If you’re starting to consider new ways to grow your business, you’ve likely come across the option of bidding for public or private sector contracts. Before you take the leap, it’s worth making sure you’ve got the internal knowledge and resources to both fulfill the contract, and complete the bid process as effectively as possible. Enter: the expert bid writer.
Our aim in this post is to try and lift the lid on the role of the bid writer, how it fits into procurement at large, and the benefits of having your bid professionally written.
While bid writing as a profession is relatively new, bidding itself has been around since 2800 B.C. The first recorded written bid was for “50 jars of fragrant smooth oil,” and although the medium and format of bidding have no doubt changed (nowadays, PDFs are preferred over clay tablets), the core principle remains the same.
Bid writing and the procurement process
Essentially, bid writing is the task of authoring the answers to the questions put forward by the buyer (formally referred to as the Authority). This process can range from completing a few sides of A4 to hundreds of pages. To understand what bid writing is, you must first have a good idea of what the procurement process entails. Broadly, procurement refers to the Government (public sector) and/or businesses (private sector) procuring suppliers to provide goods or services. When doing this, they need to ensure that the chosen supplier is the best fit for their needs. To accomplish this, they issue a set of questions to potential suppliers, asking them to describe how they will deliver the service or supply the goods, and why they should be selected over another firm.
At this stage, it would be useful to go through the differences between public and private sector procurement, as although both often use bids to obtain services, they have different needs and processes.
Public sector procurement
Public sector procurement refers to any competitions being run by a government body. This can range from huge contracts from the likes of the Ministry of Defence to cleaning services for a local council. All come under the purview of public sector procurement regulations, and the standards this entails. These bids have some mandatory requirements – questions suppliers must address about financial standing, eligibility to bid, and legal compliance for example. Bid writing for these bids often has a heavy dose of compliance and can often involve tying the proposed solution to intertwine with key government goals.
Private sector procurement
Private sector procurement (commonly referred to as business-to-business) refers to any bids that are run by a private business. These bids are not subject to regulations, and so organisations are free to include whatever questions they want. Often, it’s key to highlight innovation and value to the buyer.
Why do companies bid?
It’s important to understand why bidding for contracts is worth your time and effort. While many companies rely on private, non-tendered, clients for work, there are several benefits to winning contracts through the bidding process. These include:
- the certainty of long-term work arrangements
- the valuable experience gained from competing for and completing these contracts and
- the opportunity to grow your business and workforce through access to a wide variety of opportunities.
Even if you haven’t bid before, or mainly rely on private work, winning contracts through bidding can be a great way to expand your business and take advantage of new opportunities.
Where does bid writing fit into the process?
As we’ve previously discussed, both public and private buyers require services and conduct bids to select the best supplier for their needs. For potential suppliers to be considered, they must submit a bid detailing their ability to provide the required services. The question then arises: who should write these bids? Many companies decide to try and write tenders by sharing questions with a Subject Matter Expert within their business (e.g., the Head of Logistics would be tasked with writing the logistics response). However, there are several advantages to using a professional bid writer, such as those supplied by Kittle Group. These are:
- Experience: Bid writers are experts in crafting compelling and high-scoring responses. Their only job is to help craft the best possible responses, as opposed to juggling writing with another primary role.
- Critical thinking: Bid writers, especially external consultancies, offer a critical (but friendly!) external insight into responses. They will be able to quickly identify strengths and weaknesses in the response, as well as ensure compliance with the buyer’s requirements.
- Time: Often, busy companies don’t have the capacity or time to put key Subject Matter Experts on hold to write bid responses. As such, using a professional bid writer will free up capacity in your internal team.
Based on this, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a professional bid writer who possesses the necessary expertise to handle the intricacies of the writing process.
In terms of bid writers, companies that use them have two choices, in-house or agency.
In-house bid writers
In-house bid writers typically work within a business that regularly bids. For many large companies that bid on multiple large projects at once, having an internal team of writers proves to be a valuable resource. However, for smaller companies or those who bid infrequently, having a full-time team of in-house writers can be a considerable expense.
Consultancy bid writers
Using the services of a specialist bid writing consultancy can greatly benefit companies in optimising their bidding process. Employing an external consultant can alleviate the burden on occupied Subject Matter Experts and enhance the productivity of internal writing teams. Firms such as Kittle Group specialise in writing hundreds of tenders annually, providing our clients with our extensive knowledge and expertise in the bidding process, allowing them to produce outstanding responses. We also can bring another dimension based on our broader cross-sector knowledge and experience.
What does it take to submit a good bid?
So, what does it take to submit a good bid? Whilst the content and technical solutions will vary from bid to bid, there are a few key features that are present in every good bid. Firstly, to quote Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Bid management is key and works hand-in-glove with bid writing. Having a plan detailing how to approach a bid, who plays what role, and when responses need to be researched, written, and reviewed, is crucial. If team members are unsure of their roles, or deadlines are missed, it can jeopardise the entire bid’s success.
From the client’s side, there needs to be a strong technical solution that fulfills all the buyer’s needs. You could have an expertly written bid that reads smoothly, and accurately extols the virtues and benefits of your technical solution; however, if this is not in line with buyer’s requirements, you will lose.
Good bids require time. Although this will vary massively, depending on the length and complexity of the submission, they all require a sufficient timescale to properly draft and critically review responses.
Having a well-written bid is critical to its success. Quite simply, bids need to be written in a way that clearly explains the benefits of using your company in an easily understandable and engaging manner.
A good bid needs to fully explain your plan, and it’s important to remember that you’ll only get points for what is on paper. You may well have an excellent and innovative technical solution, but if you keep it in your head and assume the reviewer will be able to infer interim steps from your written solution, you can’t be scored on it.
What happens when a bid is submitted
The period between bid submission and award is often somewhat nerve-wracking for those who have bid. To help alleviate this, it may be helpful to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Once submitted, bids will be marked by a team of assessors. They will strictly follow the evaluation criteria supplied in the procurement documents and the highest-scoring bid will win. After, or in conjunction with marking, bidders may be invited to give a presentation to the buyer on their bid and proposed solution. Who gives this presentation can sometimes be at the discretion of the buyer but more often, the bidder decides who to take. It may only be the highest-scoring bidder, but sometimes all bidders are required to present. In terms of how long the marking and award process takes, it is usually weeks and may well be months before a decision is reached. After the decision is made, the winner will be announced, and in a public sector bid, feedback will be provided to those who were unsuccessful.
How to know if your company is ready to bid
Knowing when your company is ready to bid can be a complex decision. However, these are the minimum requirements:
- That you have the necessary experience: When bidding for a contract you will need to evidence your experience with similar contracts. If you don’t have the experience, you likely won’t win.
- That you have been trading for over two years: Whilst it is not set in stone, most buyers require companies to have been trading for at least two years.
- That you have a good economic standing: Buyers will often request copies of your annual turnover, insurances, and other financial information to ensure you are solvent before awarding you a contract.
- That you can fulfill the contract: This is perhaps the most important requirement. Bidders need to seriously consider if they have the staff, machinery, time, and resources needed to deliver the contract.
Get in touch
Now that you understand the importance of bid writing in the tendering process, you may want to seek expert support for your next bid. To explore your options, consider giving our Business Development Director, Sam Nimmo, a call for a no-obligation chat at
+44(0) 118 449 2506.