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
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.