Don’t tell your SMEs to ‘Read the Question’.

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Why? Because they won’t do it!

We were told repeatedly to ‘read the question’ at school. I have always repeated that advice to my Foundation exam students. I even remind myself to do it. And still we get answers wrong because we haven’t fully answered the question. In the bids we review, my experience is that some questions go unanswered by the authors on every bid.

In fact, the Senior Procurement officer for Central Government agrees. He once said that the biggest reason that bidders lose marks is that they do not fully answer the questions asked. So, something is going wrong at a fundamental level.

Generally, all SMEs know they have to answer the question. They also know they should read the question in detail. So just reminding them to do it does not change anything. Instead, we need a process that enables it to be done effectively. Bid management needs to ensure the contributors have read the question and must take action where there is missing information in the response.

I think there are three steps to achieve this:

You may well be asking yourself ‘What’s so special about all that?’ And I’d agree with you. It isn’t special. It’s really simple, but if it is done it makes a massive difference to the bid because you won’t lose points for ‘not answering the question’.

I’ve been doing this deconstruction and checking process on most bids I’ve been involved in for several years. This is because it filled a gap in our client’s processes. Typically, we found 5% of the questions would have gone unanswered. These clients won over £500m worth of contracts in the last two years. And who knows? Maybe they wouldn’t have been so successful if we hadn’t fixed those missing questions.

This article was written by Peter Lobl.

Peter is a director of Sixfold International, which helps businesses win public sector contracts through training and consultancy. He has decades of experience in advising clients on how to navigate the complex bidding process. He has held positions as a director of the APMP(UK), an EU Commission expert reviewer, and sales professional at IBM and Unisys. He is an accredited professional of the APMP and an APMG approved trainer for both Foundation and Practitioner level certification.

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