Tenders in Malta and EU for SMEs

Is Tendering a Good Avenue for SMEs? Is It Worth the Time and Effort?

Is Tendering a Good Avenue for SMEs? Is It Worth the Time and Effort?

Small and medium-sized businesses form the vast majority of economies around the EU. And if you own or operate as part of one of these, you will know the daily stresses behind such. Expanding your business is one such worry, but can this be alleviated by utilising tendering? Should SMEs proceed with tendering for work? Read on to find out more. Tendering opportunities may well be the way to go if expansion is on your agenda.

Is it worth the time and effort that it takes to engage in this, though? Would SMEs be better focusing their attention elsewhere? Let’s find out more about whether tendering is a good avenue for SMEs to use.

Is the Capability There for Growth?

If a business is looking to expand and has the desire to grow, then tenders can actually be very helpful. Not only do SMEs get to benefit from potential work and revenue this way, but tenders also give these enterprises the chance to experience work of differing sizes to what is the norm for them. Because of this, businesses that stand out as being smaller than others can still win bids, and therefore expand their business for the future. This all depends upon different key strengths within the business, such as staff experience and strong leadership, for example.

There are multiple tenders in Malta and other EU countries that SMEs can work alongside to grow in an effective way. Tenders are released daily by various public and private entities, which fit right into the business growth plans of many companies. The issue comes when locating and shortlisting the right tendering opportunities. This stands as being one of the most time-consuming parts about it, and an SME will need to ensure that time is well spent on the most valuable tasks.

Use a tenders aggregator to collate opportunities and get notified with any relevant tenders which fit your target attributes including country and sector or category. When selecting which tenders to bid for go for opportunities which fit your strategy and offering.  The process is very time-consuming and expensive, so be picky as to what to bid for. Larger companies obviously have more money than SMEs to throw around. Yet with certain government funded projects, SMEs have managed to secure more of the work for themselves. In 2017, for example, the UK Government spent £12 billion with SMEs – that’s quite the massive amount to miss out on should your business not be tendering for bids.

And when an SME wins such a tender, it creates a great point of reference for securing future contracts. Plus, the experience gained from winning a tender is invaluable.

What About the Private Sector?

SMEs have also been fortunate in the private sector world, with thousands of tender opportunities providing them with work. Some of these include tenders in Malta, offering options across the country, whereas others extend further afield across Europe. Private sector businesses are searching for suppliers through tendering much more than they ever were before. A variety of products and services are required through such, meaning that SMEs are truly getting to benefit from putting their specific expertise to work.

Tenders from within the private sector are also often much easier to apply to than when it comes to the public sector. Why? Because there are fewer strict procurement rules to adhere to when it comes to applying. In essence, these could be ideal to start out with for a small business. Feedback from such can be a great way of excelling your tendering processes and protocol for the future.

Some SMEs may find that tendering is a difficult and confusing world to get involved in. This is especially true if a business does not have much sales experience. Yet tendering can create fantastic opportunities and revenue, making the time and effort put into it very much worthwhile. If growth is something that you want your SME to go through, then tendering should be looked at as a valid route to take.

Common Bidding Mistakes

3 Mistakes to avoid when preparing a bid.

Mistakes in the bidding process can result in missed opportunities, waste of time and energy and reputational damage.  Putting together a strong bid proposal requires a lot of effort and time and is not merely putting a couple of numbers together and keeping your fingers crossed.  Tender requirements and specifications need to be closely analysed and fully-understood, before moving on to accurately estimating the costs involved in the delivery of the project.  Missing out on (even) a minor detail more often than not leads to disqualification.

In this blog article we present a number of mistakes to avoid when preparing your bids.  Missing out on some fineprint can have a devastating effect on the project’s or organisation’s bottom line.  When writing a solid tender/RFP/RFQ response, a good starting point is to understand the common mistakes – so you make sure you avoid them! 


Not asking the right clarification questions

After thoroughly going through the tender documentation, always look out for gaps in the requirements and any grey areas that lead to subjective interpretations.   Ensure you have all the pertinent information, the specifics and that all the information in hand is accurate.  Fully review the specifications and plans to determine if there are areas which require further input from the contracting authority.  Collate a list of clarification questions and send them over within the stipulated time (and to the generic email address provided in the tender documentation).  Questions should be direct and a clear reference to the section should be made.  Common mistakes are to make a list of assumptions and submit a bid based on these and to try to cost areas which are very vague, not quantifiable or subject to various interpretations.

Overestimating your resource capacity

It is not simply about winning the work.  The focus should be on high-quality delivery.  When business development teams, responsible for preparing bids, overestimate the capacity of their company’s resources… that can be a mistake which leads to over-stretched resources, incurred losses and possibly fines and penalties for missed milestones.  Do not be over optimistic.  Involve operations personnel for valuable (and realistic!) input and factor in additional expenses related to overtime, sub-contractors and outsourcing (if allowed) costs.  This notion is applicable to your human resources, plant and equipment and production lines.  Regularly conduct a factual evaluation of the various resources and analyse data to be as much as possible spot on.  Do factor in maintenance downtime, breakages and repairs pockets of time (contingency).

Incomplete Forms and documentation

This can be caused by lack of time or juggling between too many tasks in one go.  When preparing a bid, it is always recommended to highlight or write a list of deliverables in the form of a checklist to ensure that all that is required is actually submitted.  Incorrect formats and presentation layouts, fee schedules, missing information, late submissions and incorrect number of copies supplied, are all common mistakes.  When responses are being collected from different departments or personnel, it is best practice to have an owner who is responsible for coordinating and collating the final bid.

A bid is the reflection of the company and its brand(s).  Learn from past mistakes and strive not to lose marks, to portray a professional image and to make your submission relevant to all the requirements in the RFP/RFQ/Tender document.

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How to write a clear and compelling bid

We understand that writing tenders, bids or proposals can feel like a daunting challenge to even the most experienced business owner or business development manager. Especially for those that are new to the tendering process or those who don’t explore this potential line of growth that frequently. Pitching for work through tenders is a brilliant strategy to explore, as it could give your business access to larger projects with a positive impact on your bottom line. But there are some traps you don’t want to fall into to make sure your bid isn’t overlooked, red flagged or immediately added to the rejection pile.

There’s a formula to effective bid preparation.

And it’s pretty simple to follow.

We’ve compiled a list of what our experience has shown us to be the most important factors to remember when you’re writing a clear and compelling bid.

Dive deep into the business your pitching for

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You skim the information on the organisation you’re bidding to, have a quick look at the project requirements, whilst making a mental check that you can deliver them all – and then you start to write.

Is this the right tactic for effective bid writing? The short answer is – no. Whilst you might think the organisation will appreciate the speed at which you’ve delivered your bid – you’re actually nowhere close to fully understanding the tender requirements.

The first step is to read and reread the information about the client. Do your research about the client’s company. See what you can dig up online. Learn more about who they’ve worked with in the past, the success rate of their previous projects, who else they have previously awarded contracts to. Get to know this brand in detail, because when you have a specific audience in mind that you’re writing to, the writing shifts from being basic to being persuasive. You’ll also feel more confident that this potential client is worthy of the time you’re spending preparing your bid.

Know what you’re bidding for

One quick read of a tender is never enough. Pay attention to the detail by reading the documents twice, even three or four times. Make notes. Try and read in-between the lines so you don’t miss a hidden request or small detail that could actually impact your proposal.

By exploring and understanding the project beforehand, you’re armed with vital information that can show your potential client that you truly understand what they are looking for. You’ll also be able to prove that you have shaped your bid to precisely match this request.

And if you don’t understand any aspects of the requirements you can ask questions or conduct a little further research. The more time you take in preparation, the more informed you and therefore your proposal will be.

Identify how your company can match the request.

Once you’ve done your homework on the client and the request, it’s time to start matching what your organisation can deliver. Are all aspects of the project feasible? Do you need to invest in any additional resources or equipment to fulfil this bid? Will it impact the flow of your existing work?

All clients who issue bids are looking for 1) the best provider 2) with the best price. It’s a well understood fact that lower pricing could secure you this business. But that doesn’t mean you need to push your prices lower than you are comfortable with. Think about the solution you’re offering. Is there added value you need to highlight in some areas to explain why your pricing might not be the cheapest?

Help them appreciate the value for money they are getting. If needed, show them the difference that a competitor will charge and why you charge more. When the client sees your acknowledgement that yours might not be the cheapest option, but it will be the best option and why, it could inject your bid with a winning formula.

If the bid allows it and only if it does, you could consider offering three options as solutions. So that they can see your flexibility when it comes to pricing and what you can deliver for that amount. Just be careful not to do this if 1) it wasn’t requested or 2) it wasn’t allowed.

Write to persuade, not to inform.

  • There is a very tangible difference between writing to inform and writing to persuade. In the former the content becomes nothing more than a company brochure with a rate sheet on how much you’d charge. In the latter the content becomes compelling, interesting and has the potential to be successful. Persuasive writing in action highlights:
  • How you are different to your competitors. If you’re only different by being cheaper (or indeed more expensive) you’re not giving your potential client enough to go on.
  • If you have been able to define how you are different, position that in respect of your competition. Are you more credible (if so why) or perhaps faster (again, if so why). Position yourself as a key player in your field by highlighting your strengths in the market place.
  • How you can motivate your reader into taking action. They’ve been through a ton of documents, made their notes. Now they have to take everything to the next stage. What can you do to make that a more compelling task for them by choosing you?
  • Think about the evaluating committee and their selection process. Ask people with previous evaluation experience what they look for. What impacts their decision. What they hate or like. Knowing what helps them make their choices, will infuse your writing with gold nuggets of
    persuasion as you’re following their thought process.
  • Your value proposition. It’s not just about listing prices, it’s how you explain what that price really means and what they will receive for it.

Make sure your bid is fully compliant.

If you’ve put in the time to research, understand and match your offering to the precise request in the tender document, it would be a shame to have your proposal rejected over a technicality.

Aside from making sure your bid writing is up to scratch, you also need to take the time to ensure that your bid is technically, administratively and commercially compliant. There are often guidelines to follow in this respect, especially if the work you are pitching for is government related, but even in other circumstances as well.

Try not to focus so much on the quality of your bid that you overlook the specifications they asked for and your bid becomes non-compliant. The truth is BOTH matter. So when your bid is ready – check it, proof it, reread the specifications on what data or information is needed, what format it is needed in and that you haven’t missed anything out.

This is especially important if you’re uploading your tender proposal through a portal. Don’t miss an attachment, wait for everything to load. Stay in control right to the end of the process.

Even if you’ve written one or two tenders in the past without success, don’t let it knock your confidence for future opportunities. Bookmark this article so once you’ve explored, flagged and downloaded thetender that you’re interested in, you can refer to it once again to create a bid that wins.

If you’d like some more tips on how to win bids, have a look at this handy checklist to help you during the bidding process.

TenderFinder is Malta’s first comprehensive tender database where you can easily search for tenders relevant to your business. Find out why TenderFinder could be your answer to growing your business.

Checklist to keep handy when preparing your bid.

A winning bid isn’t just a replica of your company website or brochure with an attached price list. It’s a far more detailed document that goes into who you are, why your company can meet the criteria of the bid and yes – your pricing, More specifically how you structured your costs and why. Along with a little magic that we like to call persuasive bid writing, which you can find out more about here.

Before sitting down and hitting the keyboard, we’ve put together a handy checklist of actions you should consider so that the bidding process is as smooth as possible.

Preparation is key in winning tenders.


  1. The team
    Make sure that everyone who needs to work on the tender bid with you is available for the timeframe allocated to meet the deadline. If people are away, or tied up on other projects, check to see what other options you have to create a winning team.
  2. Distribution
    Make sure you have a complete version of the tender document and once in hand, distribute to all of the team members who will be working on this bid with you.
  3. Read and reread
    Ensure everyone has read the document in its entirety at least twice if not more. Ask everyone to use sticky notes and highlighters to flag areas where they have additional questions, they notice something interesting or that they feel comfortable preparing.
  4. Questions to ask
    Prepare a list of questions which are still grey areas for you and your team even after internal discussion. Send your questions to the organisation that issued the tender, or the relevant body. Try to do this only once and only if needed – so make sure you have collated everything in one go.
  5. Know your client
    Make sure you take the time to research the organisation or company you are bidding to. This information should be shared with each person on the bidding team. Background like this is vital to preparing a tender that’s shaped to that company and not just a generic response.
  6. List the requirements
    Build a comprehensive list of the requirements listed in the tender in a separate document. Try and make this list as detailed as possible, even breaking down into sub categories of deliverables. You should also include here the supporting documents they have requested copies of.
  7. Resumes
    You will undoubtedly need to submit resumes of the team members who will be handling this proposal. Make sure each member is responsible for having their resume up to date and tick off the ones you’ve received.
  8. Past references / projects
    It’s important to support your bid with documentation that includes references from previous (or existing) clients. You might also consider submitting case studies of successful projects you have worked on. Always make sure you have client approval of the exact information you include.
  9. Outline the proposal
    Before you start writing, draw out the way you’re going to structure your document. This will help you understand how much work is involved and how it might look when all put together.
  10. Create a responsibility/time matrix
    Each person working on the tender needs to know exactly what they have to deliver, in what format and by when. You should consider putting one person in charge for collecting this information. (Hint: Allow some lead time for yourself, should people be delayed in submitting their content to you)
  11. Keep your notes and workings
    We’ve learned that it’s important to keep every scrap of paper with your workings or notes. This way you can refer back to them when putting your proposal together and should someone question a certain price or piece of information you’ve provided. Suggest that your team do the same.
  12. Check the financials
    Check your pricing over and over until you are absolutely certain no basic or complex mistakes have been made. Price is often at the crux of what will win a bid, the last thing you want to do is have a glaringly obvious problem in your quote that the evaluators notice.
  13. Proof your work
    We can’t stress this enough. Spelling mistakes, jumps in sections or content that is in the wrong place brings down the quality of your pitch. Check for the instructions on page margins, font sizes and so on. You should also make sure you have signed all the documentation as requested. Don’t let a missing signature put your hard-prepared proposal into the excluded pile. Have a look at this helpful guide on how to master writing a tender which you might find useful.
  14. What – Where – When
    Check that you have followed all instructions to the letter. Whether it’s the number of copies they need of your bid or where you have to deliver to and by when. Leave nothing to chance. If your bid needs to be delivered to a specific person, make sure your envelope is clearly addressed and it’s handed in at the right location. If it’s via a web portal, ensure you have access in advance and you know how to work it.
  15. Keep records
    You should always keep two copies of the same documentation that you delivered to the organization. Along with all the notes and files you used to prepare it. If your company is shortlisted, it’s likely the client will have additional questions that you need to be able to answer
    promptly and easily.

As with all tender proposals, a structured approach ensures that you have left no stone unturned or more specifically, that no requirements have been overlooked before you make your submission.

Ultimately only one proposal will win each tender. How well thought out your approach and response is will determine if you are that winner. Our advice is take the time to do this properly. It does get easier with experience, but it never hurts to bookmark this article for a little refresh from time to time.

Are you itching for new avenues of growth for your business? TenderFinder is Malta’s first comprehensive tender database where you can easily search for tenders relevant to your business. Find out more.

10 Tender Writing Tips

Once you’ve made your selection and defined which tender you want to bid for, you need to get down to the nitty-gritty task of putting your proposal together. We’re not going to lie to you, bid writing is not an easy task. It takes a lot of practice to perfect the art of writing winning bids, but if you have the right tools in hand it might be easier than you think.

To help, we’ve prepared a comprehensive check list of how to approach writing your bid proposal.

How to write a winning bid


  1. Have a tactical plan
    Approach your bid proposal as you would a new project which your company is about to deliver. Outline what your strategy will be. Who are the key players internally? Do they have time to dedicate to this pitch? Create a timeline of actions and deliverables, with a clearly mapped out in a responsibility matrix. Before you are ready to think about copy writing and designing your proposal, you need to have thought through everything that needs to be tackled – right down to how you’ll deliver your bid. Refer to this checklist for added insight on how following a successful bid strategy.
  2. Read the guidelines carefully
    Your second plan of action needs to be reading all the requirements very, very carefully. Take notes and absorb what the tender is asking for. Review the application process and all the documentation attached that you will have to fill in or submit. Make note of available space in these forms. Don’t spend time on a 1000 word introduction if the allowed space is actually for 1000 characters.
  3. Know the layout
    In many tender proposals you’ll find specifications of how the bid has to be supplied including fonts, font sizes, pagination, margins and so on. If you miss these important details then no matter how brilliant your submission is, it can run the risk of you being disqualified.
  4. Write in the first person
    The bid needs to be coming from you and your organisation. Use words such as ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’. Don’t talk about yourself in the third person i.e. don’t use words like ‘they’, ‘them’ etc. It’s important that you own this document and it is a representation of your company. Writing in the third person creates disassociation and makes your readers think the proposal was written by a third party. This is especially important if you have outsourced the writing of the bid documentation – they need to be aware it’s coming from you.
  5. Use modern language
    If the tender documentation is in English, consider which words you use carefully. Whilst you don’t want it to be too colloquial, you should equally not go down the road of what we call old English. Modern language and writing is all about being concise and informative. You can always give your content a full first draft and then polish accordingly. Remember the evaluators won’t only be seeing your proposal, but several. So don’t use longwinded words or phrases when a single word will do. It won’t help your bid in the long run and will tire the reader unnecessarily.
  6. Talk like the expert you are
    Include several references to previous similar projects you have worked on. If you’re going to make a bold statement about these projects, substantiate them with references from clients or the achieved results. Never quote another client without their consent. If your client doesn’t support what you are claiming, you can’t use them as a referee to prove your company’s skills. By showcasing previous experience in areas which are similar to the requests outlined in the tender, you show that you have the capacity and expertise to deliver what they are looking for.
  7. Write to persuade
    A company brochure is just that. A snapshot of a company’s history and areas of expertise or services. If you approach a tender in the same way, you’re not merging your offering with their request. Writing to persuade means you need to consider 1) who you are writing for 2) how what you offer matches what they are looking for 3) how you’re differently positioned to your competitors and 4) what you’ll deliver specifically for this project – your value proposition.
  8. Use supporting diagrams and infographics
    Whilst we are not suggesting that your entire bid is based on images, using diagrams to explain your company structure, or how you will tackle the requirements of the tender can be advantageous. Remember the evaluating committee for the tender will be going through numerous submissions. Providing them with the tools to easily and quickly understand your proposal will make their experience more positive.
  9. Read through the tender request one more time
    Before proofing your work, give your original checklist – or even better the original tender request – one more read through. You never know what you might have missed and if you’ve just spent days putting your bid together it’s easy to forget something you needed to tackle/answer/include. It’s surprising that no matter how well prepared you think you are, there’s always something between the lines you might have missed.
  10. Check. Check. Check.
    That’s it. Your winning bid is ready in its entirety. Now is the time to proof your work. Recalculate your costings. Double check you’ve responded to all questions and deliverables. Have you filled in all requested forms and documentation? Do you have typos you need to fix, missing sections or is there an issue with your flow? This is the time to focus on perfecting your tender bid to make sure it doesn’t just answer the brief at a basic level, but that you’ve also helped your firm stand out. You can even ask a third party to check because another pair of eyes will only help your bid have winning potential.

If you practice the above writing tips with each tender, you’ll find it easier and easier to prepare a compelling bid. By covering the basics you’re assured that your submission won’t be disqualified over a technicality and that it has every chance of winning.

New to the tendering business? TenderFinder is Malta’s first comprehensive tender database where you can easily search for tenders, request for quotes and bids which are relevant to your business. Find out more.