What is a Bid Writer?
Everything you ever wanted to know about a bid writer
A bid writer is someone within an organisation who is responsible for completing PQQs and ITTs to win tenders and secure either new business for the organisation, or funding. Sometimes this is an employed person within the business, but increasingly organisations are outsourcing this role to freelance bid writers or bid writing companies.
To get the best results, your bid writer should develop good relationships with your business development and sales teams. This helps them to really understand your potential customer or fund holder and their needs.
It can take many hours to complete a bid and this means a bid writer should be incredibly organised and have excellent project management and communication skills. It’s quite possible to work remotely using today’s technology. If your bid writer seems a bit cool whilst everyone else is getting very agitated, it’s because they have learnt how to handle this high-pressure role.
Bid Writing Glossary
There are several websites that are used to post up tenders to promote them to interested organisations. These websites allow you to register your interest and what sort of tenders you are interested in hearing about, and they will email you when a suitable tender becomes available. Some organisations collate these and send them out regularly. One tip is to register with any local government tender portals that you may wish to work with. They are very keen to use local business.
This term isn’t used very often, but it stands for ‘expression of interest’. If a tender becomes available on a portal, it’s usual for you to register an expression of interest to say you intend to submit a bid.
This is often the first stage of the process – it stands for Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. This is the stage where the prospect will whittle down what is often several bidders to a few. It often asks questions around finances, insurance, policies in place and other background information. Occasionally it includes some quality questions like method statements etc.
An ITT is an Invitation To Tender and this is the main part of the tender. This is usually only offered to those who pass through the PQQ stage. This is where the detail is presented.
Many tenders talk about method statements. This is just where you describe the process you use to do something. So, for example if you are a window cleaning company you may be asked for your method statement for cleaning high rise buildings. You wold describe your process and include safety measures etc.
These are usually between three and six messages that you want your prospect to really get out of your tender. They can be benefits, USPs or similar. In an ideal world they should be a differentiator from your competitors.
What does a bid writer actually do?
There are several activities that a bid writer will undertake to make sure your bid is the very best it can be before submitting. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
When the documents are released the bid writer will analyse the tender thoroughly to help you to determine the best course of action. Initially this will be an informed bid/no bid decision. It’s only worth submitting a bid for a tender if it fits into your business model. If you decide to go ahead, then this is the time to discuss the tender requirements, note the submission date and discus such things as ‘win themes’ and so on.
Some larger businesses may have a bid team and before starting the writing process they may split the tender up into sections for ease of completion, under the direction of a bid manager.
As part of the analysis the bid writer will create a list of all documentation and accreditations required, along with any major points that need special attention. This can include word count, format, font size etc. – anything that could cause the submission to fail.
No bid writer will have answers to the questions, even if they have detailed knowledge of the organisation. They work closely with subject matter experts who have all the technical and service details to gather all the information they need.
There are a lot of techniques that can be used to gather this information so that the result is a winning bid. This usually includes telephone interviews with specific individuals and sometimes editing and reviewing content provided by the subject matter expert, as well as content from previous bids. It’s very important not to just reuse content from a previous bid – winning bids have answers that are tailored specifically for the current tender opportunity.
Over time a bid library makes this process easier. The bid writer can simply draw information from here and massage it to suit the circumstances, speeding up the process.
Once all the questions have been answered, the documents need to be compiled into the tender. This includes all requested policies and procedures, accreditations and any supporting documents. This collation is a lot harder than it sounds as anything that is left out can result in a failed submission.
At this point the documents may have to be placed into a template that has been provided by the prospect or into a custom designed bid – just another way in which a bid writer needs to be creative. Once completed the bid can finally be submitted.
Some tenders require you to upload either documents, or text into predesigned spaces
Once the bid writer has all the information needed to complete a section they will start to write. The document will begin as an initial draft and often goes through several iterations before becoming the final content. This is done via a series of reviews and then final checking and proofing.
There is still quite a lot of project management that takes place at this stage as it is essential to keep a record of which questions have answers and which stage in the drafting process they have reached. Often the individual questions must then be collated into a larger document.
Bid writing is incredibly creative and is a skill that is difficult to teach. My skills come through a combination of technical writing expertise and marketing – which provides the balance between providing the right detail but concentrating on benefits and how the product or service brings value to the prospect. It also involves handling a considerable amount of dry, factual information that must be rewritten to be informative and persuasive, whilst at the same time be attractive to different types of reader. All this is also subject to page, word or character counts which can complicate matters.
My training courses help with the process but also allows delegates to concentrate on how to answer questions properly. A well-crafted answer can avoid potential problems whilst providing assurances for any concerns that the contracting organisation may have.
What is the relevance of the win rate?
I’m often asked – what is your win rate? Whilst I’m happy to give this figure I always like to add a caveat. This is because in most cases there is a lot about a tender that a bid writer has no control over. As an example, a bid writer can’t usually influence the price a client wants to use. I also am not responsible for the selection of the best product or service – although I have made suggestions to the clients that I know well. Where a bid writer adds value is in answering the quality questions and also in helping to manage the bid process, so it runs smoothly, everything is available, and the bid is submitted on time.
When you find a tender that you would like to win, give me a call. There are several ways I can help you. I can train you, coach you, write the whole thing for you or – if budget is tight – I can guide you in writing your own tender and then provide my review and edit service (The Bid Inspector). So, you get a little of my bid writing fairy dust for a very reasonable sum.