Business Development

Bid Writing: 17 Mistakes You’re Making

By Hudson Procurement Group
October 2020

No one says bid management is easy. However, with dedicated bid management training, you can maximise your chances to be successful at tendering. The road to get there is full of challenges, pitfalls and mistakes with each step in the process bringing its own challenges. Great bid management means recognising that one mistake can often mean the difference between a win and a loss.

But what are the mistakes you’re making?

1. Bidding for what you can’t win

One of the easiest mistakes to avoid comes right at the start of the bid management process. Making the right bid / no-bid decision is key. If you can’t deliver all the requirements of the contract – Do not bid.

Or – partner up with another company who can deliver the parts your missing.

2. Bidding too big

Whilst it can be tempting to bid for the biggest contract you find, it is an easy way to lose. Good bid management training teaches companies to bid for contracts no more than 50% of the value of their annual turnover.

3. Not Checking Compliance

Not checking you meet the compliance requirements is an easy way to lose a bid. Before starting the tendering process, your bid manager’s role should check the specification for compliance requirements including Policies, Procedures, Training, Turnover, Accreditation, Experience.

If you don’t meet requirements, you’re not compliant so there’s no point carrying on.

4. Not being able to complete the Work

This is obvious really; you need to decide if you can deliver the works required. If you can’t comfortably manage the work, you may not want to bid. You should also consider if your staff are able to complete the work. Are they suitably trained? Is there adequate management in place to deliver the work?

5. Not Answering the Question

It’s tempting to rush ahead with a tender response and write what we think a buyer wants to hear. But it is vital, even under pressure, to take the time to reflect and ensure you understand the requirements, and what the buyer is looking for in an excellent response. Tender writing training will help you understand the key parts of the documents such as the specification and to digest this in such a way as to inform and improve your response.

If there is one spectre that haunts bid managers, it’s submitting responses that don’t answer the question.

This mistake happens far more than it should and is a sure-fire way to lose vital marks.

To avoid this, read the question and break it down into its keywords, then respond to each key phrase, terminology and requirement. Sometimes this takes a little training to do well, bud it’s a skill bid managers quickly pick up.

6. Misreading the question

We’ve heard many stories in the past about clients with other priorities ploughing ahead and answering a question based on an improper understanding of what it is actually asking, costing themselves valuable quality marks. It’s easy when you’re under pressure to, for example, answer “how” you train your staff instead of “why”. Mistakes like this will cost you vital quality marks, but tender writing training will give you the tools to quickly digest question requirements and conceptually assess what is needed for an excellent response with speed, accuracy and efficiency.

7. Missing key information

It is easy to miss key details and important information when you’re unfamiliar with a process or working under pressure. This is especially true considering the mountain of often superfluous information that comes with a tender pack. It is easy to overlook a key date for a site visit, change to a submission deadline or other such important piece of information. Tender writing training will help you to understand how to quickly digest tender documentation, scan them for information and pull out the facts and figures you need, without being distracted by other, relevant but less important information. Tender writing training will also show you how to keep on top of regular information updates from the purchasing organisation, known as “clarifications” to make sure you have all the information at your fingertips when approaching a bid.

8. Using too much technical language

It is good bid management practice to show the buyer that you’re an expert in your industry. However, be careful not to overuse jargon and technical terms. Acronyms, technical information and product details are second nature to you, your reader may not be as knowledgeable.

For example, do you know what a Rubber Duck is on a construction site?

Technical details can add a lot of value, but your response must be clear to all readers.

9. Not relating your proposal to the Specification

Great bid responses manage to answer the question whilst demonstrating how they meet the contract specification.

Without training in this skill, you can add some great information into your bid, but it may not be what the buyer wants to hear. Focus your response on the core requirements of the contract, then add in additional details, once you’ve made sure you meet all the requirements of the contract.

10. Copy and Paste

If you’ve completed bids in the past, re-using your old responses can be a useful starting point.

BUT…you need to be careful; consider the following points:

Does that previous bid response answer this bid question?
How relevant is that bid response to the requirements of this contract?
Have you triple-checked you have removed the last client from this response?
Here at Hudson Succeed, our bid management practices avoid copy and pasting. We choose to create bespoke responses for our clients based on individual needs, thereby avoiding this mistake altogether.

11. Invaluable Value Adding

It is good bid management practice to add as much value as possible to your responses. Go beyond the scope of works and specification to show why you’re the best. Tell the buyer what you can offer beyond the contract requirements– social initiatives, additional services, innovations, recruitment and training, etc.

The ‘added value’ arguments you make should be relevant to the service. If they don’t, then either rethink them or remove them from your response. You should read the contract specification and think of initiatives which complement the requirements.

12. Focussing on you not the buyer

A common mistake in bid management is talking about your offering as a ‘we’. If you use ‘We’ at the start of every sentence, consider that you’re talking about yourself more than the buyer and their needs.

Successful bid management includes the ability to clearly tell the buyer how you can benefit them. How you can recognise their needs by identifying how you can provide benefits to the client above and beyond contract requirements and explaining how you would address them.

13. Not having enough details

In bid management, detail is key. Every sentence you write should refer back to the question but be packed with facts. Each statement you make must have evidence to back-up your arguments. If the buyer knows they can trust you, they will be more likely to hire you. Not backing up your statements with evidence is a costly mistake resulting in wasted scores.

14. Waffle

One of the biggest bid mistakes is waffling. Evaluators will no doubt have lots of bids to evaluate, the last thing they want to see is blanket information and irrelevant detail.

To avoid this, keep your responses succinct. Pack in detail wherever possible and make sure that everything you say has a point to it. This way your evaluator will take in all your points and award you the top scores more easily.

Ensure you avoid making this mistake with proofreading. Getting a second opinion will help separate the winning work from the waffling work and will improve your final product.

15. Dull as a Dodo

Bid Managers understand that writing bids for ‘provision of services to a specific company’ isn’t going to win any awards, but you should nevertheless try to make the bid interesting. Support your arguments with diagrams and charts to add appeal and break up block text. Even such small additions as subheadings, lists and tables can make a big difference. An engaged reader is less likely to miss your key points.

A boring bid will result in a disengaged evaluator and lower marks!

16. Overlooking word counts

We often hear of clients who are new to tendering talking of having previously fallen foul of word counts. These are something to carefully look out for. Write too much and any words you write over the limit simply won’t be considered. Write too little and your answer risks looking ill-thought through, rushed, or somehow otherwise wanting. Tender writing training will help you understand the information you can be realistically expected to convey within given word counts, and where to look out for sometimes hidden or ambiguous word limits.

17. Time management

It’s hard to fit in writing a proposal, or sometimes several proposals, while running a business, hitting sales targets and managing staff. Time management is, however, key when tendering. Tender writing training will help you understand how to break down the whole tender pack into a succinct list of requirements and how to plan out the workload and assign specific responses or duties to your team, accordingly.


Different Types of Training


There is a variety of support available for businesses who are struggling to see success with tender writing.

Consultancy support

You can outsource your tender writing efforts and also receive some comprehensive tender writing training depending on the package you select if you outsource your procurement and tendering endeavours to a consultancy like Hudson Succeed.

Workshops

Many companies run tender writing training days and workshops for executives looking to improve their tendering efforts or to get started in tender writing. Beware though, these are useful sessions but often come at significant cost and involve business owners and directors sacrificing vital office time to attend.

Conferences

There is a multitude of national procurement and tendering conferences, many of which are free to attend. Procurex, for example, is a free of charge series of lectures, conferences, workshops and networking events run across the course of a day, dedicated to helping businesses see more success in tendering.


Tender VLE

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a one-stop-shop for all your tender needs?

How about a shop that doesn’t charge and provides access to ongoing training, advice and guidance weekly?

3 words: LOOK NO FURTHER.

Tender VLE is the UK’s first, free of charge, online, tendering and procurement-related, virtual learning environment. Tender VLE provides comprehensive tender writing training in a blended format with a mixture of videos, links for further reading, blogs and very soon, quizzes, questionnaire and interactive exercises.

Tendering can be extremely difficult, off-putting and stressful. After decades of working in tender-related activities on both the buyer and the supplier side of the table, our experts are here to cover all aspects of tendering, from basic to intermediate, to expert. Complete with everything you need, Tender VLE will set you on your way to tendering success.

Moreover, if you are in need of additional support, contact Hudson Succeed where our experts will be happy to talk about how we can supplement your tender writing learning and development endeavours.

Why was Tender VLE developed?

With hundreds of subscribers using our innovative sector-specific platforms, one thing became clear to us and that is the majority of our customers require additional tender support from time to time. Our platforms allow customers to view opportunities that are not only specific to their sector, but specific to their exact service, through daily bulletins manually created by internal staff, meaning opportunities are scoured across the country daily to ensure exact matches are ALWAYS listed.

This was proving extremely successful and highly desired by all clients, but it was time to start acting on these opportunities and dealing with what most would describe as the ‘pain of procurement’ – writing a winning tender!

We formerly launched Tender VLE in 2018.

The video-based e-learning platform allows YOU to get up to speed with how tendering works and how YOU can maximise these opportunities by developing knowledge further in this field. It’s important, now more than ever, to develop your skillset and embrace tendering rather than shy away from it.

We knew that video content was at its height and there was a surprisingly low amount of knowledge-based tendering information available online. For these reasons, we used highly engaging video material in all learning sessions, accompanied by a written ‘how-to’ guides so that we cater to the masses.

We invested in the development of this product because our customers need it. We also decided to provide this content for free!

What Next For Tender VLE?

At Tender VLE we are looking forward to the future. We are excited to be embarking on the following:

Our own bid writing and tendering accreditation for suppliers to showcase their tendering prowess in future bids.

The launch of new, interactive activities, quizzes and more immersive online and digital content to open up new and effective ways of conveying tender writing training, to make it as accessible and engaging as possible.

The launch of channels, playlists and videos and content from even more experts.

The launch of our excel package, giving advanced tender writing training.

Bid management training

Hudson are experts in delivering a successful tendering approach. Our Succeed team are trained in strong bid management approaches. We avoid these crucial bid mistakes.

For more information on how to succeed in tendering, call or email our Succeed team for a free consultation.

You can also check out our free to use learning environment at www.tendervle.co.uk for more bid management training and guidance on how to avoid making these mistakes.

For further bid writing support, please visit the Hudson Succeed website.

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