How to win government tenders

Did you know that more than 60 per cent of the tenders submitted to all levels of the Australian government each year fail to make it through the first round? Why? Because countless businesses submit tenders that don’t comply with the basic tender requirements.

There are lots of reasons why tenders don’t comply. It could be that the tenderer doesn’t have the right insurance, or that they don’t have ISO:9001 if it’s a requirement, for example. Consequently, their tenders are immediately rejected by the tender assessment panel.

Successful government tenders are about responding in the right manner. Not close to, but exactly in the right manner. Not sure what that involves? Here are some tips from our two decades’ experience.

  1. First up, print out all the Request for Tender documents. Then, read them carefully, highlighting what absolutely has to be included in your response. These are usually referred to as mandatory items.
  2. Never, never, never submit a tender with questions left unanswered, boxes left unchecked or insert ‘N/A’ in a response box (unless you are given the option to). If a question doesn’t apply to you, you still need to address it by stating, “This question does not apply to us because…” explaining your reason. You’ll be compliant and the assessment panel will get the correct impression that you’ve paid attention.
  3. Note carefully which questions or sections use words such as will, shall or must. These are signposts indicating that it’s imperative to answer these questions. Once again, if the question doesn’t apply, you know what to do.
  4. Look out for questions or sections that use the words should, could or may. It’s here that you can provide supporting information. There may be a response box for you to do this, or you may be permitted to attach extra information. Make good use of these opportunities to show the assessing panel more about your offering. It could be just what’s needed to tip the scales in your favour.
  5. Emphasise your strengths and focus on what you can do, not on the weaknesses of your competitors’ offerings. A tender is about explaining why your solution is the best; it’s not about denigrating your competition.
  6. Watch word counts like a hawk. Many, but not all, government tenders set word count limits per question or section. Many tenderers have come unstuck by disregarding word count limits. Even a single word over the limit will be ignored by the assessors.
  7. Write in conversational language and don’t use jargon. It’s perfectly fine to use terms or phrases used in the Request for Tender. Be succinct, though. Keep to the point. And use words that you use in everyday life, such as you, yours, our, we, us.
  8. Be absolutely clear about the deadline. If you miss the deadline by even 60 seconds, your tender will be rejected. So don’t leave it to the last possible minute to upload your tender. Bear in mind that technology can be a little temperamental, so give yourself breathing space by uploading at least a couple of hours before the closing time.

Winning a government tender can be a great boost to your business: it’s regular income and it looks great on the corporate CV. So give yourself the best chance of success by following every single requirement to the letter.