Professional services bids, tenders and proposals are tough (and getting tougher), not least of all because you are up against many other firms, each of which has experts as qualified as yours, who have practised for as long as yours have, and who deliver the same expert services for the same type of clients as yours do.
All else being equal, a well written, client focussed response is a must. So forget about pages and pages of unsupported statements about your firm’s greatness, and instead make the case for how you will help your [prospective] client. This applies to unsolicited proposals and capability statements as well as to formal requests for tender.
Does this sound familiar: ‘We are a 24-partner, 83-lawyer specialist law firm, with offices in six capital cities. We were established in 1992. We have over 100 large commercial clients who trust us with their work’ (this is from a draft executive summary by a law firm client – I have changed the identifying details).
These are the types of statements I see a lot, and not just from law firms. Every sentence starts with “we”, which is not only very boring to read, but demonstrates the fundamental error of so many proposals: they are not client-focussed.
Evaluators quickly see through general, untargeted statements of your qualities, like ‘Guy Mann & Associates is a leading law firm’; ‘our lawyers are experts in their field’. If your proposals are littered with similar statements, delete them.
You may think you can apply clever techniques to make your responses seem tailored, but evaluators will not be fooled. I was horrified to see one firm’s generic tender response template set up with spaces to enter the client’s name:'<<Client Name>> will be a priority client for the firm. We will prioritise <<Client Name>>’s work and ensure you receive the highest quality service.’ Why is this horrifying? Because while it seems like you’re providing a tailored response, you’re not. Furthermore, having such approaches formalised within a firm will only encourage laziness.
When you do write about yourself and your firm, it should be to show the client that you have the relevant skills and expertise to meet their needs – both spoken and unspoken. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate not only your capabilities (based on evidence), but also your understanding of the client. Be specific, and support your statements with directly relevant evidence:
|Our lawyers are experts.||Acme Corporation will benefit from our expertise in these ways:
|We already do this type of work for many large insurance companies.||Guy Mann & Associates acts for Australia’s leading insurance companies, including Company A and Company B. In the last two years, we have saved our clients over $XX million in claims costs.|
|Our firm has twenty specialist construction and infrastructure lawyers.||Acme Corporation will have access to a team of twenty experienced construction and infrastructure lawyers, each of whom knows your industry. Two of our partners have been involved in recent landmark construction law cases (please refer to lawyer profiles for details).|
|Guy Mann & Associates can deal with sudden increases in workload.||Guy Mann & Associates will* manage increases in workload from Acme Corporation, with no impact on the quality or timeliness of our service by:
* note the deliberate change of “can” to “will” – “will” indicates certainty, not just potential.
Pro tip: Count how many times you use the words ‘we’, ‘our’ and your firm name in one of your response documents, then compare that with the number of times you use ‘you’, ‘your’ and the client’s name. Do you talk about yourself more than the client?
The next time you are drafting a proposal or tender response, discard the boilerplate and make your proposal client focussed. Your writing will be far more persuasive and your proposal will be much more likely to succeed.
If you’d like an objective assessment of the client focus of your tenders, bids and proposals check out our tender review and benchmarking service.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]