Will my bid win?
Published: 09 December 2014
Time and valuable resources wasted on failed bid preparation or successful bids you wished you’d never won. David Nickson asks, where did you go wrong?
Seven questions to ask yourself before you submit your bid.
Question 1 – Should you be bidding?
Sales qualification is still one of the best ways to produce a winning bid. Anyone can bid for anything, and many work on the scattergun approach, but there are many bids that you will just never win. Worse, by bidding for the poor prospects, you take resource and focus away from the winnable ones, reducing your chances there too. Client relationship, track record, competitive position, resource for bidding and delivery, timetable, and more all matter when deciding what to bid for. Choose carefully and well. Beware of those who talk about how they won when, ‘everyone said it was a waste of time,’ they are like gamblers who win seven-horse accumulators; they don’t tell you about the thousands that lost. Also, when you look into it you usually find that the qualification factors were in favour, just not recognized at the time.
Question 2 – Have you made life easy for the assessor?
Follow any instructions they give you, to the letter. Put the information where they want it and in the order they want it – don’t make them search for it. You only write the one bid, they have to read many; the ones that are easiest to get the information from will get better scores. Answer the question (ATQ) asked, not the one you wanted to be asked, and don’t put in additional material unless it demonstrates a very relevant benefit. Even then ATQ first; if they don’t ask for it think three times before adding it in. Use figures and diagrams to save words and communicate more quickly. Save them time and they will reward you.
Question 3 – Is the client more important than you?
Always write and think about the client and what they are trying to achieve before you think about yourself. So many management summaries start by saying why the bidder is great. Start by talking about what the client’s situation is, what they want to achieve and what is needed so they can achieve it. Then say how you can help and how they will benefit from your help. They are the ones spending the money; they are the audience and you should write for them. Use their language and style where you can.
Question 4 – Why will you win?
Do you know your audience? Do your sale themes and win strategy (do you have them?) help you meet their needs? Themes should be simple and few, no more than four, five at the outside. Common themes are things such as partnership, value for money, flexibility, low risk, speed. These must support your overall win strategy; the combination of ideas, tactics, approach that will get your case accepted by the client – your audience. Write for that audience but don’t get trapped into thinking that the audience is singular, it is a set of people: decision makers; influencers; pundits; politicians; technologists; bean counters; experts of many kinds. Each will have their own questions, jargon, motivations and concerns. You must use your experts to match them and write for them. You may have an overall (simple and clear) style for your written bid but you should be prepared to vary it for different assessors.
Question 5 – Did you apply the, ‘So What’ test?
For every point you make in your bid ask the question ‘So what?’ Answer it from the client’s point of view. Make sure you understand the difference between a fact, a feature and a benefit. Benefits must be relevant, demonstrable and supported by evidence. Support this by keeping the language you use simple and clear; never use a long word or sentence when a shorter one is available. Research Orwell’s rules for writing and use them; look up the guidance offered by The Plain English Society.
Question 6 – Is it professional?
Get the detail, spelling, and grammar right and allow for time to proofread in detail. Do not try and proofread something you have written yourself. Reading it aloud can help too. Number/label all the figure/diagrams. Have a consistent look and feel (and branding for your organization). Where it is going to be physically delivered (i.e. printed, as opposed to electronically) don’t skimp on the quality of folders, artwork, paper, packaging and printing. Quality counts. If it looks as though you don’t care now the client will think you never will.
Question 7 – Win bids with EASE (©David Nickson)
My own guideline; Effectiveness = Audience + Simplicity + Evidence.
Write for your audience, keep it simple and easy to understand and support it with real evidence. It will convince them. It is not rocket science, it is being aware.