What politicians and tendering have in common

By Natalie Schroeder, Senior Bid Consultant

In Australia, we’re in the middle of an election campaign to decide who will be Prime Minister for the next four years. Until 21 May, we will be inundated with subtle and not-so-subtle messaging designed to convince us to choose one political party over another. While we may shake our heads at some of the mud-slinging that goes on, or the publicity stunts some contenders may engage in, the reality is that, by law, we are required to make a choice as to which party will lead our nation.

Which got my BidWrite colleagues and I thinking – how do the tactics of politicians’ election campaigns compare to tendering?

Succinct and to the point, please!

Aussie politicians must cut through to a nation of 25 million people from all walks of life. As Donald Trump taught us, the best way to appeal to a broad audience is to convey simple messages using straightforward language. At the end of the day, what do the majority of voters really want? A healthy economy, jobs, and a good life for themselves and those they care about.  So, when walking the streets kissing babies and dodging angry baby boomers, politicians try to keep their messaging short and succinct – making the benefit clear (we’ll do this thing, and you’ll get jobs, jobs and more jobs!).

When tendering, it’s largely the same, although the audience is not quite as broad. Keep your response relevant to the questions asked, and the underlying needs these questions represent. Be mindful of evaluators who’d rather not spend half an hour trying to decipher your two pages of text when your point could be explained succinctly in two or three paragraphs accompanied by a nifty diagram.

(Don’t) mind your manners

Politics is a dirty business, so the saying goes. It’s (apparently) fair game to discredit your opponent, expose skeletons in their closet, and sling mud in the hope it sticks. These tactics generally work in politics because negative language is what gets our attention. Many of us are hard-wired to enjoy a stoush, and bad news sells.

In bidding, this doesn’t work quite so well. Directly discrediting competitors is most often perceived as unprofessional and arrogant. Rightly so. But you can employ a writing technique known as ‘ghosting’ (not to be confused with the currently ‘on trend’ career or relationship-ending type of ghosting!). Bid writing’s version involves subtly downplaying a competitor’s strengths and highlighting their known shortcomings, while providing as counterpoint a clear rationale for the benefits of your solution.  

Here’s a simple example: ‘While others rely on cheaper offshore manufacturers, we have minimised the risk of supply chain disruptions by basing our manufacturing facilities right here in Victoria. This brings the added benefits of increased local job opportunities, increased local expertise and an increased contribution to our local economy.’

Wrestling with credibility

Most of us would agree that politicians have been known to stretch the truth from time to time. Campaign promises are made and sometimes not kept, or they’re watered down to a less impactful version of their initial intention. Allegations are sometimes announced, only to be revealed as inaccurate or exaggerated at a later time. While we all understand it’s not a perfect world, a leader’s or party’s track record is one factor we can turn to when trying to make a rational voting decision.

And it’s just the same in tendering. Credibility is king and talk is … just talk. When bidding, don’t just tell them why you’re better – show why you’re better. What track record have you created? What results have you achieved for your clients? Have you won awards? Will your clients vouch for you via a testimonial or case study?

Not everything goes according to plan

Life gets tricky sometimes and, as any good campaign manager and bidding professional knows, managing risk is crucial to the success of your candidate, or your bid (as the case may be).

Project managers of all persuasions know to anticipate potential disaster and pre-prepare solutions in the event things go pear-shaped. Like when your sales lead goes on holiday a week before your tender submission date, or the prime ministerial candidate contracts COVID-19 mid-campaign. We can’t always plan for every possible scenario, but we can anticipate some risks – like scope creep, IT glitches, or key personnel being unavailable due to end-of-financial-year commitments. So, be prepared. Always ask questions at the beginning of your bid to ensure minimal impact to your efforts at creating a compliant, compelling and quality submission.

Politicians and tendering have some uncanny similarities. What’s important in both is delivering clear, positive messages that resonate with your audience and help them choose you. Capitalise on your track record rather than relying on spin, and always plan ahead to avoid derailing the bid (or campaign) that you’ve worked so hard to deliver.

May the best candidate, and bid, win!


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