In an ultra-competitive market, it’s not enough for you to have a smart solution and a sharp commercial offer – you also need to persuasively and compellingly present your offer through your formal submission. After all, the formal submission is the only way the client can assess you and select you. The mistake many teams make is to have the best in the business for each of their business disciplines, such as for engineering, asset management, project management, technology, finance, legal etc, but then a bare-bones team putting together the formal submission. This approach is a false economy and all too often ends up with the team putting together an awesome solution that is poorly or ineffectively presented. Successful tenders are prepared in partnership between the technical bid team and the submissions team, with a carefully selected team of tender experts with the insight and tenacity to drive home the winning formal submission. A best practice submissions team will cover 5 key skill sets:
  • Competitive strategy to develop and articulate the winning edge, for the proposal as a whole and for every individual deliverable.
  • Bid management to bring the discipline and professionalism needed to produce the best work on time.
  • Content development to prepare comprehensive, compelling and persuasive responses.
  • Production management to format, publish, collate and assemble the submission.
  • Graphic design to ensure the submission stands out from the crowd and sends the right message.
Within the submissions team, the lion’s share of the workload falls within the content development aspect, so this article focusses on the role of the bid writer.

Bid writers v technical writers

These days, there are lots of people who have hung their shingle as a bid writer, but most are what we would call technical writers. Capable technical writers are good at:
  • grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • building rapport with subject matter experts
  • assembling content provided by subject matter experts
  • ordering content in to a logical flow
  • ordering content to comply with the client’s structure and requirements
  • ensuring the response answers the question
  • identifying gaps in content
  • rewriting content in one voice.
Some of you are probably thinking ‘Yep, and isn’t that exactly what I need from a bid writer?’ We agree that these capabilities are necessary for a good bid writer, but if that’s the extent of your bid writer’s capability, you are being short-changed. True bid writers are all of that, plus are good at:
  • analysing the question to understand what the client is really asking for, and why
  • workshopping to identify the client’s risks, concerns, challenges and priorities in each area
  • challenging the subject matter experts to go beyond business as usual in their solution
  • strategising to identify opportunities, innovations and initiatives
  • identifying appropriate evidence to support your team’s capability and the proposed solution
  • aligning to the client’s project objectives and evaluation criteria
  • powerfully writing the content to position your team as the best alternative
  • driving the subject matter experts to deliver to the bid program.
When you work with an expert bid writer who brings all of these skills to the table, not only does your formal submission step up to a new level but your entire solution is transformed. At every level, in every aspect of your solution, your team is focussed on pushing the boundaries, finding the edge and outsmarting the competition.

How to tell if you are working with a technical writer or a bid writer

The thing is, technical writers and bid writers look the same. They speak the same language. They probably even follow the same process. The proof is in the pudding. Only problem is: by the time you realise you have a technical writer on board instead of a bid writer, you are already against a ticking clock. To help separate the wheat from the chaff before it’s too late, throw your ‘bid writers’ a few curly questions and see how they respond.
  • What process do they use for analysing the question and identifying the client’s risks, challenges, priorities etc? (Hint: this should be a robust and comprehensive collaborative process – in our view, it is the second most important step of the entire bid!)
  • How do they challenge a subject matter expert to go beyond business as usual? How do they contribute to potential opportunities, innovations and initiatives?
  • What do they do when a subject matter expert is ‘too busy’ to meet their deadlines? How do they cajole recalcitrant authors and contributors? What is their technique for extracting information?
  • How do they differentiate the answer from the competitors? Get them to give an example of when they have identified a unique capability.
  • What kind of evidence do they incorporate in responses to demonstrate capability? (Hint: a case study is just the beginning.)
Maybe it sounds like it is all too complicated. Maybe we’re making a mountain out of a molehill for such a basic craft as bid writing? Maybe… it all comes down to how important it is to win. If your team members in your technical areas are top drawer, why settle for mediocre in the team that is tasked with bringing your solution to life in your formal submission? Aurora Marketing specialises in helping companies win their tenders and position themselves for success. Find out more