For anyone who has ever been part of a team working late the night before a tender document is due, you’ll appreciate the pressure, stress and angst that often accompany this stage in the process. Everyone has an opinion on what we should say but no one seems to be able to actually find the right words; some senior executive who has had no prior involvement wants to review the document at the last moment and all of a sudden, everyone becomes a graphic design expert! It all seems so stressful – but it doesn’t have to be!
Based on 20 years of experience, here are our suggested tips for maximising the impact of your tender documents.
KNOW YOUR READERS
Many tenderers fail to ask the basic question: who is actually going to read this document. Knowing your audience will, by necessity, influence the structure, style and .
THEMING AND KEY MESSAGES
By this stage of the pitch process you should have an excellent handle on how you want to position your bid relative to your competitors. Remember that your key messages should clearly articulate and demonstrate why they should CHOOSE YOU.
STRUCTURE THE DOCUMENT
In many cases you may be given a list of topics to follow. If not you‘ll have the freedom to create your own structure. Think about who is going to read it and what is most important to them. If it’s driven by price, put the fees near the front. If you’ve been given overt selection criteria, make sure that you explain the link so that the reader can easily tick off your compliance with each of the criteria.
A tender document is a piece of persuasive writing. Therefore, every point you make MUST be related back to the client’s needs and desires. Because reading is NOT necessarily believing, every assertion you make must be supported by evidence. Effective types of evidence include testimonials, case studies and awards that you may have received.
The way the tender is packaged says a lot about you. Cheap paper, poor quality graphics and inconsistent fonts and headings will tell the client that you don’t really care. Similarly, a bland and conservative document in two colours may send the message that you lack creativity. Bottom line: make sure that the finished product is an accurate reflection of how you want the client to see you.
The most critical page in the document and the one page that most people are likely to read (many never read past it!) Your executive summary should summarise the key reasons for choosing you. When well written, it can evoke positive emotional reactions and be a key differentiating factor.
FINALLY – BREAK THE MOULD
Research suggests that most people don’t actually read tender documents. At best they read the executive summary and/or scan the document for specific items of interest. However, this is more a reflection on the poor quality of many tender documents than it is about the negligence of clients. So do these simple things well: understand your readers, get your key messages clear, make the structure easy to follow, write in a client-friendly manner and make your document attractive and something that stands out from the rest.
The document alone rarely wins it for you but it can lose it for you if done poorly.
This was the final instalment of a four part series on mastering the pitching process.
Paul Laurendet & Geoff Mulray are the founding partners of Technique Group, a business development consultancy that works with blue chip Australian organisations to enhance sales strategy, systems, structure and skills. Find out more at www.techniquegroup.com or call (02) 9286 5755.