How to write a winning tender proposal

Are you applying for government tenders? You should be.

Globally, government tenders are worth a huge 18% of GDP, and in the Republic of Ireland, the largest buyer from Irish suppliers is the Irish government.

Yet you could be one of the many business owners who don’t attempt to compete for government tenders, which could be in relation to anything from looking for a stationery supplier to seeking ecommerce consultancy services, believing that you’d never stand a chance of winning one.

We’ve got news for you.

Firstly, government tenders are regularly awarded to SMB suppliers.
Secondly, to win one you need to have a strategic approach. Applying for a tender in an ad hoc fashion is a waste of time and effort.

Winning a government tender rests on a few elements; one of them is the proposal, and we discuss how to write a tender bid here. (We’ll be speaking about the other elements, such as qualifying your leads, in other posts.)

What does the client want to see?

Here’s a little insider knowledge for you. Putting out a tender is a job that no one enjoys. It’s a time-consuming process for government departments (and for businesses who may occasionally issue tenders).

This insight can work to your benefit if you show clearly in your tender proposal that you understand what the client needs. It sounds simple, but few companies competing for government tenders do this, relying instead on populating free tender templates and speaking about themselves rather than highlighting how you can help the buyer with their requirement.

You’ll seldom find all the information you need to build this understanding of the buyer’s needs through the tender notice. They’re notoriously cryptic (though TenderScout provides extensive additional information for each notice we serve on our platform, such as highlighting all the documents that need to be completed as part of the proposal and rating the opportunity in line with your own business).

To show that you understand what the buyer is looking for, you need to ask questions to gather the information you need, and the best time to do this is before the tender process begins. Hence our advice earlier that to win government contracts you need to adopt a strategic approach.

Ensuring an even playing field for all prospective suppliers once the tendering process is in play often means that government departments are restricted in what they can tell you. This is why it is so important to meet the relevant buyers and speak to them prior to the tender going live. TenderScout provides users with a list of current active tenders at any one time, as well as information on potential prospects, including details on past tenders and information on when they were won, and who won them, to help business owners build pipelines.

Knowing whether the buyer is issuing the tender because of operational or financial (or other) reasons will change the approach you take, so understanding the buyer’s motivation, and showing that understanding in your bid, is your first step in writing a winning tender proposal.

Mind your language

When you write your proposal, make sure that you use the language the buyer uses. This immediately establishes rapport and highlights you as a supplier that has an understanding of what the buyer is looking for.

Unnecessary jargon is annoying and government procurement officers are able to sift through clichés and exaggerations at speed.

Communicating in your proposal as you would with a live human is what you want to do. It’s important to include case studies that show how your product or services can help the buyer achieve their aims, but do this in a way that seeks to inform rather than impress. Don’t describe every process you have as results-driven, and not everything you do is a paradigm shift compared to the rest of the industry so don’t depict is as such.

Time is of the essence for everyone. Write clearly and concisely in your tender proposal, and ironically, you will impress the buyer.

It’s not over until it’s over

Many SMBs set themselves up for failure by competing for one tender, not winning it, and then doing nothing.

Don’t make this mistake. You’re legally entitled to feedback on your tender proposal and to find out why you scored lower than the winning proposal.

This information is gold dust!

Actively ask the buyer for it. Not only does this provide you with a further opportunity to speak to the buyer and build the relationship, which stands you in good stead when they tender again, you will also receive first hand information on how to improve your tender proposal.

Then, use this information. Again, you’ll be surprised at how many SMEs don’t and submit a second tender proposal for an opportunity that looks exactly the same as their first. Another waste of time and effort.

We help businesses win more government contracts. Our method is exactly as we outline here, and businesses that work with us and follow our advice increase their winning rate to 70% within three tender proposals.

If you’re interested in how your business could gain a slice of the government tender pie, please feel free to contact us. We’d be delighted to hear from you and help you win tenders.


Increase your revenue with government contracts

Sales and selling is an integral part of business. Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) invest in CRMs, Marketing Tools and sales resources to improve their ability to identify and compete for business. Somewhat surprisingly over 80% of SMEs focus almost exclusively on business-to-business (B2B) prospects ignoring the fact that business-to-government (B2G) accounts for up to 18% of Gross National Product (GDP).

Finding Sales Prospects

Generating B2B sales requires a combination of inbound (e.g. website visits) and outbound (e.g. cold calling) strategies. Once you finally get in front of your prospect, closing the sale often requires a proposal.

By contrast B2G opportunities typically reside on publically available databases for anyone to access. These leads require no inbound or outbound sales strategies; they simply exist for anyone who wants to access them.

Qualifying Sales Opportunities

When deciding whether to compete (i.e. invest in writing a proposal) for a B2B opportunity, sales teams will consider whether they have a prior relationship with the buyer, how well their solution matches the buyer need and critically, what the competitive landscape for the opportunity is like.

For B2G opportunities, exactly the same criteria applies. It’s often easier to qualify B2G opportunities, especially where you are not the incumbent because Government Buyers are required to publish details on their previous contract awards.

Competing for Sales

B2B buyers have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing their suppliers. They can be as formal or as informal as they like which it comes to making their selection. They rarely rely on just the proposal you present to them when making their purchasing decision; indeed they have the latitude to incorporate any and all information that they choose into the decision making process.

B2G buyers on the other hand are bound by rules and conventions. They cannot arbitrarily make decisions about who to award contracts to – they must rely solely on the information presented in proposal documents. The challenge for the buyer is to ensure that they solicit the right information from suppliers. To suppliers this presents both an opportunity and a challenge. As you are solely judged on the quality of your submission, suppliers who can write the best proposals stand a better chance of being awarded the business.


Suppliers competing for B2B contracts can never be certain of success for the simple reason that the rules governing the award of contracts can and do evolve over the course of the sales process.

On the other hand, everything about the B2G sales process is transparent. As opportunities are freely published, SMEs don’t have to have extensive sales capabilities, but they do need to know how to quality opportunities that are both suitable and winnable. They also need to know how to write a winning proposal.
Qualification of opportunities
and proposal writing skills are easily learnt, while tools like ensure that SMEs receive a steady stream of pre-qualified opportunities and incorporate guidance and templates that get SMEs to the finish line quicker.

SMEs should seriously consider B2G as part of their revenue mix. With a little bit of experience (and some expertise) it won’t be long before government buyers form part of your client list.