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Tender Writing Pitfalls

Executive Compass Branding

Some of the more common failures of bid and tender writers are well known. Indeed I have written about them in previous articles.

However, in an attempt to find out why they have not won any work recently I always review a firms past tenders.

Here is a list of the top five pitfalls that appeared in most of their bids that I reviewed last week

1. Comprehension: The bid writer(s) really did not understand the bid document, its explicit and implicit meanings and “cloaked” references. There was a comprehensive misunderstanding as to what the customer was asking and the response that was prepared. What was worse was that even after I questioned the team as to the meaning, they had not even answered the question that they “thought” was asked.

2. Technical Overload: The bids were overly technical in nature. They had thought that by loading up on their technical knowledge and know-how and ignoring other elements they would demonstrate that they were the best to carry out the work. Unfortunately what most bidders do not realise, or at least fail to acknowledge is that by the time you have reached the bid stage most of the runners and riders will have the technical ability to deliver. I am not saying that a competitive advantage in technical skills should not be leveraged in a bid, but unless you have a unique technical ability it is a very risky strategy. If the evaluator comes to the end of the bid and you are equal or only marginally better than the next best what else can you offer if you have relied solely on one them.

3. Copy and Paste & Template Rubbish: Most large public and private organisations have staff employed to do nothing else than to review bids, tenders and PQQ. They can spot a copy and paste a mile off!! (so can I) I am not saying that you should not use templates. They are very useful for some standard PQQ submission elements and occasionally for a section of a tender. The problem is, is that one word can make a substantial difference and sometimes teams and individual writers are in such a hurry to complete that they miss the nuances with the question/section. How do you manage the environmental impact of your supply chain activities? is not a question about quality, reliability, effectiveness or your supplier’s environmental policy. What is required is a practical discussion on sustainability and the mechanism and metrics you use to ensure not only compliance but innovation.

4. No theme: The bid needs a theme, an underlying thread that runs throughout the whole document. It does not need a hotchpotch of ideas and “unique abilities”. It is confusing to the client if in one section you are saying that your commitment to your people is your greatest asset and then in the next you tell them it is your logistics and distribution ability. Pick a theme and build all the other elements of your business around it.

5. Lack of customer focus: Very often the poor old customer does not get a mention. The bids I reviewed were all about me, me, me and us, us, us. Forget it, think about the customer. Apart from technical specifications and standards every paragraph should be written from the point of view from the customer. If it does not interest the customer or add value to the proposition do not put it in. Conversely remember that if you do not write something in the bid, the evaluator, who is not a psychic, will not know about it.

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