When the next big RFQ arrives, how easy will your operation find it to respond? If you find it easy there could be two explanations: it could be that your level of competence has developed to the point where responding to tenders seems instinctive; or it could be that you don’t appreciate how much you don’t yet know and what you need to learn.
Your answer will depend on the capabilities your organisation has developed across each of the main elements of the tender process.
There are four stages to acquiring competence:
Understanding where your organisation sits on this four stage model for each element of the process is the first step to long-term improvement. In the short to mid term this understanding will help you identify the external support that will have the biggest impact on your chances of success.
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. You start out without much understanding of what you need to do. You can be shown or told about the importance of balance, how to steer and the link between speed and stability. But you can’t master it without trying to do it.
You might have stabiliser wheels or somebody holding the saddle while you gradually acquire the skills. Different people will acquire the skills at different rates and might need different approaches to build their confidence. Eventually, you can ride a bike without thinking too much about what you are doing.
You can make a similar analogy with driving. With experienced drivers much of what happens in the car is subconscious. You don’t think about how to change gear or even the precise mechanics of how to steer or change lane safely.
So it is with writing contract-winning bids, delivering exemplary presentations and excelling at behavioural workshops. All the theory in the world is of nothing until everybody gets it for themselves and moves from unconscious incompetence towards unconscious capability.
The journey calls for perseverance and resilience. Your guides must understand the theory of what you're striving to achieve but also be able to provide you with techniques and tools to help you ‘get it’ for yourself.
This is the approach that the Bid Coach team uses, whether that’s for bid writing, presentations skills, competitive dialogue or behavioural analysis. We help your team understand their capabilities and development needs. We then break the learning stages into practical chunks with a gradual building and reinforcement of skills and confidence. Eventually, we aim to make you experts, with the unconscious competence needed to instinctively do the right thing.
For many businesses, formal tenders are how they win the bulk of their work (certainly in monetary terms). The bidding process is like an oxygen supply - essential for survival. So why aren’t they better at it?
Businesses should have a high degree of confidence in their capability to craft a winning bid and be convincing at interviews and presentations. And yet, they don’t. I’ve yet to meet a business that has complete confidence in their bid writing and presentation abilities, despite these skills being essential for financial survival.
Viewed from the client side it’s rare to receive a submission that hits all of the key criteria and makes a totally persuasive case concisely. So, is it time for more businesses to invest in success and put more emphasis on developing the skills to analyse RFQs, write succinct and relevant responses, and present their solution with clarity and conviction?
Analysing unsuccessful bids and client feedback identifies a few common themes.
Some bids never really get off the ground because the project doesn’t fit well within the the bidder’s strategic plan or they can’t demonstrate enough capacity, capability or experience. The bid/no bid decision, taken early, can save time and money, and avert reputational damage from a bid that misses the mark.
The Question You Wished They’d Asked
One of the most frequent issues is with answering (or not) the question that was asked. This can be as basic as just not reading the question thoroughly enough, perhaps because of time pressure. Sometimes it’s a lack of background knowledge that would give an insight into why the client asked that particular question, in the way they did.
There’s a natural temptation to reframe questions to emphasize aspects of the service where you feel confident or have a competitive advantage. There’s no harm in explaining some added value, unless you miss the point of the client’s question in the process.
Technical failings such as missed word counts, inappropriate use of graphics, wrong fonts or sizes tell your client everything they need to know about your attention to detail and ability to follow a brief - but not in a good way.
Copying and pasting answers from previous bids can be a time-saver. But it also carries the risk that, although the question is similar, the client’s priorities are quite different. At its worst, this process leaves unchanged obvious references to other projects (believe me, it happens more than you might think).
The Process or the Value?
Getting the technical aspects right is fundamental. But it’s common for technical writers to focus on the process of the solution, not how the solution answers the question and meets the client’s real needs.
Time can be the biggest enemy. When the writing gets left to the last minute there’s little opportunity to get vital clarifications from the client or to have an objective internal review of draft responses. And this leads to another basic question: who has the time, technical knowledge and authority to review bids before they are submitted? As somebody once said: ‘Good enough,’ rarely is, but this seems to be what many people settle for.
My final question is this: if mediocrity is the norm, how much of an advantage could you give your business by investing in the skills needed to become masters of the bidding process?
We have the team that can help you get there. Call us on 01963 240555
Adversity is always a learning opportunity, so they say. In which case the recent blast of icy weather gave us plenty of chances to absorb some valuable lessons.
Comparisons also help us understand where we stand in relation to others. As a bid coach I also can’t help reflecting on parallels between how snowstorms affect the UK compared to other countries, and the performance of well and poorly prepared teams facing the challenges of a bid interview or behavioural assessment.
Let’s use Denmark as a comparison. Here they routinely deal with snowfall and temperatures on this level without loss of life, travel chaos, interruption to vital services and legions of stranded motorists. There are five key areas where their approach differs from the UK. These factors are highly relevant to the tender process.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.