5 Apr, 2018
The boss finds a potential bid and decides to go for it. He/she puts together a ‘bid writing team’. Smart bosses ensure that they are not actually on the team themselves. Really smart bosses book a holiday to a location without phone signal/internet which coincides with the bid due date.
Members of the team new to bid writing go home feeling proud that they have been selected. They sleep well, envisaging their forthcoming promotion to Head of Sales and bounce out of bed like spring lambs, keen to get cracking.
Experienced members of the team go home and slump on the sofa in a fit of despair. They sleep fitfully and have to stop at the supermarket on the way to the office for high strength painkillers and strong coffee and that’s before they’ve even opened the inch thick bid document.
The team meets up to decide who writes what. This division is not always based upon a sensible evaluation of who is capable of producing clear, concise and compelling answers. Instead, it’s often based on who looks least busy during the meeting. Seasoned pros arrive loaded down with bulging files, open their laptops with a sigh and ensure that they take and make multiple phone calls.
The novices sit there with empty tables in front of them aside from their brand new pens and notepads. They get the job of writing much of the content.
In many companies, writing a bid involves ‘harvesting’ rather than writing. This means copying swathes of previous bids, even the unsuccessful ones, in the hope that it will save time and effort. Unfortunately, questions for tenders are often worded differently and/or scored differently but bid teams rarely have time to heed this as the submission deadline looms, social lives go on hold and work-life balance becomes but a distant memory.
The night before the document is due in, the team gathers in the office to finish off their sections. The concept of nutrition goes out of the window when a stack of takeaway pizza arrives to keep the team going. At the eleventh hour, a collective sigh of relief is heard as all the sections are deemed complete and it’s time for the proof reader to begin their task.
A novice proof reader starts on page one by correcting each and every error. They soon discover there is no consistent style and some colleagues are unable to spell. Two hours go by and they are only on page ten. They correct text all night and realise in the chilly dawn that they never want to hold a red pen ever again.
An experienced proof reader starts by doing a search and replace on the name of every organisation to whom the company has submitted a tender in the past few years. They work all night tidying up only the most glaring of mistakes and still finish only when the cleaners arrive.
The bid is duly submitted and a debrief conducted. Everyone concludes that there must be a better way of doing this but the lessons learned are often forgotten before the process is repeated.
Admittedly, this is a little tongue in cheek but these basic facts remain true: writing a bid is a significant investment in resource and most companies don’t give themselves the best chance of success.
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