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Tender writing for tenderfoots

Tender writing for tenderfoots


Written by Stephanie Bullock, pictured above.

This article originally appeared in AR146 – available now through newsstands and digitally through Zinio.

Like many practices, BKK started out doing mainly residential work, often for family and friends, and without the need to prepare formal and detailed tender submissions. In the 16 years since the practice was founded, we have expanded our work into more broadly based design and problem solving, rather than specialising in particular building typologies. We now work across a wide range of sectors with clients that include a number of government agencies, institutional bodies, developers and commercial entities. Consequently, preparing tender submissions has become an increasingly important part of our business development approach, which we continue to refine along with our overall strategy for the practice. Along with improving the effectiveness of submissions through a client-centric, collaborative approach, this has significantly shaped how we approach the process of preparing tenders.


An effective approach to preparing tenders should be aligned with your overall business strategy, including being clear about which sectors and or clients you are targeting. Fundamental to this is understanding both your current positioning in relation to each of these, as well as the capabilities you are trying to build in order to expand into new areas.

If a number of people are responsible for business development, a clear decision-making process is important to help prioritise the opportunities you pursue. This can be as simple as a regular discussion, or may evolve into a more detailed checklist or evaluation system.

As well as thinking about how it aligns with your overall strategy, decisions regarding which tenders to pursue should consider the cost of preparing each tender submission – this is often mainly time, but even this can be significant as it often involves the most senior resources in a practice. Understanding how the submission fits into your broader business development strategy not only ensures you are investing this time in the right areas, but will also assist significantly in tailoring the content, including how you approach pricing. Taking a strategic approach to the content of the tender ideally extends to being clear on what is your point of difference, both in the broader market, and also in the context of a particular submission.


Developing a detailed understanding of both the specifics of the project and the client is crucial in order to tailor the content of the submission to both. Establishing a library of visual and written content from previous tenders can make the process of putting proposals together more efficient; however; each tender should ideally be customised to the specifics of the project. This should include understanding how proposals will be assessed – as well as being clear on the evaluation process and criteria (including the weighting of each), identify who will be assessing the submission and consider what their priorities may be. Take advantage of opportunities to be involved in the selection processes of key clients (i.e. for sub-consultants or contractors) as it can provide a great deal of insight into how these processes work. Finally, in order to make it as easy as possible to evaluate your submission, strictly comply with submission requirements in terms of time and format, in order to avoid the client needing to seek clarification or, worse, the risk of being excluded for non-conformance.


Assembling the right team of collaborators is not only a requirement for many tender submissions, it is crucial to the success of the project should you win it. Confirming this as early as possible not only allows you to get the optimal (and ideally exclusive) team locked in, it enables you to fully leverage the specialist knowledge within the team in preparation of the tender, which is effectively the first stage of the project. Consider collectively how the team will operate from the outset and reflect this clearly in both the written content and graphic presentation – if the process is to be seamless for the client, the submission should be reflective of this.


Utilising appropriate systems to track projects in the business ‘pipeline’, as well as the cost of preparing tenders, is fundamental to measuring the success of submission strategies. There are a number of proprietary pipeline management systems available – at a minimum, allocating a unique identifying number to each potential project, in conjunction with tracking time spent, will provide enough data to start analysing how effective your processes are. Particularly important is recording feedback on pricing and how you are scoring on assessment criteria, as invaluable input into future tender submissions. Obtaining detailed feedback on all tenders, successful or otherwise, not only allows you to refine the way you approach future submissions, it represents an ideal opportunity to build relationships with clients for future work.

Every tender, regardless of the outcome, has the potential to improve your understanding of both the cost and likelihood of winning work, build relationships with key clients and collaborators, and allow you to more effectively target the work that is of most value to your practice. Aside from the obvious benefits of winning more projects, approaching tender submissions in this manner can have far-reaching benefits – not least because it requires the development and implementation of an overall business development strategy.

Stephanie Bullock is a director at BKK Architects, currently leading a wide range of projects across the residential, fitout, institutional and urban planning sectors. Prior to joining BKK, Stephanie worked in senior roles in banking and finance for 10 years, managing strategic projects focused on business process improvement and organisational change management. 

This article originally appeared in AR146 – available now through newsstands and digitally through Zinio.


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