill set for Microsoft technologies throughout my IT career, and I enjoy sharing my experiences through writing and sharing my story. My personal blog is an opportunity for me to discuss IT and other topics that I find enjoyable. I hope that my experiences and knowledge will be of assistance to others who are interested in these subjects.