There Are Many Solutions To A Great Tender Or Proposal

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There Are Many Solutions To A Great Tender Or Proposal

By: Mel Dunn

One of the great mysteries of the "open" competitive tendering process is that each of us has experienced defeat. What mystifies us is that there must have been a mistake - we had the best solution. Of course we did. So did the other three unsuccessful tenderers as did, we hope, the successful one!

So, consider this hypothetical tender, which simply asks for a proposal to "make the following equation true by only adding one line to it":

I X = V I

Simple enough. Prepare your team to consider what is being asked. Review all the documentation to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. And prepare your tender. You do this, and your tender response is simply:

I X ? V I

Compliant. One line added to the equal sign to make the equation true and correct. Clearly the winning tender - or is it?

As with all projects and activities, there may be many approaches that could be implemented to lead to the same minimum requirements. And this is good and vitally important if we genuinely seek solutions that create long-term sustainable benefits. Still, we can do more than just meeting 'minimum requirements' to ensure compliance.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that we challenge the thinking that is presented in the design, the tender documentation, donor policy etc, not just to prepare a response that 'meets' stated requirements. If we did not do this, then the tendering process would simply come down to a price comparison, which does not necessarily translate to the best solution to the problem.

So who is the "we" to take all this responsibility? Is it us as individuals? Is it the managing contractors? Agencies? Clearly, it is all of us in whatever role we are adopting as it relates to a tender or activity in question.

The tendering process should remain directly connected to the activity's implementation and its results. So during the preparation of the submission some key questions need always be asked:

  • Why are we doing this
  • Who are we targeting
  • Where will any impac be realised
  • How will we know
  • How would we measure it

And there are probably many more, all of which have something in common - starting with the end in mind.

This responsibility to ask key questions does not rest solely with those preparing the tender response. Clearly it forms part of any methodology to design an activity, and it really should also be part of the tender assessment process if there is a genuine commitment to finding the best approach to any activity. I once received some 'feedback', and I am sure I am not alone here, that "but it wasn't asked for in the tender". This is unacceptable and indicates a lack of consideration to the question "why are they proposing this?" It may still have been judged to be not the desired approach, however merely dismissing alternative approaches because [possibly] it wasn't thought of in the design phase, is not being true to the cause.

So, working on an assumption that the design and preparation is sound and complete, responding to this hypothetical tender with the "does not equal" sign as your 'approach' will certainly ensure that the needs of the 'project' are met. But, what if you spent some time thinking about other options, you might have considered submitting this 'tender' response:

I X 6 = V I

Where in the 'tender' did it ask for a straight line? So here is another solution to the same problem that may in fact be superior to the earlier response. Our role then is to evaluate the merits of the options, and then our tender response needs to fully demonstrate why the option we finally propose will be the best solution for the activity.

We are seldom likely to be a sole tenderer, so a critical success factor is considering what the competition is doing. So by going through the above process for our hypothetical tender, we now have two options to consider. Now we are presented not only with the consideration of which option is best for the activity, but also, what might our competition be considering? This means you are in a position to consider their team, their approach and their strengths and weaknesses. And by doing this, not only can you frame your response by demonstrating why your methods, team etc are most appropriate you can demonstrate this from a comparative standpoint.

All of this requires a commitment from us as potential tenderers or team members to looking for the absolute best solution for the proposed activity. And clearly it needs complete transparency amongst all stakeholders to ensure the best solution is successful, not the "best, because" option. And it equally requires a commitment from those assessing tenders and proposals to consider why alternatives or additions are being proposed, and evaluating these on their merits.

Attention to detail.

It is critical for all of us in preparing proposals and tenders to maintain a commitment to having attention to detail. Nowhere in our hypothetical tender were we told that the solution could only be reached using mathematical symbols, and maybe you have more solutions still.

S I X = V I

About The Author

Mel Dunn is Managing Director of Global Business and Development Solutions, which works with individuals and organisations that are committed to business success and the success of others. We work globally and locally and focus on providing sustainable solutions for our clients.

We offer a range of services including:

  • Proposal and tender development
  • Technical assistance
  • Research and strategy development
  • Quality review of submissions
  • Market entry support
  • Partner identification
  • On-ground representation

Visit the website for more information about how we could assist you at You will also find a 'contact us' form there or you can contact us immediately using We make every effort to respond to your enquiry within 24 hours.

All readers are free to use any part of this article on the condition that the following attribution is included in full, including a live link to the Global Business and Development Solutions website. Please email to advise where this information will appear.

"By Mel Dunn, Managing Director of Global Business and Development Solutions. Please visit for additional information about GBDS and how their services could benefit you."


rue2lku 31.05.2011. 15:33

What is the thing William Butler Yeats wrote about the people of Ireland eating their Children? I studied it a while back. Yeats wrote a satyrical address to the people of England that in order to solve the famine, poverty, and overpopulation in Ireland the Irish should eat their children. He went on to say that if they didn't have the stomach for it the government should pass reforms that would benefit the Irish. I can't for the life of me remember the title of it! Does anyone know the answer, or if I'm wrong and it's not Yeats who was it?


Admin 31.05.2011. 15:33

"A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift
"Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children, and calculations showing the financial benefits of his suggestion. He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon then-prominent William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon. These lampoons include appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa" (who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in 1706). This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states, "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragoust."[3]

Readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift was not seriously proposing cannibalism and infanticide, nor would readers unfamiliar with the satires of Horace and Juvenal recognize that Swift's essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.

The satirical element of the pamphlet is often only understood after the reader notes the allusions made by Swift to the attitudes of landlords, such as the following: "I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children." Swift extends the metaphor to get in a few jibes at England?s mistreatment of Ireland, noting that "For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it."

You can read this brilliant essay online:


DoA 08.04.2009. 12:17

Writing a business proposal to be the advertising firm? I was wondering if there was general guidelines to writing a proposal. I'm trying to work with a company and be there advertising person. I have great ideas and cheaper ways to do it but not the experience.
Help me bid for this job


Admin 08.04.2009. 12:17

It really depends on a couple of things. At we like to look at what the client's needs are and build our proposal around that.

Have they asked you for a proposal or issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) or are you submitting a proactive proposal (one where they haven't issued an invitation to multiple suppliers)?

A formal business proposal is usually only sent in response to a RFP or invitation to tender by a client. Remember that very few unsolicited proposals do well - you are better spending your efforts building a relationship with the client and then submitting a proactive proposal when you know what their needs are and how you can solve their problems.

However, if you have some relationship or at least following a phone call, permission to send in a pro-active proposal then it is very important to demonstrate value to the client. The client isn't interested in just reading about you - they want to know what value you add to their business.

The key to writing a successful proposal though is persuading the client and demonstrating value. Ask yourself "What is their business need and what are you going to do to provide a solution that meets that need?"

In your circumstances it might be "what is the unique about the service or product I can offer and how does that benefit the client?"

Persuade the client by providing a solution and backing it up with evidence that you can deliver. Solution + credibility + value = persuasion. Be credible in your price as well as reputation.

As each organization's circumstances are different it sometimes isn't the best approach to look for a ready-made proposal, as it simply doesn't make sense to your (or the client's) particular circumstances.

You can get a free proposal template from, which gives you the outline and structure of your proposal. We also have a best practice resource library and online proposal guide.

We also offer proposal writing and review services. I'm not trying to rude, but judging by the spelling and grammar in your question this might be something that you want to consider - I would at the least get someone to proofread your proposal before you send it.


Giugi90 12.05.2008. 18:19

Hi!!!please help me!!! 10 points!!! :D? Please help me answer these questions on A Modest Proposal of Jonathan Swift?:

1- What images are used to refer to the children?How they portrayed?
2-What methaphor does Swift use to sum up his solution to the Irosh problems?

:D thanks to all
and the last question:
3-State what the message is.


Admin 12.05.2008. 18:19

Have you read it? Its an amazing satirical essay. It describes the children as food...Selling Irish Babies to be eaten, waiting for when they are about a year old because that's when the flesh is most tender. He goes into great detail about the cannibal from America where he got the information.
2) His solution to the Irish problem is too eat their's an allusion to the fact that the British owned every aspect of the Irish life so they might as well own the children and eat them.
3) the message was to expose how poorly the Irish were being treated that selling their children as food was their most valuable commodity. It was to shock the British into action on their treatment of the Irish. And expose how greedy the Brits were in sucking the life out of the Irish.

But still you should read the essay it was so good. I haven't read it since my 11th grade (5 years ago).


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