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The world of the evaluator: less is more

Variant bid writing

Imagine being told that you had to read a 30,000-word novel over the next two weeks. Not too bad? Okay, imagine being told that you had to read six, 30,000-word novels over the next two weeks. Imagine also, that we’re talking about working weeks: 10 days. I’m sure that even those of us who enjoy reading might be a little put off by this.

Let’s take it a step further, and consider that not only am I asking you to read these novels, but I’m asking you to comment on them and score each chapter against clearly defined criteria. Then imagine that somebody is going to look at your comments to ensure that you have done the reading evaluation and scoring correctly. You should also be aware that if the writer of the novel does not agree with your comments and scoring, they may appeal against you which could result in you having to read them all over again.

Welcome to the world of the evaluator: the person who reads every tender submitted and judges it against the criteria.

Evaluating a tender submission

Much is written about tender writing and the pressures that come along with it. However, the literature becomes a little sparser when we begin to talk about evaluators. Like you, evaluators are people. They have families, pets, bosses, hobbies, deaths, weddings, anniversaries and rising house prices to contend with just like the rest of us.

I don’t think that people fully understand the psychology of tender writing and the impact that evaluating dozens of tenders, over months and years has on an evaluator. The ability to focus for long periods of time, retaining high-levels of attention to detail, often having to take in high volumes of technical data in detail is a key skill which not many people possess.

Bid Management Notes

More is not more

It is for this reason that we have developed an overarching framework for tender writing which recognises the stresses and strains of evaluating high volumes of detailed narrative. More is not more.

More usually means that a. you cannot be bothered to take the time to write specific responses or b. you run out of ideas and so provide as much information as possible without considering either its relevance or its suitability.

Responding to a tender document

When responding to qualitative responses it is vital that you focus on what is important: respond in a clear, articulate, persuasive and meaningful way while using as few words as possible. The language that you use should be plain English: avoid overly complex or technical material unless absolutely necessary to explain the technical solution. Cut out all superfluous and rhetorical non-evidenced claims and phrases and get straight to the point. Do not widen margins, or use anything smaller than size 11 font. Use white space, bullet points, diagrams and relevant images that add value, not as I saw in a recent facilities management tender, images of mops and buckets. I have a sneaky suspicion that the evaluator knew what a mop and bucket looked like prior to seeing them in the tender.

Utilise all these tips to provide specific and targeted narrative that answers the question, is easy to read, articulates the difference you can make and the value you can add whilst all the time persuading the buyer to score your submission highly. When we train tender writers, one of the questions they ask is: ‘If the question has no word or page limit, how do you know how much to write?’ The answer that I always give is: ‘When you have answered the question clearly, with passion, and after you have given the buyer a reason to buy.’

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