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
We spend a lot of time reviewing bid submissions for our clients. Based on this experience we’ve put together a quick crib sheet covering common issues we come across.
Feel free to use this guidance to improve your next bid. Or if you want some more direct and specific input please get in touch with the team at the Bid Coach and we’ll send help.
Our top bid writing tips:
The difference between winning and losing bids is often marginal. A bit more effort in making sure your answers are ‘on point’ and easy to follow could make all the difference.
Looking for an impartial ‘second eye’ on your proposal? Contact the Bid Coach.
When should you get impartial feedback on your bid - before or after it’s submitted?
Getting honest feedback about your tender submissions is essential. Asking for structured feedback from clients is something every business that is serious about improving its bid win rate should do. Yet a surprising number choose not to take the opportunity. Or, if they do, the lessons remain buried in the bid file rather than being shared. But post-tender client feedback isn’t your only option for getting useful feedback.
In many ways you can’t beat feedback ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’ Feedback from your client or their nominated bid review team should be totally objective. And it will be directly related to the bid you just submitted. You should also get insights into what positive things the winning bidder did and why their submission was scored higher than yours.
Why don’t more businesses do this? Maybe it’s because it’s after the event and the outcome isn’t going to change. For some, hearing about where you fell short despite believing you had answered the client’s questions can be dispiriting. Some may even worry about confrontation and damaging the relationship for future bids.
Losing a Bid Hurts More than Your Pride
The impact of losing a high profile tender is significant. It could affect investor confidence and your reputation in the marketplace. There’s also the issue of the time and resources that you sink into bids for no return.
So, is there an additional way to get feedback, one that could influence the outcome of the tender and be seen as a positive growth opportunity for your bid team?
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.