Do you Grab the Assessors Attention – or Lose It?
I’ve been involved the judging of our local business excellence awards over some years and have been struck, yet again, by how a business’s chances of winning are considerably reduced by poor skills in writing and presenting their case.
Some wonderful businesses have entered with a good story to tell. But they don’t tell it well. And they make reading their entries difficult for the judges.
Surely they should be raising the interest of the judges, getting them excited about the interview part of the process, bringing the WOW factor.
You might say, “we aren’t entering awards, so this is of little interest to me.”
But it should be.
Because the same skills needed to write a winning entry are those you need to write winning proposals and tenders. They are the same skills you need to write sales letters, content for your website, for your advertisements, for….
I’ve also talked about how “communication means customers”. Communicating regularly with your customers is very important to keep them coming back, but if your message is mangled, they going to turn off very quickly.
You need to write in a way that is easy to read and engaging if you want the Assessors to read you tender carefully, with interest and attention. And it needs to present well.
Another reason to pay close attention to what, and how, you write has to do with being able to win tenders based on the value you bring, as the price is not the only determining factor in their decision. (When Quoting, Is Price the Only Thing?)
Most people don’t invest much conscious thought into the words they use and how they are laid out. They wing it. Many of the submissions I looked at did just that.
Visual presentation is important, as is how will it read.
A good presentation will make you look so much more professional, and the reader feel more comfortable about dealing with you. If the way your industry does things is a simple “price, quality, delivery” quotation here is your chance to make yourself different, and stand out when it comes to a formal tender.
Here are more pointers about improving your presentation and making such documents easier to read.
- Headline – it needs to stand out. Size, colour, bolding. It’s the contrast. A headline must make the reader want to find out more, and not reveal so much they might not feel they need to read the Tender.
- Sub-heads – ditto but smaller. The same comment as above applies. Customers often scan a document before they read it. The sub-heads will guide them and let them know what is coming. They can be a different font from the headlines or paragraphs which assists the scan.
- Sentences - make your sentences short. The easiest sentence to take in is only eight words long. A sensible average is 14 words. Any sentence of more than 32 words is hard to follow.
- Paragraphs – keeping them short and punchy makes them easier to read. No more than 2-3 sentences. A long paragraph is daunting. It should be kept to one subject.
- 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 Assessor with so many details that her attention starts to drift. Or that she 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.
- Use "connector" words and phrases at the beginnings of sentences to keep people reading. Such as Moreover, That is why, In addition, What's more, On top of that, Also and Connector words tell the Assessor there is more to come. And forget what your teacher told you: "And" is often used to start sentences in The Bible.
- Questions as connectors at the ends of sentences or paragraphs perform the same role. Why is this?
Because you have to read on to get the answers (and if you notice, the end of the above point and start of this point demonstrates this).
You can also demonstrate this by using a word from the last sentence in the opening sentence of the new paragraph.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- Complimentary – Free
- Anticipate – Expect
- Expectation – Hope
- Authored – Wrote
- Transportation – Car
- Purchase – Buy
- Ameliorate – Improve
- Lifestyle – Life
- Marketplace - Market
- Cut the jargon and acronyms – you may understand them but the Assessor may not. Make your words easy for him/her to understand.
- Begin sentences with benefits (when possible):
- Instead of...Moving your money now will help you avoid major losses.
- ..You can avoid major losses IF you move your money now!
- Dot points – make it easier to scan and grasp the points you are making, just as I have done here.
- Word graphics – depending on what you are quoting, painting a word picture can help. (Can you see yourself in that gleaming new, spotlessly clean stainless steel kitchen?) or (imagine if you had all the information you needed for that benches quote).
- Picture graphics – a diagram or photograph of what you are delivering will help clarify other questions they might have and 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 photo is. More risk reduction.
- Fonts – use no more than 3 different fonts. Otherwise, they distract.
- Spelling and grammar errors – they distract, and cause the reader to stop, and consider the correction. Once they stop, they lose the flow.
Just remember - as Dr. Johnson remarked over 200 years ago - "That which is written to please the writer rarely pleases the reader." You're not writing for yourself but for the prospect. Make it easy for them!
You can improve your quotation or tender by turning it into a sales tool to be used for your advantage, improving both your chances and your profitability. Presentation and readability play a key role.
I’m working on a new online course to help people transform their success rate in tendering, while reducing the time and stress involved, and would like to build your experience into the design of the modules.
And if you would like to understand more on my approach to tendering you might like to download my freebie – “How to Overcome the 19 Most Common Mistakes in Tendering”.