Finding your voice

Writing a bid means writing dozens of documents for a wide (and sometimes mysterious) audience. That means employing some basic writing techniques to get the best possible impact out of your proposal. There are some basic strategies for clear bid writing:

  • Be direct and concise.
  • Avoid block text. If it becomes unavoidable, break the page up with images, charts and text-box quotes.
  • Avoid using generic boilerplate sales language. We’ll discuss why below.
  • Words like would, could, might and may reduce the sense of quiet assured confidence in your bid, creating doubt in the mind of the reader.
  • One idea per sentence. What you really should avoid when bid writing is giant run-on sentences full of commas and different notions, that confuse the reader and reduce the flow of the document to a thick viscous sludge that causes the client to struggle for breath like a beached whale, as demonstrated by this sentence. Aren’t you glad that’s over?

Research the client

When writing a bid be client focused and personalised. One company’s non-specific generic boilerplate reads much the same as another’s, and will likely bore the reader. More to the point, a cut and paste job will fail in one of the basic goals of the bid – to demonstrate that the bid writer has a clear understanding of the goals, issues and problems faced by the client.

Determine who the reader of the bid (and its separate sections) will be. Are they informed enough to understand the specifics of your solution or are they seeking to employ you to provide a service with which they are technically unfamiliar? You should also write with personality in mind, even if you know yourself to be writing a bid for a team to read. Pragmatic thinkers will be interested in results, and look for direct language, brevity and the strong use of graphics to quickly illustrate a point. Analytical thinkers will prefer a focus on detail and accurate facts, with charts and graphs.

In general, it is best to avoid lots of Technical Jargon in an Acronym Soup (TJAS), even if you are expecting an informed audience. Anything that slows down reader comprehension will hurt the bid. If the client is using different terminology to that commonly used in your organisation or even your industry, it will normally be best to use their wording.

Given the sheer scale of many bids, applying these ideas can seem like a frightening prospect. Win that Bid can pass the lessons learned over many successful bids to your bid team.

Creating a successful bid schedule

It’s possible to “wing” a bid if you consider early onset heart palpitations to be an acceptable business expense. If for some reason that isn’t desirable (or you want to win), bid writers should have a properly constructed schedule. You might live to win another bid!

What should the bid schedule account for?

The bid schedule should account for several major elements:

  • when are activities scheduled?
  • who is responsible for carrying them out?
  • which elements of the project are behind schedule or at risk?

It should also provide some flexibility at the end of the project. Submitting a bid is a time consuming and sometimes stressful process – bid portals can be temperamental and each dimension requires checking before the final submission. Time will be required for final proof-reading, formatting, late clarifications and other unexpected issues.

Clear lines of responsibility make it easier for any member of the team to understand where to go for information. At the same time, it also helps to avoid the most frustrating of delays; bid writers inadvertently duplicating each other’s work.

What are your project milestones?

Milestones are significant project events on which to build specific tasks around. Each task and its associated timeline can be tracked by the Project or Bid Manager (who might not be familiar with the specifics of each task). Each milestone is associated with a deliverable which provides evidence that the milestone has been completed.

When choosing your milestones, use the terminology stated in the bid documentation. Milestones should be discussed and signed off at the kick-off meeting by all stakeholders prior to the bid schedule being populated with tasks.

What are your dependencies?

Dependencies are points in the project where a problem with one aspect will affect other areas of the problem. Internal dependencies can be dealt with and identified within the team. External dependencies, out of the bid writer’s control, should be identified when assembling the schedule so that those responsible (a consultancy or accountancy firm, for instance) are aware of their own responsibilities and place in the schedule. Identify ownership of the dependency and place a milestone in the schedule to make it easy to check their status at any time.

How do you know how long things will take?

This is often a matter of experience and process but following these guidelines can help:

  • build in a contingency for unexpected issues;
  • set page/word limits. This will allow you to assess writing, assembling and review periods;
  • agree on style and writing conventions at the earliest opportunity, ideally at the kick-off meeting; and
  • ensure the bid team has a thorough understanding of the project’s win themes.

In particular, the latter two elements can really speed up the drafting process. Bid writers will have a much easier time writing a draft around themes rather than trying to crowbar them into an existing document.

Remember to plan for time consuming events which may have implications for the project even if no-one is actually working on them (such as acquiring permits or letters of support). Projected dates for acquiring or finishing these matters should be placed into the schedule, especially if they create some kind of chokepoint.

Post project, assess the processes you used and the success of the bid schedule. If it all seems like too much hard work give Win that Bid a call: they’ll be create your bid documentation and can manage the entire process.

Processing your Proposal

Submitting a winning bid is an enormous task. The method statement alone might consist of 10 or 15 different documents and dozens of appendices. The final process of assembling a tender proposal often involves an enormous deluge of information, emails and revisions, during which time there isn’t time to stop and think. This is one of the reasons it is so important to take stock after the proposal for the tender opportunity has been submitted.

How effectively did the team work together?

Even when the bid writing team is working well together, there can be problems which effect the creation of the tender proposal. These often involve lines of communication, especially during the review process. It is important to ensure that the team is aware of where their different responsibilities lie. Creating checklists and document folders available simultaneously to the entire team can be a great help.

How effective was communication between the bid team and other people involved?

During a large proposal the bid writing team may well have needed a great deal of technical information for method statements or financial documents. A delay here can be a real bottleneck in submitting the final tender proposal.

Again, problems here can often be down to failures in communication. After submitting the tender proposal, discuss where those problems occurred and what can be done to ameliorate them later.

What can be done to improve on the process?

There will be times during a bid where you will wish you had done something in a different order or used a different method. During the final assembly of the bid there often isn’t time to implement that change.

After the bid, note down the problems that occurred and the solutions that came to mind. Take the chance to update your internal process documents or create a checklist of things to assess when going for the next tender opportunity. Win that Bid can help you assess your processes to make them even more effective.

Get Tender Ready with The TROC button today

What Does It Mean?

Get Tender Ready with the TROC todayCompanies that have passed the TROC (Tender Readiness Online Check) or otherwise prequalified to respond to large private or public sector invitations to tender may display this symbol.

What Does It Mean For Tendering Authorities And Procurement Officers?

Public Sector organisations should look for this symbol on SME company websites, because:
  • An SME company displaying THE TROC TENDER READY symbol is indicating that it has met the minimum criteria qualifying it to respond to a Public Sector tender
  • This means that the tendering body can confidently approach the company and invite them to participate in a procurement exercise.
  • Looking for the TROC TENDER READY button will help tendering authorities to meet the Government’s aspiration that ‘25% of public sector contracts should be awarded to SMEs’.

The TROC Tender Ready symbol is a private sector initiative, with no government funding or taxpayers’ money involved.

Companies who have successfully completed and passed a Public Sector PQQ or won a contract within the last TWELVE months should contact info@procurementconnection.org.uk to get their badge and press pack.

It’s up to the both the Private and Public Sectors, as well as the press and other media organisations, to raise awareness of the TROC Tender Ready symbol: it will help procurement officers to identify ‘Tender Ready’ busineeses and therefore help more SMEs to win Public Sector contracts.

Knocked out at PQQ stage? Learn how to get feedback

Writing a tender for the vast majority of public tender contracts in the UK will involve filling out a PQQ. There are plenty of suppliers eager to fill those tender contracts and so the contracting authorities use them to keep the number of tenders they look at manageable. This can raise problems for suppliers that we’ve discussed before.

However, even if you do provide everything requested by the PQQ , it’s still possible to get knocked out at this early stage. It isn’t always easy to find out why you’ve missed out on a contract at the tender stage, let alone the PQQs.  For this reason it is important to know what the regulations are.

Regular 29A of the Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009 states that a contracting authority must notify an applicant of exclusion from the process. Regulation 32 then clarifies that the contracting authority must provide reasons for this decision, including details of why successful candidates progressed.

It is important to ascertain what went wrong in a failed PQQ so you can use that information the next time you find yourself writing a tender. Win that Bid can help you analyse the feedback you received and help you seize the next opportunity.

Tender checklist – Submission

Having reviewed your document here are some things to check before submitting it.

  • You may want to deliver the tender document in person to ensure it arrives on time and in best condition.  If so, remember to take a timed and signed receipt.
  • If you use a courier make sure they are a firm you trust and that they do not attach the name of any company to your package.
  • If sending by post, check whether or not your franking machine contains your company  name.  This must not appear anywhere on your document.
  • Send two copies of the document to your client along with an SAE (self addressed envelope).  If you do get the job, have the client sign one and return it to you.
  • If submitting it electronically, ensure you can get a record of its dispatch and receipt.
  • Monitor the issuing authority until the closing date of the award, and contact someone if you do not hear anything by that time.

Tender Writing: Your proposal checklist

Proposal Checklist – Preparing to write your proposal submission

Now that you have thought about how your company will handle the tendering process, it is time to think about writing the tender itself.  There are things you should consider, and information you should gather, before beginning to write so you create the best document you are capable of.

  • What do you know about your client?  This information can be extremely useful in knowing how to pitch your document.  Perhaps the client is looking for particular benefits, for example price or level of service.
  • Make sure you are not just there to test the market or to make up numbers.  You may even want to think about requesting your customers sign a non-disclosure agreement before presenting.  This will help to ensure any ideas or information you wish to protect remains yours.
  • If you are bidding for something the customer has previously received from someone else, what can you learn from the service provided by the current or previous supplier?  You are allowed to ask the customer about this and it may help lend more insight into how to fit your bid to their needs.
  • Make sure you have all the latest information from your team, are you up to date with all the work your they have been doing on the bid?
  • Have you collected all of the relevant documents and information you will need when writing your bid, in particular, your quotation?
  • Read all the requirements and follow the instructions to the letter.  It may surprise you to learn that lots of bids are rejected simply for not complying with the instructions.  (Or it may not surprise you at all, if yours has been one of them!)
  • Remember you’re in competition.  It may help to think about what you would consider if a company was bidding to you.

Why aren’t your PQQs being shortlisted?

When assisting clients with their pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) you’d be amazed at just how often we see the same mistakes rear their heads time and time again. And if we notice them, you can bet your prospect will too. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation – you know you have to improve your responses, but each practice PQQ is a missed contract and worse still possibly a dent in your reputation.

To help you try to identify where you might be going wrong we’ve decided to let you in on the top 3 PQQ blunders that in our experience prevent suppliers from getting shortlisted:

Strike One: Not proof reading! You’d think this one was obvious. The main culprits are;

  • Concentrating on the narrative questions and not spending enough time on the detail of shorter responses
  • Cutting and pasting text from different drafts
  • And the really embarrassing one, using content from old PQQs and forgetting to change the details!

These kind of mistakes disrupt the flow of reading and can start to distract from what you’re trying to say. And in the case of using copied text from former PQQs they say to the buyer that you aren’t taking them seriously, therefore how on earth will you be able to deliver the contract?

Often clients have proof read their documents, they just haven’t done it well enough or because they have written it struggle to see the wood from the trees.

Tip One: finish your response in good time and ask a colleague to give it a good proof read.

Strike Two: Not taking maximum advantage of your word limit! What a waste! The buyer has given you a set amount of space to tell them about your company, and you leave it blank?! It may be difficult to think of how best to structure your answers, but you should always aim to use as much of the allotted space as you can. Lots of blank space can create the impression that you don’t have much to offer.

Tip Two: Decide what’s important to the buyer in this section. Consider why have they asked this question. What would be the ideal answer?

Strike Three: Not selling your business! It may feel strange to blow your own trumpet so shamelessly but don’t forget this is a competition. The buyer will have a ton of documents to read through and if you don’t convince them that your company is the best then you won’t be shortlisted. If you understate your capabilities and achievements the buyer will reach for the next PQQ, so make sure they know you’re the best.

Tip Three: Before getting into the content, identify your story. Why are you better than your competitors and why should you win this contract. Carry this theme throughout the PQQ.

So there you have it, three simple rules for success. We know that this is only a small part of growing your business, but at times like these every little helps. Every PQQ is important, so don’t waste your chances.

PQQ & Tender Checklist – Are Your Ducks in a Row?

At one time or another most of our clients reach the shortlisting stages. This moment can either be met with jubilation together with the confidence and conviction that winning is but merely in touching distance or jubilation followed swiftly by varying degrees of uncertainty or even worse – fear!

Once you are shortlisted you will often have very little time to send your documents to the buyer. Creating a file of essentials before the all important day arrives will ensure you don’t get caught short.

Have to hand hard and soft copies of the following documents:

– Certificate of incorporation

– Organisation/company/group structure chart

– Audited accounts for the last three years (depending on the buyer 1 or 2 may be sufficient)

– Employer’s liability insurance

– Public liability insurance certificate

– Health & safety policy

– Quality assurance policy/mangement statement

– Equal opportunities policy

– Environmental policy

– Any documents that support technical capability

– Case studies

Taking the time out in the pre-tendering stages  to gather together this information will pay off when that all important submission date arrives. After all, why on earth would you go to all that time and effort to apply for a tasty business changing contract to fall so easily at the  next hurdle?

And if you’re looking at this list with bemusement, need help collating the information, obtaining the appropriate policies or require tender training give us a call (0203 405 1850), drop us a line (hello@winthatbid.com) or simply check out Win That Bid’s tender support services www.winthatbid.com/tender services