Why tendering and Quoting Is Like the Cover of A Book

The new clients across the table were perplexed, and somewhat angry.  They had been sub—contractors in the construction industry, They had a track record of successfully completing projects over many years but now were not winning jobs, particularly through Government tenders and quotations.   Why was it so?  Was not their track record a demonstration of their ability to do the job?

The United States is often referred to as a melting pot of people.  People from all reaches of the world have settled there over the years, giving it a great diversity of beliefs, experiences and cultures.  But it is not the only country with such diversity.

Australia is another.  On recent figures approximately 25% of Australia’s population was born overseas, and about 40% were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas.  It is a staggering figure really.  People from Britain and northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, the Americas and of course we can’t forget our Kiwi cousins from across the ditch.

But so many of them are from a non-English speaking background.  Call up any trade in Australia and so many will be Greek, Italian or from the former Yugoslavia.  The building trade would not survive without their sub-contractors from all over.

And therein lays the problem, the book and its cover.  Sub-contract jobs have to be quoted and, if it is a Government contract, the paperwork required is increasingly complex and regimented.  Unfortunately being compliant with the tendering requirements is mandatory with Government tenders.

Mandatory it may be, but for traditional subbies from a non-English speaking background who have never needed to read or write well in English this can be difficult.  And in turn the more mandatory the requirements become, so not being able to complete the quotation or tender response well leads to loss of jobs.

Bewilderment is the result, especially when there is a track record of doing good work.  It was good enough in the past, why isn’t it good enough now.

So with my new clients I explained the need to answer all questions, and to answer them properly, to correct all the spelling mistakes, type them (I’ve seen many hand-written quote from such subbies), and to generally make a good presentation.

It’s like a book I said.  Your proposal is but one like one book on a shelf of books.  As with your work the content may be great but unless the cover entices the buyer to take the book off the shelf and suggests it will be well worth reading, it will never be read.  It’s the cover and the promises it makes visually and in writing that entices the buyer to take it off the shelf, and start reading.

Ah, said my client.  Now I understand.  It’s no longer good enough to good work.  You have to put the right cover on the book first.

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