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“I’m great in client meetings, so I’m brilliant at writing tenders!”

You’ve just walked out of a great meeting with your client. It was comfortable and relaxed, and every word you uttered was clear, to the point, and persuasive. They loved what you had to say and asked you to confirm your ideas/recommendations in writing…

…You ignore everything you applied in your meeting that built you that great rapport and switch to a lengthy and distracted stream of consciousness. You wander off on a complete tangent, attempt an unnecessary sophistication that dilutes the impact of your message, and produce answers that make no sense to anyone else reading it, but you.

Why? You didn’t have time to pull a decent response together? You think it makes you sound really smart? You think there are rules that are appropriate to speaking that are different to writing?

 

Common mistakes

 

Here are some examples of common errors I’ve seen over the years, and some advice on how you can avoid them.

 

1. Executive summary/foreword

What you write:
Our proposal is to provide exactly as you have requested.

How it comes across:
We normally try to sell a bunch of irrelevant services to our clients that they haven’t asked for, and don’t want.

What you should write:
This doesn’t need to be replaced with anything. You just don’t need to say it.

 

2. Client commitment

What you write:
The potential scale of this appointment would make you a major client of ours not only in contract terms but also in market profile providing us with the ability to further cement how we cross fertilise ideas, experience, knowledge and best practice sectors to deliver value for clients..

How it comes across:
We haven’t really thought through how working with us will benefit you, but it will definitely benefit us. We are banking on it making us look good. So we can win work with other clients. (Don’t even get me started on using the words ‘cross-fertilise’.)

What you should write:
This contract will be very important to us, and this will be reflected in the level of commitment we will give to you as our client. I give you my personal guarantee that you will receive the best possible service by choosing [name of firm].

 

3. Recommended solution

What you write:
We are client focussed. Our approach is tailored exactly to meet your requirements. At your disposal you have the expertise of our Office Agents, Building Surveyors, Workplace consultants and a wider multi-disciplinary property services team.”

How it comes across:
We don’t have a solution, at least not one that we have thought up specifically for you. We do, however, have a list of standard services and people.

What you should write:
Start by telling them what your recommendations are, and then explain how you are going to deliver them.

 

4. Resource

What you write:
Whilst we do believe we have a team of agent working across the office network, we acknowledge that there are both property types and locations where third party agents will provide a better service and increased opportunity to achieve the sale.

How it comes across:
We have no idea how many staff we have. We never bothered to check, because we never talk to each other. Actually, just give us the job, and we’ll sub it all out to other firms and charge you a management fee.

What you should write:
We have dedicated our very best people to this job. The team has more experience of working on similar projects than any of our competitors.

 

5. Capability

What you write:
It goes without saying that, clearly, a number of schedules and viewings will be organised in order to achieve the required results.

How it comes across:
We reckon that you are so dumb that we thought we’d better spell it out for you, and in a really belittling way.  

What you should write:
We will view the properties to get a better understanding of where we can get the best results.

 

6. Competitive differences

What you write:
Clients looking for this service can be forgiven for assuming that all consultancy firms are the same; there are many tasks we all have to carry out in substantially the same way, as part of normal professional practice.

How it comes across:
We are good-willed enough to forgive you for your stupidity. It’s obvious how different we all are. We shouldn’t have to tell you what makes us better…and we’re not going to.

What you should write:
We are in the best position to deliver this contract. [And then explain what is different and better about you and how that benefits them.]

 

7. Reiteration

What you write:
In practical terms….

How it comes across:
We thought we’d start off by telling you in a very complex way; it makes us actually sound really smart. Then we thought we’d explain it is in a way that you might understand.

What you should write
Just don’t say ‘in practical terms’.

 

8. Examples

What you write:
A potentially relevant example is…

How it comes across:
We didn’t read the brief and we didn’t call to ask you any questions before submitting this proposal, so we don’t really know what you’re looking for. My graduate filled it in last night.

What you should write:
An example of a very similar project is…

 

9. References

What you write:
Question: Please provide references.
Answer: References are available upon request.

How it comes across:
We didn’t actually read the question. We don’t want you to contact our clients. We don’t have any references.

What you should write:
Provide a client’s contact details, or add the client reference/testimonial when you are asked to.

 

Don’t fall at the final hurdle

There are no points for trying to be too clever, or being too lazy. There are no gold medals for overcomplicating things that are simple. And there are no contracts awarded for trying to sound so intelligent that no one else knows what you are getting at.

You have dedicated significant time to identifying your client targets, courting them over drinks, presentation, events, and securing the opportunities to tender for work. So why cut corners at the final hurdle?

It is absolutely essential to choose your words wisely and consider how the client will translate your statement into a positive or negative message. Be clear, and keep it simple; it will drastically improve your success rate.

 

 

 

 

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