As bid writing specialists committed to excellence, we support clients to review and analyse bids they have completed in-house via a holistic review of the tender and feedback provided to identify reasons they have lost, and how we can support them to improve quality in future bids.
As part of this post-submission review process, we have compiled a list of pitfalls that represent recurrent pitfalls in the bids we review.
The organisation bidding has not understood the bid documents or has not read all the documents provided in the tender pack meaning they have missed vital information/instructions which have either weakened their submission or made parts of what they have included irrelevant. Lack of comprehension around the tender documents has been reflected in quality responses, with inaccurate or unnecessary information included. For example, in a question focussed on lessons learnt we regularly see organisations claim that everything has gone perfectly, and they therefore have had nothing to learn from the process.
This, from an organisation’s perspective, may appear to reflect favourably upon them; in practice it does not. Whilst the reviewer may view zero lessons learnt at best passable, at worst they may view it as lazy from the organisation’s perspective as it suggests that there is not a process for continuous improvement set up. Additionally, if they have asked a specific point, and you have not addressed it, what is there to mark? It is therefore best to be honest and explain what you have learnt and how you have improved.
We regularly encounter issues around readability caused by:
- Language used and writing style – We regularly see tenders where there is little thought given to the sequencing of information, how it is presented, and how it is conveyed. As a minimum you must use proper English throughout, with correct punctuation, and paragraphs where appropriate. We would also suggest following the chronology of the question and try not to group points together. Where this is done, your message can often get lost, and it is possible that the reviewer will miss what you are saying, thus not awarding you the marks.
- Layout – a wall of text is not only unappealing but is difficult to read. Similar to the point above, split topics out logically and use heading/subheadings to draw attention to specific points. By doing this, the reviewer will be able mark your narrative against the requirements laid out in the question, ensuring you receive acknowledgement for what you have included.
As a minimum you should always read back over what you have written, using the punctuation and layout to guide you. Where something does not make sense, or you feel like the point is being lost, take time to reconstruct, edit, and refine. If possible, we also suggest getting someone else to read it. If there is not someone suitable internally, we offer a bid review service.
Copying and pasting previous material
Most large organisations, or those who bid frequently, have a library of previous tender information. Whilst this can be incredibly useful, it is always obvious to the reviewer where sections (or in some cases entire responses) have been copied and pasted without being edited to fit the context of the current bid. Issues such as leaving in other buyer’s names, specific geographic locations, or simply including information that does not fit is common. For example, How do you manage the environmental impact of your supply chain activities? is not a question focussed on quality, so using pre-existing information regarding quality management of suppliers will not answer the question. What is required is a practical discussion on sustainability and the mechanism and metrics you use to ensure not only compliance but innovation. If you are unsure of the suitability of existing information look at the question that was asked previously, see if there are any similar features, and as a starting point discount immediately information that is not related.
Consistency of information
The above points are intrinsically linked to this as poor readability, and ineffective use of previous material can often mean that facts, figures and commitments appear different in either different areas of the same response or within the wider bid. These inconsistencies reflect poorly on the organisation and cast doubt on the legitimacy of what you are claiming. Once your bid is complete always do a final readthrough to fact check what you have said, and if you are not sure of statistics leave a space and add them at the end so that they are consistent.
Lack of customer focus
Often responses, whilst compliant with the requirement of the question, are generic and do not consider the customer. Everything you write should be with the customer in mind, and where there is scope to add specifics, do so. For example, when explaining how you will recruit, name specific local organisations and channels you will use. When talking about establishing a local office, talk about a specific location and the rationale behind it. Think about what the customer wants, and remember they only know what you have written. Do not ever assume that they know something about you, or that they will ‘read between the lines’. Be explicit, and intentional in everything you write, and always explain what the benefit is to them.
If you feel like your organisation could benefit from bid writing support, or support to review your tenders, contact us today.
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