I’ve recently spent a bit of time with Marc Ibbotson, a highly credible and experienced freelance procurement professional. I know you won’t believe it, but he was human. What’s more he had a sense of humour, he wasn’t a “jobs-worth” and contrary to popular belief he and his colleagues don’t spend their evenings and weekends plotting new ways to make our lives as difficult as possible!
Having established this, I thought I’d try and find out about the most common mistakes we all make when tendering, so I asked him: what annoys you most in supplier tenders?
Here’s what he told me:
- Being sent generic marketing literature or sales brochures. As Marc said “the only use for these is to hold my office door open in the summer! Send me only what I ask for – nothing more and nothing less”.
- Answering the question you wish you’d been asked rather than the question you have actually been asked! This might stem from failing to read the question properly, but it’s my guess that it’s also often due to over-enthusiastic use of the copy and paste function! The evaluator has fixed scores that they can apply to a particular question so you need to answer exactly what they ask to get the best possible marks – it’s that simple. Additional information that is not relevant to the question will not score you any more points, but it will annoy the buyer!
- Inappropriate use of cut and paste. Cutting and pasting without customising the response to the question (and I don’t just mean changing the client’s name) is probably a buyer’s biggest bug bear. Marc reckons that “standard information” pulled from a library or previous tender submissions sticks out like a sore thumb. Not bothering to customise your response to a tender question is perceived to be (and I quote) “irritating, disrespectful and lazy”. If you were asked a specific question in a face to face client meeting, you’d answer it. The buyer is just asking you to do the same thing in writing.
- Providing excessive information. Less is often more. It’s quality and not quantity that will secure you the marks. A maximum word count is exactly that…..a maximum….so don’t treat it like a target! 2 short paragraphs of solid, factual, relevant information will nearly always score you more than 4 pages of waffle.
- Use of unnecessarily complex language and long sentences. Words like ground-breaking, innovative, strategic – these often lose their power because they’re overused. People think they sound “executive”, but they often mean nothing. Telling the buyer what you do in flowery language will not convince them that you are an expert, so get rid of the “marketing-speak” and just write as if you were answering their question in person.
- Cross referring. “Answering a question with Please see Question 7 is incredibly annoying as you have to go off and search for question 7” said Marc. What’s more, it may prevent that question from being scored at all as buyers often split up the tender response into different sections and have different people scoring each section. Searching for appendices, attachments, web links and responses to other questions is incredibly time consuming and does not endear you to the buyer.
- Poor proof reading, punctuation and spell checking. If you’re doing a UK tender, use the UK English spell checker even if you’re part of an American company. Incorrect use of apostrophes will drive many buyers mad as will excessive use of commas and semi-colons and other punctuation. Get your “their” and “there” round the right way and for goodness sake don’t mix up “complimentary” and “complementary” unless you intend on giving your services away for nothing!
- Poor consistency of text. Make sure that any facts and figures are consistent – not just within the document but between the PQQ and ITT. If you state you’ve got 28 employees in response to one tender question, then don’t say you’ve got “in excess of 30 staff” in response to another. Keep things like job titles consistent – don’t call someone a Project Manager and then change their job title to Account Manager and then Contract Manager in other places in the document – this just causes confusion. You’ll be amazed how often this happens and as Marc told me, you can spot this type of inconsistency a mile off.
- Formatting inconsistencies. The content might be great, but you’ll often irritate the buyer if you have some parts of the document in Arial 10 and the rest in Times New Roman 12. Keep your font, line spacing, headings etc consistent all the way through and if you are pasting in text from another document, make sure you change the formatting to fit the one you’re currently working on.
- Failure to remove track changes. When you’ve finished the document, accept all the changes and then turn off “track changes” functionality. Email the document to someone else and get them to open it to make sure that your previous tracked changes have been removed.
Now you know what NOT to do you can review your tenders and proposals in a different light before you submit them. So get proof reading and if you need help, just give us a shout on 07944 856293 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With grateful thanks for invaluable input to this article from Marc Ibbotson (if you want to know more, why not give him a call too?)
Tel: 07828 527296