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Article Details

Published Date: 26-06-2024
Author: Ciaran Brass
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
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A critical friend review of your tender submission offers an opportunity for an impartial assessment of your bid, ensuring you stand the strongest possible chance of success.

The time-bound nature of bid writing means you can be up against the clock, and experienced bid writers are usually managing multiple submissions at any given time. It can be difficult to step back and assess your own work – particularly if you have been working on a larger tender submission or the same bid for multiple weeks. Failure to secure an impartial opinion could result in a lost bid, wasting valuable time and resources.

For example, a critical friend review service could spot the following:

  • Misinterpreting a quality question or failing to understand precisely what the evaluator is looking for, leading to reduced marks in tender responses
  • Failing to align responses to clarification questions with the final submission – for example, if the authority has raised word or page limits to responses
  • Incorrectly filling out forms or questionnaires such as the standard selection questionnaire (SQ), resulting in a disqualified bid.

Consequently, in the world of public sector procurement, the critical friend is a crucial role to fill and can mean the difference between a winning and losing tender.

Critical friend meaning in bid writing

Ultimately, a critical friend is an experienced bid professional who offers a neutral, third-party evaluation of different aspects of your bid ahead of final submission to the buyer. Regardless of the stage or level of involvement, the aim of the critical friend is always targeted to improve your tender. Whether you have an in-house bid team or complete tenders alongside other commitments, there is always the risk of developing ‘tunnel vision’ within your bid strategy.

A critical friend offers a fresh perspective, ensuring your strategy does not get too outdated or complacent in the fast-paced world of public sector bids and tenders. Mandatory elements of a tender submission are constantly evolving – for instance, the recent introduction of biodiversity net gain or carbon reduction plans. A critical friend service can provide guidance, advice and support on how to handle the complex topics and ensure compliant, competitive tender responses.

Although a critical friend in business has roles in other industries – notably HR – it holds particular relevance in bid writing given the competitive nature, where quality, accuracy and attention to detail is paramount.

Critical friend bid review service

In addition to our bid and tender writing service, one of the most popular services we provide is our bid and tender review service, where a bid professional acts as a critical friend when reviewing tender responses to quality questions.

Also known as a ‘red review’, this option is preferred by organisations who have in-house resource to complete a bid but feel they would benefit from a critical friend providing another, impartial point of view.

Our senior writers and quality managers have worked on hundreds of bid and tender submissions and are highly experienced in understanding what evaluators are looking to award marks for. All tender responses are evaluated to ensure:

  • Responses have comprehensively addressed all aspects of the question and there is no ‘waffle’ or irrelevant information
  • Content is compliant with the requirements of the specification, Invitation to Tender (ITT) document and any other documents in the tender pack
  • Content is smooth, well presented and easy to read, making it easier for the evaluator to award marks for tender responses
  • Content is persuasive and impactful, addressing the ‘why’ instead of simply the ‘what’ and ‘how’ within a particular topic.

Completing tenders takes valuable time and resources. Without a critical friend review service, the entire exercise may be a waste because of simple, understandable oversights. Targeted comments around the above points ensure you can implement improvements to responses and strengthen the quality of your submission.

Capture planning with a critical friend

For business-critical tender submissions or those looking for a more holistic bidding strategy, the critical friend may be involved earlier in the bid pipeline. For example, our pre-bid consultancy and capture planning services extend the opportunity to:

  • Identify and consider contract examples and case studies within your portfolio of current contracts, emphasising your experience and expertise
  • Collate and present impactful, persuasive evidence – for example, KPIs or other relevant statistics – effectively evidencing your competency and capability to deliver the contract
  • Research key topics and priority areas of the buyer and contracting authority, ensuring this is reflected in tender responses
  • Idea generation for social value commitments, providing a structure aligned with the buyer’s preferred initiatives.

A critical friend service can also review or be involved in the creation of bespoke bid answer plans. These are targeted to each individual question, where the question is broken down into constituent parts and ‘skeleton’ tender responses are created.

Answer planning is the best point to begin considering how persuasive, impactful evidence, such as photographs and statistics, fits within tender responses. The critical friend can also provide feedback on this, ensuring the evidence is relevant and used proportionately.

Additional critical friend roles in bid writing

Beyond capture planning, storyboarding and reviewing quality responses, the critical friend position can also extend to other roles within your tender process. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Creating ‘model responses’ to common quality questions – for example, mobilisation or quality assurance – to introduce efficiencies to your bidding strategy
  • Bid management processes to increase quality assurance and the development of common bid writing tools, such as a bid library
  • Advice on the ‘bid/no-bid’ process your organisation should undertake, including different considerations prior to deciding to bid.

Ultimately, the critical friend role is flexible, varied and can be combined with other bid services and support. However, it is a crucial element of a sustainable, long-term bid strategy, in addition to improving tender results.

Our critical friend services

Since our inception in 2009, Executive Compass have acted as a critical friend for hundreds of organisations tendering for contracts, targeted at strengthening bids and proposals. Our clients include small, family-run businesses up to publicly traded corporations.

If you would like to learn more about the scope of our critical friend service and what level of involvement we can provide, our sales and marketing team are contactable at or  0800 612 5563.

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