The risk of choosing style over substance

In a competitive tender, the evaluation panel needs to give your submission a score. What you will be evaluated on is the commercial value of your offer and the evidence you provide to support your claims – and not how nice your proposals look and sound.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about how to sidestep common mistakes that will prevent you from winning the business you really deserve to win.

The first step is to stop the bid sweatshop, and the second is to make sure your team is primed to do the right job – not just do the job right.

If you’ve taken these steps, but still aren’t winning, it’s time to make a bigger investment in your success. At this point, most people will bring in marketing experts to write standardised proposal copy and to design templates so that proposals look and sound better, and speak with a unified, on-brand voice.

Does this result in more wins? Unfortunately, no.

Scratch the surface of these “new and improved” proposals, and really they are just glorified brochures.

I understand why people feel the need to do this. Branding and marketing help to build a successful business that supports premium-priced services. However, branding isn’t a cure-all for everything, and bids and tender responses are not a marketing exercise.

A colleague who works on government evaluation panels once told me that her team of evaluators was briefed to be wary of over-elaborate design and copywriting, as these are devices that less qualified suppliers sometimes use as a way to try to bluff their way through the process. Ouch.

Remember that proposals are a one-on-one conversation with someone who is ready to buy. Worry less about the image your proposal is portraying, and more about how convincing the message actually is. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.