Everyone who has ever worked on a tender knows that one of the first things you do in your planning is ‘Establish A Team’ – this is Tendering 101. But how many of you out there establish an editorial team within that team?
I’d predict, not that many. Often the assumption is that technical experts also have the writing skills that will get the bid across the line. Time and time again, this is not the case.
We have seen so many lost opportunities due to poor writing skills and it’s such a waste; a waste of time, money and resources in general. We are trained to see these errors, it’s what we do for a living. But when a new client comes to me with a tender that they didn’t win, as an example of their work, more often than not there is a major problem with the words.
Sometimes it’s clear that there have been several writers and there are too many voices in the response, sometimes they just can’t find a way to tell their story in a compelling way. Sometimes it’s real doozies, like spelling and grammar, sloppy errors with cutting and pasting slabs of text multiple times, so you feel like your in a scene from Groundhog Day. No one wants to read poor quality work.
Whatever the problem is, it’s usually something that we can fix at Dawtek. In the meantime, here are some tips for avoiding these rookie mistakes.
Allocating an editorial team or editorial support person is key. It sounds more expensive than it is. If your organisation’s marketing team are not managing the tender response, ask them if they can spare someone to oversee the writing of the response and offer some writing mentoring for the technical people who are supplying the meaty bits of the tender.
Or ask if they can spare someone for half a day to edit and proof read your final submission. If they can’t, beg and plead with your manager to outsource it – the investment in a professional editor will pay for itself if you send out a polished submission that has been thoughtfully put together.
Beware of another rookie mistake here: don’t get John from Purchasing (who has an engineering background) to edit and proofread your response – its like the blind leading the blind. So much will be lost. Enlist someone who knows the business (if possible) but who hasn’t worked on the tender, often fresh eyes will pick up the most glaring errors, that once pointed out, you’ll wonder how you ever missed them.
If the tender is big enough (and worth enough money) it would be worth offering editorial support through a tender writing workshop. If you do this, ensure that all staff members that will work on the tender attend the workshop and make sure it covers topics such as:
- business writing principals – what makes good writing
- how to achieve a consistent voice throughout (introduce a style guide for the tender and make sure everyone abides by it).
- Tailor the style to the organisation that you are submitting to and make sure everyone is clear on how to adopt the specific style.
- Communicate that proofing and editing will be built in to the timelines for completion – and it’s a not-negotiable.
- Be clear about your win themes – if all staff members have this underpinning their work, the key messages will be consistent.
Ask each staff member who is writing a section to give you a plan or an outline of what they are going to address. Think back to high school English – your essay plan was key. Without it you would ramble into the never never of English literature and probably fail your paper. Go through each person’s plan with them so you can be confident that issues such as compliance, key messages and win themes, evidence, and appropriate templates are being used throughout the document.
Make sure you communicate to your team that editing a tender within an inch of its life is for the good of the response and ultimately the success of the organisation. Counsel your team members to take on the editing feedback, not to take it personally. The editorial team will understand that the process is stressful, but their intention is only to make the response better.
If you are looking for an independent editor to work with you on your tender, Dawtek can help. Contact us today.