22nd Jan 2012 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

Tender Development: The Role of Templates in Your Proposals

Templates are invaluable tools. They can gather and sort information, assist data analysis and streamline content collection. But can they be used to showcase your offer?


  • Templates are invaluable internal tools; don't confuse them with a tender response designed to showcase your business
  • A template-approach to an RFT response is plagued with pitfalls that will detract from your offer
  • Focus on becoming 'match fit'; putting a system in place to optimise your chances of winning more business every time!
  • Consider using a consultant to develop customised graphical templates for your responses.

Real value is found not just in visual decoration but in quality content

Why The Desire for Templates?

Growing a business by winning tenders demands a disciplined and systematic approach. And whilst most people are convinced of that, few have the time necessary to do it properly.

Perhaps that's why so many people look for an overarching Tender Response Template. They need a document that will look professional, make bidding for business easier and can be used over and over again. After all: most well-run, well-managed businesses rely on standardised, systematic processes to get things done efficiently. So why not tender responses?

This question highlights a significant challenge: How can tender responses be developed efficiently whilst still differentiating your offer from the competition?

The tension between efficiency and creativity is well-illustrated by the PowerPoint template. An organisation might develop such a template to reflect its branding and image. It may even provide a library of graphical elements, images and visual tools. But the real value of the PowerPoint presentations is not in the visual decoration. It's in the content. And every presentation must be client-focused and tailored to the audience to be effective. The same is true of tender responses.

The Advantage of Templates

Used correctly, templates are essential tools in the preparation of a tender response. They can be used to undertake many of the critical activities that improve your prospects of winning business through the tender process.

For instance, our consultants use a template to undertake a Competitor Analysis. This process is used to explore and score your competitors and isolate points of differentiation. Without the template, it would merely be a discussion. With it, the insights that are uncovered can be clearly identified, weighted and ranked.

A writing template is an excellent tool for extracting high quality content from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). These templates promote focused thinking and direct the free flow of content into useful nuggets, as we discussed in the article: "Free Your Content by Boxing It In".

Additionally a well-designed, professional stylesheet is frequently a tender must-have. A visual template like this exudes professionalism and harmonises content into a brand-compliant package. We discussed the very real merits of these stylesheets in this article.

But using a rigid template as the basis of your final response has some significant issues.

The Pitfalls of Using a Tender Response Template

  1. Usually, templates focus on the tenderer and the features of the service or product offered. The client and their needs are usually relegated to second place, or worse.
  2. By their very nature, templates are repetitive and lack individuality and creativity; one size does not fit all, unless of course, your goal is to become an also-ran.
  3. Templates quickly become stale and need revision, especially if they contain changing facts and figures.
  4. Using templates frequently leads to errors as people try to 'copy and paste' previous tender responses as the starting point for new ones. A response that contains references to previous prospects (or competitors!) is tender suicide.

In short, if a new business opportunity warrants the effort it takes to pursue it, then it surely justifies a bespoke response. Reviewers can spot templated, copy-and-paste responses from 50 paces. And the message these responses send out is: "We simply couldn't be bothered to make an effort to win this business". This is not a welcome outcome if your intention is to produce a quality, professional response that stands out from the crowd.

Perhaps a better way to streamline your business processes and to grow your business through tendering is to be tender and proposal 'match-fit'.

Are You Tender 'Match Fit'?

Being tender 'match fit' is all about:

  • Being ready and able to respond to a tender with minimal impact on BAU (business as usual)
  • Getting serious about growing your business through tendering
  • Positioning your response team to optimise your opportunity to win new business every time
  • Thorough preparation; remember the 5 Ps, proper preparation prevents poor performance

You may be surprised to learn that 50% or more of the work involved in responding to an RFT can be done prior to its publication - perhaps more if you implement a Capture Management Plan. Elements common to all tender responses can be readied before you find yourself in the heat of the tender response battle. And having these in a secure central resource library is invaluable. Instead of tracking down insurances, company financials and other policies and procedures, your time and effort can be spent on the elements of your response that really make a difference: matching winning benefits to your prospect's needs.

Being 'match fit' means having all of this work done in advance, leaving you free to optimise a response and innovate, often within very short timeframes, that leaps from the reviewer's crowded in-tray and straight into the short list.

Templates, used internally, are extremely useful tools to manage processes and aid tender response development. The best RFT responses, on the other hand, are client-focused, externally-directed marketing documents that showcase the benefits of an offer that meets the client's specific needs. Don't get the two confused! An organisation serious about growing their business by tendering will see the value of getting 'match fit' so they can optimise their chances of winning new business with minimal impact on their current activities. A well-designed response process and up-to-date resource library will take the dread out of tender responses and keep templates in their proper place.

robRob Machin is a principal consultant for Tender Success. For more than 25 years he's helped organisations to get tender 'match fit'. Contact Rob to ensure your next response is a success.