So you’ve found a tender that peaks your interest – great! The next step is to read through all the documents before responding. But what are they all, where should you start, and why are they important?
A Request for Tender (RFT) often includes many different types of documents, which can vary depending on the buyer organisation, the industry, and the nature of the work itself. The sheer volume can be overwhelming, but you can generally break the documents into six main sections:
- Scope of Works
- Evaluation Criteria
- Tender Schedules
- Pricing Schedules
- Policies and Conditions
Remember that these are just general categories, and the particular RFT documents you’re looking at might be arranged differently, have alternative names, or contain multiple documents within one section. To help make things easier, we recommend printing the documents out, separating them into the categories above, and using highlighters and/or sticky notes to identify important information.
Now let’s look at what kind of documentation falls into each of these categories, and what you pay close attention to when preparing your response.
The ‘introduction’, ‘overview’, or ‘invitation documents’ normally contain key information about the buyer and the tender, including an outline of how the RFT process will work. This standardly includes a timeline for the tendering process, any key dates, details of any briefing meetings, an address or web link for where to submit your response, and instructions on how to do so. There’s also likely to be background information on the buyer organisation, their line of work, how the project fits into their vision, and contact details for relevant personnel.
What’s Important: Pay particular attention to any due dates and submission details to ensure that you have enough time to put together a high-quality response, and that you submit it before the deadline to the correct place and in the correct format.
Scope of Works
The ‘scope of works’, also known as ‘tender specifications’, includes any documents giving a detailed description of the project and the tangible tasks and outcomes. Here you’ll find things like the objectives of the project, a breakdown of the products/services to be supplied, and the functional and operational requirements of the job. It can also include the quantity of products required, extent of the services or length of the contract, and where and when the work needs to be completed.
What’s Important: This section should help you decide whether to respond to the tender or not, so read the requirements carefully to ensure you understand exactly what the buyer needs, and can meet those needs. Have you identified what challenges they’re facing? Do you know why they require your product or services? Can you deliver everything described in the scope of works? If not, you might be better off spending your time and resources on a different tender that’s better aligned with your business.
Not all buyers will publish their ‘evaluation’, ‘selection’, or ‘award’ criteria when they release a tender, but government organisations often do, due to strict guidelines in the public sector around openness and impartiality. Most evaluation methods use some form of scoring scale and/or weighted percentages to place different importance on various criteria, in order to help evaluators reach an unbiased decision. The listed evaluation criteria usually directly aligns to the questions and/or categories in the tender schedules section, as that’s where you respond and prove that you meet the criteria.
While every tender is different, examples of common evaluation criteria are:
- Capability – proof that you’re competent and have the systems and processes in place to perform the specified works
- Capacity – indication that you have sufficient equipment, time, finances, and staff resources
- Qualifications – confirmation of relevant certifications, licenses, or the level of expertise required
- Experience – evidence and references to show that you’ve provided similar goods/services before
- Understanding of Requirements – demonstration that you fully understand the buyer’s needs and work required
- Tendered Pricing – the quoted price you’re offering for this particular job and any added value offered
What’s Important: Look for which criteria is weighted most heavily or has the highest scoring, as this is the criteria the buyer has deemed most important, so you should spend more time and effort on these sections when writing your tender response. Identify where your company’s strengths align with the buyer’s priorities, and tailor your response to focus on these aspects more prominently.
This section contains any documents requiring your response to questions from the buyer, or requesting more information on specific deliverables listed in the scope of works. These documents can also be known as the ‘requirement schedules’, ‘form of tender’, ‘return schedules’ or ‘response form’. Just like in a school exam, the evaluators will mark your responses in this section against their evaluation criteria.
Schedules can vary hugely depending on the industry or nature of the work – for example, construction or architecture tenders may require detailed design documents, while tenders for chemical cleaning may ask you to explain health and safety procedures or answer questions related to PPE.
These schedules are commonly provided in a Q&A style document, where you simply write your answers into the buyer’s template. Alternatively, the buyer may provide this as a numbered list of questions and allow you to submit your response in any format you choose, enabling you to customise and present in your own branding.
What’s Important: Compliance is key - make sure you answer every question (even if it’s not compulsory!) and provide all the information requested so that you’re not disqualified on a technicality. It also helps to keep referring back to the evaluation criteria to ensure you’re providing comprehensive responses for the most important questions. Keep your answers clear and concise, and use persuasive writing techniques to really make your tender stand out from the crowd.
This is the section where a buyer requests your proposed costs. You’ll have the opportunity to quote for the project, whether that’s at a fixed rate, within certain price ranges and variations, or with an itemised breakdown of the cost for each aspect of the project.
Once again, these are commonly provided in a templated document or spreadsheet, with delegated spaces for you to add in your prices, or alternatively, the buyer may allow you to submit your quote in any format you choose. In some instances, tender schedules and pricing schedules may be combined into one document or section.
What’s Important: Check the evaluation criteria to see how tendered pricing will be scored, but remember that tenders aren’t won solely on price. You don’t need to undersell yourself in order to be competitive – do your research to ensure your price is in the right ball park, but focus more on presenting great value for money, and showing the buyer that you understand their needs and can meet them.
Policies and Conditions
This section includes any documents covering formal policies or conditions around the tender, such as:
- Terms and Conditions of the Request for Tender
- Code of Conduct
- Privacy and Confidentiality Declarations
- Conflict of Interest Declarations
- Proposed Contract for the winning supplier
Some of these documents may appear in a different order or location, and may even be included as appendices or tucked away in one of the above sections.
What’s Important: While these documents can be left until last, it’s still crucial that you read all the fine print and understand it thoroughly. Ensure that any relevant business stakeholders also read and sign the documents, and if you need more clarity on anything, don’t be afraid to seek assistance, either from the buyer or legal counsel.
Reading and interpreting all of the documents included in an RFT can be tedious, but if you break it down into these digestible sections, and look closely at what’s most important, you’ll be in a much better position to make your bid/no bid decision, align your tender response to what’s important to the buyer, and ensure your bid is compliant – improving your overall chances of winning!
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