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16 ‘things’ to avoid when answering tender questions

These are 16 ‘things’ that damage your ability to write outstanding answers to tender questions. Avoid them like the plague because they’ll sap your energy and enthusiasm. If you don’t then you’re likely to be relying solely on chance and price to win the business, rather than your experience and expertise. I’ve given an antidote alongside each of the 16 to help out. How many are you guilty of?

  1. Start at the last minute. Start the process immediately, but not the writing, when you receive the tender documents.
  2. No plan for each answer. Break each question down into bite-sized chunks and plan how you will formulate the answer.
  3. Immediately start writing answers. Starting to write immediately without a plan for your answer is the most common ‘do not do’.
  4. Not answering the question. Continually refer to the question when writing your answer to avoid the second most common offence.
  5. Second-guessing the purchaser. Take each question literally; you don’t want the business of someone you always have to second-guess.
  6. Write answers that you prefer. What you think or prefer doesn’t matter; write your answers for the audience that will evaluate them.
  7. No thought given to evaluation. Write answers that are easy to evaluate, mirroring the structure of the question is one quick tip.
  8. Write and edit at the same time. Write a draft quickly, allow it to percolate and then edit it to perfection, but not all at the same time.
  9. Forget it’s a competition. If you want to win then compete, don’t just turn up, your answers have to be better than your competitors.
  10. Insufficient and irrelevant resource. If it’s important don’t skimp, use the best relevant resources available to you.
  11. Answers are difficult to read. Easy to read is easier to evaluate, what do you do when something you’re reading is difficult to grasp?
  12. Convoluted management speak. Plain English, plain English, plain English, plain English, there’s simply no excuse.
  13. Too much waffle. Write answers that are definite, specific and directly relevant to the question then edit them ruthlessly.
  14. Insufficient time. If it’s important allocate time in your in your work diary to formulate and write answers, it is your day job.
  15. Make up stuff. Never make up stuff in your answer, maybe stretch a point here and there, if you make it up and you’re caught out …..
  16. Inconsistency. Use the same style, format and font throughout; it indicates quality, importance and that you have my full attention.

Do you recognise what you could improve? Unfortunately you’ll probably have an overoptimistic view of your expertise causing you to think you’re doing much better than you are. You’re likely to be too close to it all and have too much of your credibility invested in what you currently do. The antidote is a second opinion, ideally from someone with no current involvement or credibility investment.

One further word of advice, start slowly, work steadily and finish with a flourish, well, at least in plenty of time. It will always take longer, be more wearing and take considerably more effort than you expect.

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