find me resources for bid writing
December 18, 2010 9:40 AM   Subscribe

My partner started a business this year. Neither of us have much experience in submitting bids; specifically, we both suck at knowing what to write.

For example, how much detail should one go in to for making line items. We both have the mental trait where we flip flop from presenting things in way too much detail, or little detail at all. (there was a previous askme from a long time ago called "As you know Fred..." which really fits my brain! (even though I'm a programmer!) so you can see where I'm coming from. I need a leg up.).

Are there templates for these things to give one a head start? Are there people one can hire to tutor one in this and provide critiques in what one has already written?

The previous askmes I found for small businesses didn't cover this topic (I hope I didn't miss any).
posted by bleary to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean, seriously. grumblebee's question gave the opposite example of the problem, but my brain flip flops between the two ends. I don't know how to communicate so I go one way, it doesn't work, then the other.

Oh, and anecdote. Back in college I lived in a house with a lot of roommates. I guess this trait was annoying at times. One of them tried to illustrate it unawares to me by making a comment when I walked in to the kitchen once. "Boy, his parents really picked a bad name," he said, though probably I don't remember it exactly. I agreed with him. "Yeah".

Then he said, "No way! You don't know what I'm talking about!" or some such.

But I did, we were in the kitchen, I had a subscription to a magazine, he was sitting around at the table relaxing. The magazine was at the table. There was an article in the magazine on the topic... It fit.

So I need practice communicating and writing. As does partnerman. But meanwhile it would be nice to be able to submit bids to try and win contracts.
posted by bleary at 9:45 AM on December 18, 2010


(oh and yeah, not to derail, but I used to be furvyn, in that thread, if you see how similar my above anecdote is to that comment)
posted by bleary at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2010


Are you responding to RFPs, or what? Generally clients seem to like it when you use their language and cover their bases when they send out an RFP. If you don't cover the bases, or go on too many tangents, those can ding ya.

My most successful proposals have been in the form of 1) conversation with the client first, face-to-face if possible, 2) follow-up phone call with questions about their RFP or bidding specifications, and 3) submitted bid with cover letter stating our approach.

Beyond that, you need time to develop a reputation so that people will already be interested in working with you before you submit the bid. This is how many, many bids are won. You are still in your first year, so after about 4 more years this will get much easier. Until then you might look at partnering with more established businesses to submit combined bids and ride on their reputation.
posted by circular at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks circular, that helps, but in our context, we started a business and wanted to place a bid to do something formally with people we had known for a while, for things that we had done before with them, and it was very confusing to know what detail exactly to put. There is all that shared context. And we have interacted with them for 4 years.
posted by bleary at 10:00 AM on December 18, 2010


It sounds as though you yourself are propositioning a current client, so it's not exactly a "bid" that you are talking about.

Generally the best thing to do in your case is submit a Letter of Intent. First, you need to actually connect with the client in person, and see if they are open to your "proposal" ("proposal" is a loaded word, so you may want to call it an "idea" when you talk to them).

If they seem interested in at least considering your "idea", create a Letter of Intent.

A Letter of Intent is usually around 10 pages, plus any sort of supporting documentation you might want to include as appendices.

You outline the idea, activities, outcomes (benefits), timelines and budget.

You also haven't mentioned what industry you are in, and what services you provide, or who your customers are. If you are selling IT support to government, then your bid will need to contain
posted by KokuRyu at 10:42 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it's an invitation to bid, call the client up and talk to them. When I'm putting an RFP or invitation to bid together I usually draw on old examples if possible and also discussion with potential bidders to see what is feasible in terms of delivery dates, timing etc and so that they can get started on lining up subcontractors or what have you. Then I put the RFP together, run it by legal and release it. We usually get 3-5 bidders and have a fairly formal grading process that is 100% based on whether or not they address the stated tasks in the RFP. Read that thing line by line and address everything, ideally in the same order it's presented in the meat of the document (regular conditions like provisions for damage or delays can be addressed later on, concentrate on the non standard contract language part). If there's a list of bulleted tasks, copy them into your bid and address them on by one. Refer to additional sections, letters, resumes or appendices by section number and page number so it's easy to flip back and forth through your bid if necessary. And keep it as short and sweet as possible.
posted by fshgrl at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hi all, your feedback has been pretty good.

Here are more specifics in case it helps with the suggestions.

The industry is providing low cost video recording geared towards talks where presenters are willing to have the material published for free on the web under a creative commons license.

I haven't been able to help my partner much with the business and the writing process because I have a full time job and my brain time gets sucked up by that. I'm unhappy about that, which led me to post this question.

The process of trying to write a bid for the group has been tricky due to the lack of experience which results in obsessing over how much detail to include, how much to leave out, how much discussion is appropriate before actually submitting a bid, etc.

The confusing writing style &c. have led to extra rounds of communication than is probably normal -- which results in delays because everyone is busy, which leads to ruffled feathers on all sides, etc.

It's been an unpleasant learning experience. We want to avoid this in the future.
posted by bleary at 9:32 AM on December 19, 2010


Also, are there people you can hire whose job it is to help companies write bids, and if so, what search terms would you use to find them?
posted by bleary at 9:33 AM on December 19, 2010


The process of trying to write a bid for the group has been tricky due to the lack of experience which results in obsessing over how much detail to include, how much to leave out, how much discussion is appropriate before actually submitting a bid, etc.

These are all tactical decisions that have to be made depending on where you in discussions with the (potential) client.

Generally speaking, give people what they ask for. In your case, what information have they asked for?

Second, the proposal has to be readable. This means it has to be written in plain language (think Hemingway), and it must be structured logically - all the pieces have to fit. Lengthy exposition that detracts from the flow should get parked in an appendix.

If we're talking about an actual proposal (as opposed to a Letter of Intent), clients generally want:

- A definition of the challenge(s) or requirement(s) that will be addressed
- A solution to those requirements or definitions
- A workplan with timelines and key milestones (be careful because this will get inserted into a contract)
- A list of positive outcomes or metrics (be careful because this will get inserted into a contract)
- A budget
posted by KokuRyu at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2010


The confusing writing style &c. have led to extra rounds of communication than is probably normal -- which results in delays because everyone is busy, which leads to ruffled feathers on all sides, etc.

Pretty common. The best thing to do is to decide what your proposal framework is, and assign sections to various people on the team. One person in the group (generally someone with the best marketing writing skills) is assigned the role of writer-in-chief who creates the final draft. You also need someone with a strong business/sales sense who knows what detail can be left out.

I would be curious to know how much the budget is here. Also if this is a true RFP (which are usually quite complex) as opposed to an RFQ or an RFI. Or are you cold calling and pitching companies?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:44 AM on December 22, 2010


KokuRyu, this was not a cold call. I'll send you specifics in memail.
posted by bleary at 10:14 AM on December 24, 2010


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