Navigating Wordy Waters

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Summers in south Florida where I grew up were hot and humid, and always included a trip to Everglades National Park. It is generally assumed the Everglades is a giant swamp. It’s not. Technically it is a very slow-moving shallow river requiring careful, step-by-step navigation. Leave a step out and you may find yourself adrift. Razor-sharp sawgrass or alligators anyone?

The Bid Lifecycle also requires step-by-step navigation where a missed phase may leave you adrift.

Bid plans are usually mapped out with enthusiasm at the start of a project. But when obstacles present themselves, we start looking for phases we can drop; steps we can leave out. In my experience, the Proposal Review phase is one of the first to be thrown overboard because “we’ve run out of time”.

To stick with the boating metaphor, every captain wants a skilled crewmember at every phase of the voyage. Each person has a role to play (some have more than one) in steering the proposal through the rough currents of the tendering period to the smooth waters of tender submission.

In my opinion, the Proposal Review phase is a lifejacket, with an independent* proposal reviewer doing up the straps.

What attributes should your proposal reviewer have? In short, you want someone with demonstrable skills who will be a critical friend.

More specifically, you want someone who will:

  • Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Assess your response against the tender questions
  • Highlight gaps in methodology or missing evidence
  • Stop you waffling about things the customer hasn’t asked
  • Edit to ensure your message is clear and concise
  • Review your submission objectively from an evaluator’s perspective

The Proposal Review phase is not designed to make the bid team’s life hard. It is designed to make the evaluator’s job easy. Evaluators don’t want to waste time endlessly navigating murky waters in search of a meaningful catch. They want comprehensive answers in the fewest possible words (whether limits are stipulated or not). They want to quickly assess whether your company will be an exceptional partner who will focus on their needs and deliver what you promise.

A good proposal reviewer will help you demonstrate exactly that.

So don’t be tempted to jettison the Proposal Review phase from your bid plans. Or you may end up as gator food while a competitor navigates away with your customer.

*“Independent” as in external (my preference, of course!) or internal but not part of the bid team.

This article was written by Lisa Readman .

Lisa is an expert Content Evaluator and APMP Certified Practitioner as well as a highly skilled proofreader and copy editor of bidding, sales and marketing documents. Her bid and proposals career began in 2003 and she established her own business (Readman Writes) after 15 years as a Bid Writer, Bid Coordinator and Knowledge Manager. Lisa combines her unique skillset and passion for words with a sensible, commercial approach to clear and concise written communication.

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