And How to Improve It
We’ve been looking at the importance of presentation to your tender, quotation or proposal and what you need to master to turn it into something almost irresistible.
In Part 1 I looked at “why” presentation is so important and how it reduces risk in the Assessors’ minds, makes you look professional, and reduces the emphasis on price.
We covered the first of four aspects of a good presentation, Clear Writing. Let’s move on to the other three; formatting, writing style, and the use of photos, charts and diagrams.
2. Formatting - Make it easier to read
Good formatting in your response can have a significant impact on your assessment score. Formatting affects how easy a document is to read. If it is hard to read, the mental reaction is negative, and this can affect your score. If it is easy to read, then your communication will communicate. Formatting is important.
Formatting means using:
- Sub headings to guide the scanning eye
- Short sentences to keep the mind engaged
- Short paragraphs to avoid impenetrable “grey walls of type”
- Bullet points making it easier to scan – but don’t be cryptic
- Graphics to show, not tell
- Examples – to demonstrate or explain
If you would like to read more on this go to “How Well do you Present your Case”.
3. Writing Style - be Persuasive
Begin each section with the relevant aspects of your value proposition for the subject and the benefits you will bring the customer.
Begin sentences with benefits (when possible):
Instead of...Moving your money now will help you avoid major losses.
Try...You can avoid major losses IF you move your money now!
Put benefits in the sub-heads so the reader will read on.
Fewer words – don’t use two words where one will do. Most of us use too many words. Part of that is a function of time.Editing for brevity takes time, but brevity makes reading easier. A few, yet perfect words. That's what powerful writing is about. Just the right words. No more than necessary … but always enough to persuade.
Details and specifics, not generalities, are the foundation for credibility. That doesn't mean overburdening the reader with so many details that his attention starts to drift. Or that he puts down your submission and decides to read it later. Or worse, gives up on it entirely. It means understanding how much is really necessary … and how much is too much.
Avoid long-winded expressions, for example, ‘due to the fact that...’ or ‘for the reason that...’ Instead, be short and sweet by using phrases such as ‘due to’, or words such as ‘ because’ or ‘since’.
Avoid vague references, for example, ‘the project is intended to...’ or ‘it seems that...’ Be definite, for example, ‘the project will’ or ‘it is’.
Linking facts with WIIFM - what’s in it for me
- It is not enough to just make a statement or fact about your company
- Explain why that will benefit the client
- Safety Engineering has offices located in all states in Australia. So What?
- ADD – that are located within 30 minutes from your offices which will result in reducing unproductive travel time between offices.
Avoid motherhood statements
- The broad sweeping statement that makes you feel good! Motherhood statements are broad generalisations that provide a high-level description of a particular situation without saying anything specific.
- Statements which are too general, too broad or too bland to have any meaning
- Specifics again – what evidence does such a statement provide which would justify a high score? Assessors want to see evidence, not just fine words.
And then there is jargon! First, we need to establish what ‘jargon’ is.
Jargon is the ‘in’ language of a profession. It is all those words used by people in a particular industry that the rest of us don’t understand. It is a legitimate language used within a profession or industry to convey meaning to that profession or industry.
Jargon has its place – in specialised fields it is meaningful. In less specialised fields it smacks of self-importance, and loses people who don’t understand. It becomes gobbledygook.
4. Photos, Charts and Diagrams
Graphics are not there to be pretty. Show, don’t tell - Graphics can do a lot of the grunt work in getting your message across.
The point of the graphic is to enhance the text. If the graphic takes over, that's fine, but it's overdoing the required job.
Graphics are there to do some hard work!
- Tell a story
- Provide proof
- Create drama
Graphics Reduce Risk – a diagram or photograph of what you are delivering will help clarify other questions the Assessors might have, help reduce the risk and increase the like factor. “Before and after” photographs emphasise the benefits you are delivering.
Don’t forget the Captions – tell them what the graphic is. More risk reduction.
Pictures draw attention to your story and help convey your message.
Judicious use of graphics is a sure-fire way to grab your reader’s attention. And by judicious use, I mean good quality, carefully chosen graphics with clear, explanatory captions; not a bunch of stock photos that you paste in to fill up a page.
There's one place in particular that I like to use a picture, and that’s on the front cover! Use a picture of specific relevance to your proposal. It tells the Assessors before they’ve read a word that you are in this game, that you have experience, and can do the job. It puts that first tick into their mind, and they haven’t yet read a word!
Some examples include:
• An Army tank in my client’s Paint Shed for a tender to paint new Army tanks
• My client’s graders working a road for a road maintenance contract
• The client’s delivery van dockside for a courier tender
The perceived value that you are offering your prospective customer will ultimately determine whether your proposal is successful or not. But compelling graphics are the hook that will grab your reader’s attention, enticing them to read the helpful caption or, even better, the entire surrounding paragraph or page.
That is exactly the reaction you want from the person evaluating your proposal. Remember that same person may have to read many, many other proposals as well as yours, so you need to use every weapon in your arsenal to draw their attention to you, and only you.
But don’t overdo the graphics. While judicious use of relevant graphics can add enormously to the impact of your proposal documents; don’t get carried away. If a graphic helps to illustrate a point, show off your equipment or demonstrate a technique etc., then use it. If not, leave it out. Simple.
Support your expertise with a well-presented and well-written submission. Put ticks in the Assessors mind from the cover of your response, and on through your submission.
Could your Tender Presentation Responses be Improved?
There’s nothing like an outside view. So often we are too close to what we have written to properly assess our response. The outside view sees what we don't see.
I have an upcoming online course, TenderWins, a 4-week intensive course designed to help you win more tenders, without the stress and time issues that currently hold you back! Presentation is a key element of the course.
Or buy "Small Change, Big Result", my manual on how to increase your success rate with proposals and quotations; make a few small changes, and reap the rewards.