Ban Writing

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No, I haven’t completely lost the plot!

It’s just that I spend more time in my professional bid role telling people to stop writing than I spend telling them to write.

The first thing I do with a new bid team (my regulars are well-schooled) is ban writing until we are 15%-20% of the way through the response timeline and only then when I give the go-ahead.

Such a counter-intuitive instruction at the start often surprises people, but it’s incredible how it makes them sit up and listen. And I don’t mind if they think I’ve lost the plot – they soon realise I haven’t when I explain the rationale. With encouragement and reassurance, even the sceptics generally get on board.

By banning writing, everyone can focus on pre-kick off preparation. When you consider that preparation includes validating the win strategy, creating the proposal strategy, analysing the tender documents, building a plan, allocating resources, designing the response structure and designing content plans, it’s simple to see why writing isn’t top of the agenda.

Even after kick off, I keep the writing ban in place until content plans are complete and reviewed. Although it’s often tough to convince people to plan content, it’s an invaluable activity. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done a final document review only to find the right words in the wrong order (the ‘Morecambe and Wise moment’ for those old enough to remember the André Previn sketch). Getting the structure right and agreeing on the key content points helps the author get the right words in the right order the first time. It also helps achieve consistency and coherence between responses and sections. I tend to use the analogy of decorating – if you sand, clean, fill, smooth, get the right tools, brushes and so on, the painting will take less time, last longer and be of higher quality than if you just slap the paint on without the preparation.

So, regardless of whether you’ve got days, weeks or months to respond, never be afraid to ban writing – it’s a quick win.

This article was written by Sarah Hinchliffe.

Sarah labels herself a ‘Storyteller, Organiser, Timekeeper’ – three things that come naturally to her. After a 30-year sales career in the IT industry, where she learnt every popular sales methodology and sold millions of pounds of software and services, Sarah decided to share what she’d learnt about winning business using great stories, a systematic approach and consistently delivering on time. She continues learning and sharing through her freelance consulting work and volunteering as a writer, speaker and mentor.

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