There’s usually one guest at a party with a perennial case of ‘it’s all me, me, me.’ This is the type of male or female who will wedge you in a corner, and wax lyrical about their latest business success, holiday or views on America’s political landscape. It’s difficult to get a word in edgeways and you feel as though you’re being assaulted with unwanted information.
Most of us would flinch at the thought of being such a social bore. But in business we often make the same mistake of bombarding potential clients with too much information about how great we are. In fact, we should be focusing on their needs and interests.
There’s no doubt that facilities managers are great at dealing with people and offering integrated workplace solutions. But translating these skills into a written proposal in order to sell your services is not an easy task. Unless your bid or tender proposal is carefully structured to be reader-focused rather than company-focused, it can have the same effect as the unwanted party guest.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re responding to a warm or a cold lead, showing understanding is more important than trying to dazzle. Your company facts and testimonials should just confirm that you know what you’re talking about.
Here are seven tips that will help you write bids and tenders that shine the spotlight back onto your prospects – and help to win you new business in the process.
Grab a pencil and paper
It’s important to separate the thinking process from the writing process. So get away from your computer screen and ask yourself what core issues you want to address in your proposal. Better still, bounce ideas off a colleague. Decide which ideas are important, essential, desirable and unessential and aim to only include those that are in the first two categories.
Put the reader first
Always put the prospect first, by starting with their situation and the problems they need to solve. Use the Four Ps technique, which stands for: position (where they are now), problem (why they can’t stay there), possibilities (where they could go) and proposal (where they should go). Resist the temptation to write down everything you think will win the contract. Instead, focus on the possible solutions before backing up your recommendations with information about your capabilities. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether you are an in-house department; specialist contractor or a large multi-service company, the reader always comes first. And always highlight the benefits of the services in terms of cost reductions for the client, health and safety or other key measurements.
It’s likely that a variety of decision-makers will read your proposal. Consider the varying needs of the head of finance compared to a business development executive, for instance. And add in facts and figures that will keep everyone happy. But use appendices for detail, rather than stuffing the body text with too many facts that only one person will be interested in.
You’re in it to win it
Don’t forget that you still need to sell the solutions you’re proposing. Use persuasive language that will connect with the reader. For example, it’s useful to use the terms ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘us’ to help the prospect visualise you working together. And use the active voice where possible.
Check your facts
Simple mistakes can seriously undermine what you’re offering. Always check the spelling of product and place names and get a colleague to proofread your work carefully. It’s easier for a fresh pair of eyes to spot any mistakes. Typos and other errors can still go unnoticed though, so proof-read extra slowly by stopping a pencil at each word to check that it’s accurate.
Jargon is not the bogeyman
Ask yourself how much the prospect knows about facilities management. And remember, it’s very easy to over-estimate this. Don’t be afraid to use jargon though, as long as you’re certain that your reader will understand it.
Keep it short and sweet
Many people think that tenders need to be long in order to show the client that you’ve made an effort. In fact, the opposite is true. It takes more effort to keep a tender clear and concise. Go through and cut out meaningless phrases and unessential information. And keep your sentences short, with each one no more than 15-20 words.
A tender process may be your first foot in the door, with what you write determining whether or not you’re invited to a face-to-face meeting. But don’t be tempted to use flowery language. Instead, write to ‘express’ rather than ‘impress’ and you’ll keep your prospects interested and wanting to find out more.
Want to win more business with your tenders? See our tender writing-courses for individuals and our tender-writing course for groups.
Robert Ashton is the Chief Executive of Emphasis.