I can’t bid-lieve it’s been six months since I joined Onto the Page… From understanding strict procurement regulations to working remotely with a new team, it’s certainly been a learning curve.
Writing a winning bid is about telling a story – and telling it well. But, in the highly regulated public sector, you need to be much more than a human dictionary. So, since becoming OTP’s newest recruit, what are the most important things I’ve learnt?
1. The devil’s in the detail
The biggest challenge of any bid writing exercise can be summed up in one word: evidence. The buyer needs to know that the bidder can deliver products and services to a high standard, and they want proof. They want to know what the bidder has delivered in the past, who for, when, how, for how long, and to what level of success.
Detail is critical. It’s not enough to tell the buyer that they will work with ‘a fully qualified team’ – they want names! What are their qualifications? What level of experience does each team member have? What makes them the right people for the job?
2. Clocking onto time management
Before starting any bid, it’s crucial to have a clear bid management strategy with visible, assigned tasks. There’s the research and content gathering, initial write up, client meetings, internal checks, client checks, and then the final internal proofread. Multiple people can work on any of those tasks at any one point, so we use multiple bid management tools to make sure we meet our deadlines. Any small missed task (even adding page numbers) is extra hassle that isn’t needed on deadline day.
3. Check, check, and check again
Before starting a bid, we read through the tender documents with a fine-tooth comb, picking out any rules or requirements for the writing task. For example, some buyers might want to see charts and graphs. Others might forbid the use of photos, or attachments. There are often strict wordcounts or page restrictions to keep to.
Each bid is checked over thoroughly in the final proofreading stages before we submit. But there’s proofreading… and then there’s proofreading properly. The biggest tip I’ve picked up so far is to read. Every. Single. Word.
4. Communication is key
I used to need silence to write, but in our office? No chance! We constantly keep each other in the loop about the progress of each bid, to make sure tasks aren’t duplicated and each piece of work is checked by another member of the team. We’ve maintained constant communication during lockdown with two scheduled team meetings a day, and calls in between.
Digital version control is king. There’s nothing worse than (literally) overwriting someone else’s work! For the same reason, we always copy relevant members of the OTP team into all client emails, so we don’t send repeat information.
5. Don’t go it alone
Unlike writing an article for a magazine or blog, every bid is a team effort. OTP’s approach is to play to each individual’s strengths. Learning to delegate (and knowing who to delegate to) is one of those textbook challenges that can’t be avoided when putting together a winning tender response.
Getting to grips with new processes, people, and partners at OTP has been challenging but exciting. Whether it’s a speedy bid review or a mammoth 30-question tender, there’s always a new project to get stuck into. Who knows what the next month (let alone six months!) will hold…
It’s been three weeks since the UK government announced the introduction of social distancing and self-isolation measures, and in the wake of COVID-19, all businesses face unprecedented change. While we don’t know how long the government’s remote working recommendations will continue, our clients can be confident that we’ll be there to help them win business and operate successfully, no matter what.
Here at Onto the Page, though we’re still fully staffed and fully functional, we’ve had to quickly implement some big changes. While the transition from office to home has certainly come with its challenges (who’s going to water the office plants?!), we’ve quickly adapted to new ways of working thanks to our robust management systems, business continuity plan, and (last-minute) preparations before the lock-down.
Communication has been key – one of our first moves was to set up two daily ‘team check-in’ video calls and further our use of collaborative tools such as Trello.
Maintaining strong relationships with our clients, built up over years of successful bid management and solutions, has played a crucial role in keeping Onto the Page as busy as ever. We’ve been proactive in updating our clients on procurement changes and provided support to clients, new and old, around securing tender opportunities during this challenging time. We’d like to thank all our existing clients for the work they continue to commission, and our prospects and new clients for taking the leap of faith in these difficult times.
Perhaps most importantly, our adaptability has been down to the resilience of our team. As well as keeping the momentum of our current projects, we’ve attended online networking events, connected with new clients, and delivered our industry-leading bid and tender workshops in the form of online webinars.
Though our team have been fantastic at quickly transitioning to new working arrangements, we’ve had plenty of external support along the way to ensure we continue to deliver our world-class bid and tender services. Wakefield-based IT services providers, Mint IT Support, have been constantly on hand to solve any technical issues. Marianne Smith’s (Doo Marketing) advice on adapting our marketing plan has been invaluable.
We’ve continued to work with our business coach Andrew Gibson (Business Services Leeds) and trainer Chris Burton (Cube Learning and Development) via virtual team sessions, where we focus on positive strategies for navigating the current situation both on a personal and business level. In our latest session with Andrew we learnt how to stay connected and productive while working in new ways, while Chris recently guided us through effective stress management. We’re also grateful to Bid Perfect for providing us with additional online training and development modules.
We’re delighted that our Quality Management System is now certified to ISO9001:2015 international standards.
When we started this journey, our priority wasn’t getting a certificate, it was building a Quality Management System that would allow us to deliver the best service to our clients. Now, our clients benefit from:
- Assurance that our management systems are externally assessed and certified.
- A continuously improving service; our customer satisfaction is currently 100%.
- A consistent, customer focused approach, no matter who you deal with.
- Having all your expectations met, with a ‘right first time’ delivery.
- A better chance of success; our win rate is an enviable 80%.
- Efficient, speedy resolutions to complaints
- Better value for money; we’ve refined our systems to ensure maximum efficiency across our services.
Achieving this certification hasn’t been easy, especially as we’ve done this alongside writing hundreds of bids over the last year! However, the experience has really allowed us to relate to our clients who are beginning their route to certification. In a competitive market, especially in the public sector, having ISO certifications are often the difference between winning or losing a contract.
We’re so proud of our achievement. To see the benefits it has brought, and continues to bring, has made all the hard work worth it. Thank you to our team, and to everyone who has provided guidance and support along the way!