Tradie Business 101: Tips for Winning Tenders

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

Tenders can be lucrative for tradies. Long-term contracts that provide regular work and predictable recurring revenue can be the goose that lays the golden egg.

Given the importance of tenders, I’m surprised that the topic doesn’t get more air time at trade school. But that’s where a tradie business coach can help.

If your business provides commercial maintenance or construction services such as plumbing, electrical contracting, HVAC installation, landscape construction, or carpentry, then these tips on how to submit a successful tender bid are for you.

By the way, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I didn’t learn how to run a business at trade school”, check out our series “Tradie Business 101”. We cover the areas of business: finance, marketing, leadership and management, and more.


Let’s get into the tips for winning tenders.

Selecting Tenders

Target Relevant Tenders

Don’t waste time punching too far above your weight. Focus on tenders that align with your expertise and project size. Only tender on jobs with requirements that you can successfully meet (or better, exceed).

You can look for tenders on government websites or industry platforms (such as EstimateOne or TenderLink).

Consider your Current Team

Do you have the right number of bodies or will you have to recruit? If you need to get more technicians to fulfil the contract, be aware of the labour market. Low supply of labour means you might have to pay higher wages, which will need to be factored into your pricing.

Gathering Intel

Understand the Submission Requirements Inside Out

Read the tender documents meticulously. Highlight key requirements, deadlines, and evaluation criteria. Ensure you meet all qualifications and can deliver what they ask for.

Understand the Critical Success Factors for the Project

Research the client and tailor your response to their specific needs and project type. The lowest cost may not be the most important factor.

For example, consider maintenance contracts for aircraft: the two key success factors are time in the air and airworthiness. A report on optimising aircraft utilisation found that contractors that were able to reduce scheduled maintenance downtime had a competitive advantage over other bidders.

Attend Pre-Tender Briefings

These briefings clarify project details and answer questions. Attending the briefing sessions shows that you’re committed and it also allows you to see who the competitors are.

Preparing a Winning Bid

Show experience from past projects

Highlight the similarities between worked your team has done on other projects and the requirements of the tender you’re bidding for. Show how the skills and experience are relevant, even if they’re different.

Demonstrate Agility and Problem-Solving

Provide 1 or 2 examples of challenges you encountered on previous projects and how you overcame them. Ensure the work and learnings you gained are relevant to the project for this tender.

Prepare a Compelling Response

Write a clear, concise, and professional response that directly addresses every evaluation criterion. Showcase your experience, qualifications, and relevant past projects. Make it easy to read with headings, subheading and short paragraphs. Don’t burden the assessor. Longer and wordier responses make it harder for them which puts a black mark against you.

Price your Tender Bid Competitively but Fairly

Don’t under-price yourself, but be realistic. Research market rates and factor in all project costs. Be aware of how long you are committing your pricing for.

In larger organisations, such as government departments and tertiary institutions, contracts can be awarded for terms of 5 years. Ensure that the pricing you submit in your bid will be profitable for your business over the entire term of the contract.

Factor in rising costs such as award wage increases, costs of replacing equipment and machinery. Tenfold tradie business coaches use specific financial models to test different what-if pricing options. Speak to us to find out more.

Getting an Edge Over the Competition

Align with the Client’s Big Picture Goals

Go above and beyond by researching the client’s strategic goals. These are often not included in the tender document but they are likely to influence the decision makers.

For example; while environmental responsibility is a common criteria in tenders, the client may have a binding commitment to achieve a certain target. In that case, the assessment might allocate high scores to environmental factors.

By understanding the organisation’s goals, you can adapt your submission to align closely with them, putting you ahead of the pack.

Team Up with Other Contractors for Strength

Consider partnering with another qualified contractor for larger or complex projects. You might partner with a complementary service supplier; for example, our electrical contractor client Elec Comm Services partnered with Light Project, a lighting designer, on a bid for a public works project.

By collaborating and leveraging their respective teams’ skills, they were appointed principal contractor for a highly coveted tender for Cumberland City Council.

Highlight Your Competitive Advantage

What sets you apart? Remember that a competitive advantage is not just something you do well, it’s something you do better than everyone else.

Ticking the Boxes

Meet Tender Submission Deadlines Strictly

Late submissions are never accepted. Set reminders and plan to submit your complete tender well before the deadline.

Follow the Prescribed Format

Don’t add any extra sections and don’t leave anything out. If the tender seems to ask for the same information in different sections, don’t expect the client to refer to your answer in a previous section, and don’t cut and paste from one answer to another. Use the repetition to reinforce how you have the required capabilities and experience.

Present a Professional Image

Ensure your tender response is error-free, uses high-quality visuals (if applicable), and is presented in a professional format.

Bonus Tip: Network with industry professionals and build relationships with builders and maintenance companies. This can lead to direct project offers and pre-qualification for tenders.

I trust these tips help with your next tender opportunity. If you’d like to see how a tradie business coach can help you get a competitive edge, speak with us at Tenfold.