Foundational Answer Planning

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Unpicking the client documents to create a compliant response from the get-go

It is common to start the storyboarding process with just a blank piece of paper. But to truly empower our subject matter experts, we must go beyond simply supplying them with question headings. By enriching the initial stages with more structured guidance, we enable experts to concentrate on crafting solutions rather than getting bogged down in ‘evidence-first’ thinking. ‘Building bottom up’ means we avoid cramming early drafts and storyboards with past content and evidence. The scope and works information is key.

The basics
To ensure compliance with technical requirements in every response, it’s essential to conduct a thorough analysis with intelligent challenge of the necessary documentation. To do this, we need to read between the lines and unpick the scope documents using experience and expertise in the subject matter. Once this is done, we align this to the questions and evaluation process. Traditionally, this process involves a meticulous ‘document shred’, where details are carefully examined and extracted. This in effect creates a ‘menu’ of credible, compliant content that will be the bones of your response. We can do this manually or with the help of a search bar or two, but there are also several intelligent tools and techniques available now that can streamline this process.

The hierarchy of client needs
If you’ve read my articles before, you’ll know that I live by the mantra ‘make them feel safe, make them feel excited’. To make a buyer feel safe, it’s crucial we provide confidence in the seller’s capability and capacity to deliver their defined outcome. When applying this hierarchy of needs to the answer development, I adopt a tried and tested, three-tiered support approach for my teams:

Who: Defining Roles and Accountabilities
The first tier, ‘Who’, focuses on the individuals or teams responsible for managing and executing the project. It’s important here to think laterally about a team’s experience, behaviours and background with the client.

What/How: Meeting Client Specifications Holistically
The second tier combines ‘What’ and ‘How’, addressing the specifics the client is looking for and how these will be managed holistically. It starts with clearly stated project objectives and a detailed scope of work outlining tasks, deliverables, and services. Technical requirements must be met through a robust project management methodology (such as Agile or Waterfall) complemented by a comprehensive work plan.

Where: Insights from Previous Implementations
The third tier, ‘Where’, draws on our previous implementations and the insights gained from those experiences. Showcasing examples of similar successful projects, detailed case studies, and client testimonials provides tangible evidence of our reliability and effectiveness.

Why: The Importance to the Buyer
For a bonus tier, we consistently challenge ourselves with ‘Why’ – understanding why each aspect of our approach is critical to the buyer. This involves explaining how our strategy meets the client’s needs but also offers additional benefits and opportunities for innovation. We are demonstrating alignment with the client’s broader business objectives and our understanding of their motivators.

Innovate, don’t just iterate
Foundational answer planning isn’t just a methodology. It’s a paradigm shift. It can transform poor SME engagement and fruitless storyboarding, and pivot the focus from regurgitating evidence to crafting bespoke solutions. While ‘boilerplate’ approaches may have been the norm, this method empowers teams to break free from repetition, delivering truly tailored responses that resonate with clients and drive superior results.

This article was written by Sam Burns.

Sam Burns CP APMP is a Senior Bid Manager at EiB. Sam has over 11 years’ experience and has worked in both the private and public sector, helping clients win transformational projects across the UK and globally. She has a passion for technology and pioneering solutions in the full business development lifecycle.

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