By Alec Brown, Senior Consultant – Plan A
Sure, you can submit your next tender without a fully-fledged review process, but who would?
Skipping bid reviews can leave you horribly exposed at evaluation time: missing answers, unmet needs, lost opportunities, and more. Skipping reviews is taking a big risk – like crossing the road without looking both ways: you could get blindsided by a bus.
So we accept reviews are an essential part of the bid process. But, be careful. While reviews done well can add immense value to your document, reviews done badly can seriously derail your bid development process—and threaten your chances in the bid box.
What’s the best that can happen? Your bid is reviewed by an independent expert – someone who knows your business, knows the client and its needs, yet hasn’t been deeply involved in the bid process. I know – a big ask. But let’s aim high here.
Your independent expert – probably one of your senior managers – will add value through:
- Identifying areas where your bid fails to address key requirements of the RFP
- Challenging sweeping statements and claims – and demanding substantiation
- Pointing out areas where your proposal fails to differentiate your business from the opposition
- Demanding improved ‘what’s in it for me’ client benefit arguments
Crucially, you’ve brought your independent experts in from the beginning – compromising their independence, of course, but the idea is for everyone to start on the same page and agree the ground rules: the review standards. Best practice (and an approach we recommend) is to get a focus sheet or draft Executive Summary written early on so everyone on the bid team – reviewers included – gets to buy into the win themes, key success factors and so on. It’s these main points that become the standards against which your reviewers measure the bid. And if everyone has read and agreed the standards, no one can be surprised by a challenging review.
It’s really all about planning: getting the right people involved early, setting a schedule that everyone commits to and making sure reviews are an integral part of the bid project, scheduled and adhered to. If you can, get at least a 50% review and an 85% review done, with different reviewers. Each review will take the same approach, outlined above. Each gives you a chance to lift your game – but the first review will mostly focus on the big picture – making sure the bid is aligned with the RFP and the win themes, while the second review will lean more to the operational – making sure all the questions are answered, making sure they’re answered right.
Sadly, perfect happens never. In the real world, ‘day-to-day’ gets in the way, scheduled reviewers (being senior and Very Important People) get diverted to other things, people fail to deliver on time.
You can, at least, manage what you have control over, like building your reviews into the plan from the start – so at least expectations are set – and adapting as you need to. Otherwise, you realise this aphorism: If you fail to plan you’re planning to fail.
And worse, without reviews in the plan and reviewers lined up, at some point a senior dude will fly in and demand a look. It’s called sea-gulling with good reason, but you earned it. Expect all hell to break loose. The bid gets turned upside down, everyone goes into panic mode – and maybe even more senior dudes get wind of the trouble, and demand a look too; they add their views, which overlap or worse, contradict the others and, well, you’re in the weeds. You’re facing, potentially, a cancelled bid, wasted time, energy and money, massive stress all round, reduced appetite for further bidding and long-term damage to the business.
All avoidable, if you build reviews into the plan, and get your reviewers involved from day one.
A senior consultant with Plan A, Alec Brown has special expertise in tender writing, account management and bid leadership. With a background in engineering, journalism and marketing spanning 25 years, Alec brings a unique skill set to creating winning tenders for clients. Crucially, he has a special knack for quickly establishing warm working relationships with key management staff and subject matter experts to encourage active contributions to bid development.