Bid Writing Why you need a slightly different set of writing skills
Many bid writers make 4 mistakes <ul><li>They go for bids they can’t win </li></ul><ul><li>They don’t consider what intere...
Mistake 1 Going for bids you can’t win
Mistake 2 Not considering the readers’ interests
Does this look familiar? <ul><li>Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Executive summary 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Our company history 26 <...
Does this look familiar? <ul><li>Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Executive summary 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Our  company history 26 ...
What some bid writers think  interest the reader <ul><li>Forelock tugging.  ‘We are delighted to be able to respond to you...
What are the readers interested in? <ul><li>Themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Themselves </li></ul>
Mistake 3 Bland, generic & boring
Dry as toast? Or full of snap crackle and pop?
Benefits rather than features Product features vs benefits
What can you do to tailor your bid?
Mistake 4 Poorly structured & badly written <ul><li>Structure, layout and writing let many bid documents down </li></ul>
Prescriptive or free format bid?
Recommended structure <ul><li>Executive summary </li></ul><ul><li>Our understanding of your problem </li></ul><ul><li>How ...
Check your readability
Which would you rather read?
Common writing problems <ul><li>Management-speak, buzzwords, MBA-itis </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing fluff </li></ul><ul><li>...
Management speak Thinking outside the box Bleeding edge Customer Facing Leverage our core competency Total solution Scalab...
Marketing fluff Our firm is uniquely qualified to deliver world class results. We offer best-of breed Products and custome...
Marketing fluff Our firm is uniquely qualified to deliver world class results. We offer best-of breed Products and custome...
Stand out from the crowd
Dress for success
 
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Tcuk2010 writing bids

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Presentation given at TCUK 2010 entitled "Writing Bids" (PowerPoint 2003 version). Presentation written by Alison Reeves (Aims and Objectives) and delivered by Alison Peck (Clearly Stated).

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  • So, what are the benefits of pre-qualifying every opportunity?  A higher win-rate, as you respond to fewer opportunities but win more of them  Higher ROI (Return on Investment) on your tendering activities  Higher quality bids, as you have the time to tailor each one to the client  Better use of limited resources, especially if you’re an SME or a sole trader  Lower opportunity cost, so you don’t hurt existing clients/programmes  Better managed internal and external risks  You save your bid team from nervous breakdown, depression and divorce
  • What makes most proposals as dull as ditchwater is that they talk more about themselves than the client. They talk more about what they’re going to do, rather than what the client is going to get. They’re bidder-centric, not buyer-centric. Here’s an example: The predominant word in this list of contents is ‘ Our ’. Dead give-away as to who the writer’s interested in; it’s certainly not the client. What would be a better word? You or your. But to do that you have to re-write the whole document from their perspective. PS. When reviewing a bid submission, I always look at the contents first. It’s like looking at an X-ray of the document.
  • What makes most proposals as dull as ditchwater is that they talk more about themselves than the client. They talk more about what they’re going to do, rather than what the client is going to get. They’re bidder-centric, not buyer-centric. Here’s an example: The predominant word in this list of contents is ‘ Our ’. Dead give-away as to who the writer’s interested in; it’s certainly not the client. What would be a better word? You or your. But to do that you have to re-write the whole document from their perspective. PS. When reviewing a bid submission, I always look at the contents first. It’s like looking at an X-ray of the document.
  • How most bids make clients, evaluators and other recipients lose the will to live. A TV documentary on how scientific grants are awarded concluded that, no matter how academically or scientifically worthy the application was, it had to excite the evaluators to win. Serious doesn’t have to mean dull.
  • What are your bid like to read – dry as toast, or full of snap, crackle and pop?
  • Tell them how your product or service will make their life easier, better, richer, or will deliver the objectives and outcomes they want (translate into the language of your particular sector). This is all about benefits, as opposed to features. Benefits sell, features don’t. Many bids confuse the two.
  • To render your bids more exciting, you must tailor them to each client. By ‘client’ I don’t mean the organisation. I mean the individual flesh-and-blood decision-makers in that organisation. You can’t tailor your bid if you don’t get to know the client, and you can’t get to know them if you don’t meet them. So part of your pre-qualification process (see Mistake #1) must look at access to the client. If you don’t already have a strong relationship with each of the decision-makers and a clear understanding of their specific needs, objectives, issues and agenda, you’re on the back foot. If that’s the case and access is denied to the client, you need to think twice about bidding. Because if a competitor already has those relationships sewn up, you’re unlikely to win. What is shocking is how seldom bidders ask to meet the client. Presumably they lack the confidence to step into the lion’s den or fear the rejection of being told ‘No’. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And if the client asks why you want to meet them, tell them you want to understand their needs, objectives, culture and issues better, to be able to submit a robust and tailored bid. This in turn will allow you to deliver a more relevant, efficient and cost-effective performance if you win the contract.
  • Most people in business write badly. This is a vast topic, so I’m going to talk briefly about three areas: structure, layout and language.
  • Is this a prescriptive or free format bid? A prescriptive bid is where you answer all the questions set by the customer in the order they have set them – often you are asked to complete a specific document or form. You are often asked to complete answers within a specific word count, or page size. Please note that it us essential that you stick to any imposed sizes for answers, otherwise your bid will fail at the first hurdle. Free format is where the customer invites you to suggest a solution, but with no preset structure. Make sure you understand what sort of bid this is – the wrong format can easily cost you the bid.
  • Structuring your bids for maximum impact If the ITT you are responding to prescribes the structure, as in a proforma bid, you have no choice but to comply; doing otherwise will result in a ‘non-compliant’ bid. If, however, you can respond free-form, then this is a standard structure to follow: Executive Summary , or what you get when you hire us Optional, but highly recommended for longer documents. Must summarise all the reasons to appoint you, ie all the benefits the client will get. Our Understanding of your Needs . A description of the client’s major issues/needs, showing that you understand what is driving the tender. You want the client to say to themselves, ‘Yes, these guys really get it’. Our Proposed Solution to Meet your Needs. This explains/shows how you will address those issues or needs, including your proposed team, approach, benefits and price. I’m a firm believer in a killer page that encapsulates your entire value proposition or service model, preferably as a graphic with supporting text. Research at Ernst &amp; Young shows that clients buy the team first, the firm second. So include profiles of key team members and why they have been chosen for their particular role on the assignment. And don’t be tempted to tuck the price away at the back of your bid like a mad aunt. Make the link between what they pay and what they get explicit and clear. Be bold. Why we are the right supplier for you. Brief presentation of your organisation’s credentials, eg case studies, testimonials, client references, previous jobs and outcomes. This is about convincing the client that you are as good as you say you are: you’re a safe pair of hands for their precious business. Suggested Next Steps Show the client — without presuming you’ve won — that you’ve thought through what needs doing in the first few days or weeks and that you’re ready to hit the ground running.
  • A function in Word lets you score your writing (and anyone else’s you get electronically), including the ASL (Average Sentence Length). Go to Tools, then Options; click on the Spelling &amp; Grammar tab and tick the Show readability statistics option bottom left, click OK. Go back to Tools, Spelling &amp; Grammar and run through all the suggested changes. When asked ‘Do you want to check the remainder of the document?’ click ‘No’ and the Readability Statistics box magically appears. Focus on three killer ratios: in the Averages section, Words per Sentence — this is your ASL and should be about 16; in the Readability section, Passive Sentences — this should be as close to 0% as possible — and the Flesch Reading Ease — this is a percentage, so the higher the better (plain English starts at 60%).
  • The power of sub-headings Along with your macro-structure, you need to use sub-headings. These are vital navigational devices that convey the structure of your document to your reader, break up text and allow the reader to zero in on what’s relevant to them and leave the rest. When we don’t use sub-headings, we end up with daunting, forbidding slabs of text that don’t invite the reader in. We’re put off before we’ve even started, like this. Imagine an entire document as unstructured as this: most evaluators won’t give it the time of day. Laying out your document for maximum clarity The easiest thing to do here is show you an example of good layout and page design: This page from a newsletter of tax tips does lots of things right: Poses the headline as a short, simple question Summarises the page with a ‘stand-first’ underneath the headline Uses a 2-column grid, which narrows the line width and makes the text easier to read Uses short, bite-sized paragraphs and sub-headings Features graphics in the form of icons, a coloured table and a mathematical equation Emboldens the start of each paragraph, making it easy for the eye to find it Is lively without being busy
  • Use language that makes it easy for your reader One of the biggest problems with sales writing today is management-speak. Win/win scenario; scaleable client service platform; blue skies thinking; get our ducks in a row; brain dump; realign for parallel delivery; core competencies; going forwards….to name but a few. Clichés, jargon, buzz-words and MBA-itis puff up writing and obscure its meaning. They’re a death- sentence to communication, especially if your reader is not a specialist in the field. Management-speak is so over-used it’s lost its meaning. The reader’s eyes glaze over and move onto the next document, or the next activity. The writer has lost them, perhaps forever. A recent survey of the impact of management jargon on British industry by Investors in People condemned this type of language. The poll found that it betrayed a lack of confidence and made those surveyed feel inadequate, while others said that managers who used it were untrustworthy or were trying to cover something up. So what’s the answer? Write plain English. Tell it like it is, using everyday, conversational language. Help the bid evaluator to get your meaning in one go and, in the case of a question-based submission, award you top marks for each answer. The harder you make the evaluator work, the less tolerant they will be of your answer and the more likely they will be to mark you down. An NHS procurement specialist recently told me, ‘If I have to spend more than two minutes assessing an answer, I give up.’ There are two other reasons why plain English is the way to go:  It will differentiate your bid from the competition, most of whom will be writing management-speak  It’s easier and quicker to draft than higher register, polysyllabic language, because that’s how we speak
  • Write in a concrete way. A lot of bids are full of marketing fluff – easy to write if you don’t have a specific message – but the bottom line is that you don’t have a strong message for your potential customer.
  • Write in a concrete way. A lot of bids are full of marketing fluff – easy to write if you don’t have a specific message – but the bottom line is that you don’t have a strong message for your potential customer.
  • Think about your potential customer and make sure that you understand their problems/needs – then massage your document to cover these specific needs.
  • No, this isn’t about getting a new wardrobe! It’s about making sure you understand how to use Word properly, so that the document looks really attractive. Content is very important, but so is the ‘look and feel’ of the document. You want your document to stand out and look really professional – after all it’s all your potential customer sees of you before making their decision – you want to impress them. If you can’t put together a professional looking document that has been carefully checked for spelling, grammar and punctuation, then they will think you have the same shoddy approach to the way your business is run.
  • There are lots of other rules to follow when writing bids which are not so writer centric – so get in touch if you want some help in understanding what these might be.
  • Tcuk2010 writing bids

    1. 1. Bid Writing Why you need a slightly different set of writing skills
    2. 2. Many bid writers make 4 mistakes <ul><li>They go for bids they can’t win </li></ul><ul><li>They don’t consider what interests the reader </li></ul><ul><li>Their bids are bland, generic and boring </li></ul><ul><li>Their bids are poorly structured and badly written </li></ul>
    3. 3. Mistake 1 Going for bids you can’t win
    4. 4. Mistake 2 Not considering the readers’ interests
    5. 5. Does this look familiar? <ul><li>Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Executive summary 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Our company history 26 </li></ul><ul><li>What we think you need 39 </li></ul><ul><li>Our specialties and resources 56 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 1: Our customer service 78 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 2: Our network 88 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 3: Our annual accounts 2009 101 </li></ul>
    6. 6. Does this look familiar? <ul><li>Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Executive summary 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Our company history 26 </li></ul><ul><li>What we think you need 39 </li></ul><ul><li>Our specialties and resources 56 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 1: Our customer service 78 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 2: Our network 88 </li></ul><ul><li>Appendix 3: Our annual accounts 2009 101 </li></ul>
    7. 7. What some bid writers think interest the reader <ul><li>Forelock tugging. ‘We are delighted to be able to respond to your invitation to tender....’ or ‘We are pleased to announce...’ </li></ul><ul><li>Telling the client what they already know. ‘As a Finance Director you need to cut costs and deliver shareholder value...’ or ‘Recent years have witnessed an increase in the use of Lean process improvement...’ </li></ul><ul><li>The bidding company’s history. ‘We were founded in 1915 and have grown organically since then...’ or ‘We have completely redesigned our website...’ </li></ul>
    8. 8. What are the readers interested in? <ul><li>Themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Themselves </li></ul>
    9. 9. Mistake 3 Bland, generic & boring
    10. 10. Dry as toast? Or full of snap crackle and pop?
    11. 11. Benefits rather than features Product features vs benefits
    12. 12. What can you do to tailor your bid?
    13. 13. Mistake 4 Poorly structured & badly written <ul><li>Structure, layout and writing let many bid documents down </li></ul>
    14. 14. Prescriptive or free format bid?
    15. 15. Recommended structure <ul><li>Executive summary </li></ul><ul><li>Our understanding of your problem </li></ul><ul><li>How we propose to address your problem </li></ul><ul><li>Your proposed team structure & rationale </li></ul><ul><li>Profiles of your key team members/CVs </li></ul><ul><li>Why we are the right supplier for you </li></ul><ul><li>Suggested next steps </li></ul>
    16. 16. Check your readability
    17. 17. Which would you rather read?
    18. 18. Common writing problems <ul><li>Management-speak, buzzwords, MBA-itis </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing fluff </li></ul><ul><li>Waffle, flannel, wind </li></ul>
    19. 19. Management speak Thinking outside the box Bleeding edge Customer Facing Leverage our core competency Total solution Scalable Off site Get on the same page Touch base Face time Out of the box Challenging Drilling down Keep me in the loop Pushing the envelope A big ask Re-engineer Pick the low-hanging fruit Ball park figure Quality driven Insufficient bandwidth Off the scale Can we park this? Synergy
    20. 20. Marketing fluff Our firm is uniquely qualified to deliver world class results. We offer best-of breed Products and customer-focused service to produce seamless solutions. Our commitment to partnering with our customers produces innovative yet user-friendly applications that produce bottom-line results. <ul><li>Our firm has successfully installed advanced imaging systems in more than 500 financial institutions in North America — more than any other firm in the industry. We offer the latest technology, including digital scanning, and back our systems with a one year, unconditional guarantee and a service department available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, by choosing us, you achieve three important outcomes: </li></ul><ul><li>You are in full compliance with all Federal and state regulations. </li></ul><ul><li>You eliminate more than 70% of the paper routinely generated in the course of business. </li></ul><ul><li>Your total operational cost goes down, with reduced information storage. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Marketing fluff Our firm is uniquely qualified to deliver world class results. We offer best-of breed Products and customer-focused service to produce seamless solutions. Our commitment to partnering with our customers produces innovative yet user-friendly applications that produce bottom-line results. <ul><li>Our firm has successfully installed advanced imaging systems in more than 500 financial institutions in North America — more than any other firm in the industry. We offer the latest technology, including digital scanning, and back our systems with a one year, unconditional guarantee and a service department available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, by choosing us, you achieve three important outcomes: </li></ul><ul><li>You are in full compliance with all Federal and state regulations. </li></ul><ul><li>You eliminate more than 70% of the paper routinely generated in the course of business. </li></ul><ul><li>Your total operational cost goes down, with reduced information storage. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Stand out from the crowd
    23. 23. Dress for success

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