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.


We’re hiring: Co-Founder, Senior Developer with CTO potential

We’re looking for an extremely talented Ruby-on-Rails/Salesforce/SQL genius to help pioneer the next phase in competitive selling. You must have experience designing and building large and complex (yet maintainable) systems, and you should constantly amaze your co-workers with your top-notch problem solving skills and can-do attitude. You should have a BSc or higher. Familiarity with Amazon AWS and front-end technologies are desirable.

Our product is market-ready, but not yet world-beating – that’s where you come in. You will be expected to build and lead a team of talented, motivated, intense, and interesting developers, who will push you to be the best you can be as you will them. Outstanding communication and motivational skills are essential.

You will be expected to take ownership of the product and become synonymous with creating the most innovative sales enablement technologies on the planet.

We’re looking for a co-founder with all of the commitments and sacrifices that come with that, who will be part of our core leadership team. Your compensation will include meaningful equity ownership.


  • HTML/CSS/PHP/MYSQL, Ruby on Rails, Salesforce


  • €50K – €70K Salary
  • 10.0% – 15.0% Equity

Mentoring for Scale – a new initiative for startups

For the past couple of months, a cohort of startups has been benefiting from a new initiative created by Niamh Bushnell, Dublin’s Commissioner for Startups, and Joe Hogan of Openet.
The Mentoring for Scale programme matches startups with experienced CEOs – we’re talking about people who have helped scale companies to multi-million dollar revenues and, in some cases, $100M+ exits…

This article was originally written for the Dublin Globe website

For the past couple of months, a cohort of startups has been benefiting from a new initiative created by Niamh Bushnell, Dublin’s Commissioner for Startups, and Joe Hogan of Openet.

The Mentoring for Scale programme matches startups with experienced CEOs – we’re talking about people who have helped scale companies to multi-million dollar revenues and, in some cases, $100M+ exits. The startups are selected with help from Enterprise Ireland, based on criteria such as the readiness to build scale.

The startup scene in Ireland tends to revolve around the various incubation and accelerator programmes, which are ideal for getting companies off the ground. But what happens once you’ve achieved product-market fit, gained product validation and are getting giddy over finally having a paying client? Building scale necessitates a different kind of support – one that is not so readily available – which is why this programme is so impactful.

There’s no fixed agenda, everyone gets 30 minutes with 2 or 3 mentors to ask for advice on anything they like. In our case, we were looking for insights on topics as diverse as: Do I need to move to the USA to sell there? Should I change my company name to better reflect the market? How am I going to recruit early adopters?

Mentors are matched with startups beforehand, on the basis of sufficient similarity in terms of the business journey to make the sessions meaningful. As you articulate your challenges, the mentors share their war stories and challenge your assumptions, while providing insights based on their own experiences. It’s interesting to note that not only are the mentors willing to invest their own time, but they are also prepared to share business connections where they feel it would be of benefit.

I proudly explained to one mentor, Alan Robinson, CEO at Clever Techies who has raised $15 Million in venture capital as co-founder of Shenick, how our product helps sales reps to accurately forecast the likelihood of closing deals. He noted in return that telling sales reps how bad their current forecasts are might make for a rather depressed sales force! So that’s an issue we’ll have to work on!

This initiative aims to help grow the startup ecosystem – as many do – but its uniqueness is in supporting startups at this crucial time in their evolution, just at the point where most other programmes and accelerators drop off.

After exiting the New Frontiers programme in 2013, we spent two years working on our product-market fit. Had this programme been available to us then, it would have hugely accelerated our progress. As it is, it’s taken this long for us to figure out that the primary market for TenderScout’s Sales Intelligence technology is US professional service firms. After four years of trial and error, we’re now ready for scaling into the US market, and this programme has given us the opportunity to access the kind of unbiased feedback that will take us to launch – armed with impartial and constructive insights from experienced CEOs.

As Mentoring for Scale grows, I hope that it will include, amongst its panel of ultra-experienced entrepreneurs, some CEOs who are perhaps just a couple of years further down the road than startups like ours and in whose warm footprints we are about to walk. If that happens, we’ll really be looking at an ecosystem that supports businesses from startup to exit!

TenderScout: winners in the SFA National Business Awards

SFA Awards 2013 (ENB)TenderScout are delighted to be selected as winners in the SFA National Business Awards 2015 under the Emerging New Business Category.

TenderScout gives suppliers the winning edge when competing for public and private sector contracts. Sales teams double their success rates using competitive insights gleaned from our predictive analytics platform.

A press release issued by the SFA on the 8th December 2014 lists all the finalists in the Small Firms Association National Business Awards 2015.

“The Awards provide an opportunity to highlight the success of our small firms as they seek out new markets and innovations”

Awards Patron – An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD

The SFA is the “Voice of Small Business” in Ireland, with over 8,000 member companies. It is a national organisation exclusively representing the needs of small enterprises (i.e. those employing less than 50 employees) in Ireland. The SFA directly meets the Government at the table and interacts with key decision-makers at all levels to ensure that the economic environment is conducive to small business establishment and development.

Spanish startup, Seabery, emerges as winner of Head2Head Pitch Battles at Silicon Stroll Bootcamp

The Silicon Stroll Bootcamp was organised by Dublin BIC (Dublin Business Innovation Centre) as part of the European Investor Gate Project, an EU investment preparation programme. The Bootcamp involved representatives from 50 start-up companies, from 13 European countries, and 35 international investors who came together with Google, IBM, PayPal and Microsoft for two days of learning, collaboration and pitching for investment.

Six companies reached the final round at the Guinness Enterprise Centre. They were:

  • TenderScout, Ireland
  • Ignidata, Portugal
  • Courtsdesk, Ireland
  • Medicodose Systems, France
  • CheckVentory, Ireland
  • Seabery, Spain

TenderScout makes it to ESB Spark of Genius Final

TenderScout, Restored Hearing and Love & Robots were last night named as the three finalists of the ESB Spark of Genius Award at the 2014 Web Summit.

The three were chosen from 30 shortlisted start-ups after an intensive pitching round at the NDRC to a panel of judges that included Niamh Bushnell, the newly-appointed Dublin commissioner for start-ups; John McKiernan, business development at ESB; David O’Kelly from KPMG; and Mary Moloney from CoderDojo Foundation.

Read the full article on the Business & Leadership website

The five minute CIO: Tony Corrigan

Collaboration and communication help to avoid expensive mistakes in IT projects, without sacrificing the ability to change as the work progresses, says Tony Corrigan, strategic consultant and founder of online platform TenderScout, which helps SMEs win public sector contracts…

Read the full article by Gordon Smith on Silicon Republic

Congratulations to Nicholas O’Dwyer & Company Winners of Best Supplier at the National Procurement Awards

Congratulations to Neil Delaney and all of his team at Nicholas O’Dwyer & Company Ltd on winning this year’s National Procurement Awards Best Supplier Award as sponsored by TenderScout.

Nicholas O’Dwyer were up against stiff competition but proved worthy winners.

The award was presented to Neil at the Hilton Doubletree on Burlington Road on December 4th at the event hosted by Richard Curran of Dragon’s Den fame.

A full list of the winners can be found here.

Business Choice Winner 2013 is TenderScout

On Thursday night, TenderScout beat off fierce competition from Chambers Ireland, ISME, Media HQ and Great National Hotels and Resorts to win the Business Choice category at the Eircom Spiders.

The event, held in the National Conference Centre was attended by over 700 digital leaders and hosted by Neil Delamere. Neil, a former work colleague of TenderScout CEO Tony Corrigan, presented the award along with category sponsor Colin Meagle of Continuum.

Corrigan said “We came more in hope than expectation, but the real difference was the level of support that we had from our business colleagues and associates. It was their votes that swung the result in our favour and I can’t thank them enough. It’s a great endorsement of several years hard work and gives us a great platform to build on”

See the Eircom Spiders website for the full list of winners.

Silicon Republic – Startup of the Week

This article first appeared on Silicon Republic

Our tech start-up of the week is TenderScout, a new online service based in the cloud that’s aiming to help SMEs win tenders, as well as carry out research before they decide to go for a tender, especially in the public sector, so they can have a better chance of winning a contract. Tony Corrigan is behind the venture, which is based in the Docklands Innovation Park in Dublin City.

TenderScout, which is hosted in the Amazon cloud, provides decision-making information about buyers, competitors and tenders, and identifies partners that will enable companies to be successful, according to Corrigan.

From its Dublin base, the company employs six people, but Corrigan says TenderScout is planning to take on new hires, particularly in the areas of data analysis and tender consultancy.

The six people involved in the TenderScout team, apart form Corrigan, are primarily involved in developing technology and data mining.

How TenderScout came about

With a background in IT, Corrigan says the genesis of TenderScout first took root in 2010 when he was working as a tender consultant to government and SMEs.

“I noticed how few SMEs actually responded to tenders even though they clearly had the capability to fulfil the contract,” he explains. “They told me they didn’t bother because they lacked insights into the tender and the buyer: that the big players had it wrapped up, that the incumbent has the inside track.”

Such SMEs, explains Corrigan, were also afraid that they would waste hundreds or thousands of euro writing tenders that they should have known from the start weren’t right for them.

He says SMEs could often be forking out in the region of €4,500 when researching and writing their proposals in order to win a public tender, for example.

And, apparently, less than 10pc of Irish SMEs has ever won a tender.

The procurement process – giving a digital helping hand

That’s when Corrigan decided to take things into his own hands – to come up with a system to ensure SMEs in Ireland could get more of a tranche of tenders, instead of mostly being overshadowed by the bigger players.

He set about building a service that would empower SMEs to compete on what he describes as a “level playing field” for tenders.

Corrigan used his expertise in the IT space to design the algorithms for the TenderScout platform.

He says the platform has mined a lot of information and runs a load of algorithms, so users of TenderScout can find out information on aspects such as winners of tenders for a particular company in the past.

“By providing as much decision-making and market intelligence information as possible, companies can put together submissions that have all the ingredients for success.”

Capitalising on the cloud

As to how the TenderScout system works via the Amazon cloud, users can sign up for free to see live and upcoming tenders personalised to the areas of interest to them.

“So if you are only interested in digital media contracts, you can generate a pipeline of opportunities over the next year.

“More importantly, because we get tenders from multiple sources, you reduce the risk of missing out on valuable business opportunities,” explains Corrigan.

For users that want to gain insights into specific tenders, TenderScout has developed a subscription model. This supplies people with “innovative decision making tools”, he explains. Think competitive analysis, buyer habits, and market trends.

Corrigan says this subscription model is all about saving people time trying to track down vital information about tenders.

“We also have a really clever tool to find partners to work with you on specific tenders. So if you have the skills to design a website, but need a programmer so that you can compete for a tender, TenderScout will generate a list of potential partners with that skill, who have previously won a tender.”

Challenges when setting out

TenderScout’s major challenge, says Corrigan, has been overcoming the perception that tendering is too difficult with too little chance of success.

“We want to prove to SMEs that tendering is a viable revenue stream worth competing for. If we can do that, then more SMEs are going to be successful, which will in turn promote job creation, drive innovation and deliver increased value to the public sector.”

Turning data into something meaningful

On the practical side, he says challenges have included trying to develop a technology that can make sense of hundreds of thousands of pieces of information so someone can see at a glance whether they can win a tender.

“That is an ongoing challenge as each day we incorporate thousands of new pieces of data into our overall body of knowledge.”

On a positive note though, Corrigan says finding customers is one area that’s becoming easier.

“We’re seeing clients move from winning one in five to winning four in five tenders and that kind of good news travels.

“Our challenge is to continually find ways of staying ahead of the curve by innovating new insights and tools to make tendering more inclusive and viable for SMEs.”

On the horizon

As for his immediate plans for TenderScout, Corrigan has some ambitious targets.

TenderScout, he says, is progressing its development roadmap, particularly in the area of collaboration and partnering.

“We have just gained our first customers in the UK and are working on partnerships that will help us deliver TenderScout across Europe,” he says.

Corrigan’s advice for other digital start-ups who are trying to get their ventures off the ground is to stick to their vision.

“When you explain your concept to other people and they think it’s ludicrous, take that as a positive indication that you’re about to do something sensational! If you can’t believe in it then nobody else will.”