How to write a tender response - Part 1

Business Advice & Assistance

What is a tender?

The majority of government and larger company procurement, such as defence is done by putting a project or piece of work out to tender. This is an opportunity for businesses to present a bid or tender for the supply of products or services.  Across government and big business, this can cover a vast array of products and services such as office furniture, security, or to undertake public works such as a council building construction, highway construction, building maintenance services, etc.

An offer or invitation to tender may be issued by all three tiers of government (federal, state or local government) and large project owners, such a mining company. Then you (as the interested business) responds, or "tenders" your bid, stating what you will do, when, and how much it will cost. The tendering process normally concludes by the relevant department awarding the contract to the successful tenderer, who is the provider that presented the best tender response.

Before you begin the tendering process, there are some key questions you should consider:

Is my business ready to tender for work?

Similar to taking on any other project, tendering for big packages of work needs to be managed as a project within your business. You must be clear that you can deliver whatever the tender requires. Your organisation should have a proven track record in whatever type of project is being tendered. You also need to understand the industry, market and the role of the various stakeholders involved.

Can you afford to tender?

The tender process can be lengthy and involved. Can you afford to invest the time and effort to submit all the necessary detailed documentation while still dealing with regular business operations?

Have you done similar jobs before?

Unless you can demonstrate previous success in similar tenders, it is unlikely you will be successful. Owners of projects typically select providers that are established, experienced, and with a demonstrable track record to minimise their risk.  You are sure to have this experience, it is about telling the story of your work history.  Also, it can be a good idea to tender for smaller packages of work first, to get that track record that big projects need to see.

Do you have a chance of winning the tender?

If you know that another company tendering is better suited for the project, then it may be wise to pass. There is little point in investing time and effort unless you believe that you have a reasonably good chance of winning the tender. You do not want to waste company resources by tendering for jobs that are beyond what you can realistically handle.  Some government tenders require that they get at least three proposals, so don't be caught making up the numbers.

In some cases, it might be wiser to focus on procuring non-government projects, in the private sector, so you can gain more experience and referrals before tendering for government projects in the future.

How do I write a tender response?

Here are just a few pointers to guide you when preparing a tender. It is not by any means an exhaustive list, as the exact tender requirements will vary depending on the tender you are considering.

  • Understand the personal and organisational responsibilities you will have if your tender is successful.
  • Pay attention to every detail of the tender documentation.
  • Include visuals to reinforce your claims.
  • Write a cover letter that outlines the key points of your tender. It should be concise, engaging, and highlight why you should be chosen.
  • Prepare all documentation.  It is likely that you will need to have solid policies and procedures, especially around WHS, quality and control.  You will also need to provide proof of various insurances.
  • Use a tender checklist to make sure you have everything covered.
  • Double-check everything. It is best to have someone else review the tender to see if any points have not been addressed. 
  • Submit your tender before the due date.

A thoroughly well-prepared tender will increase your chances of being awarded the project. Treat the tender writing process as a project in itself, and make sure nothing is overlooked.

Where do I find tenders?

Government tenders and larger project tenders can be found on the SA Tenders website as well as on the Industry Capability Network site .  On these sites, you will need to set up a company profile, detailing your business capabilities, strengths and expertise.  At this time, it’s also a great idea to set up alerts, so that you receive emails about when packages of work have been listed on the site.  This will help you keep on top of projects as they come through.

Is there help to learn how to write a tender?

Yes!  Both SA Tenders and the Industry Capability Network run programming to help you address your tender from time to time through out the year.  However it can also be well worth your time getting in touch with us here at the Polaris Business Centre to organise time with a Business Advisor and mentor.  They can assist you to look at your business practices, policies and processes, all of which need to be in good order to be sucessful in the tender process.  Do you have a business plan?  This often helps define your business and the direction you are heading in.  You can find our template here.

To organise some time with a Business Advisor, call us on 08 8260 8205 or email us on 

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