Answering the right question

Q: How did George Orwell’s ‘1984’ influence later writer’s depiction of the future?

A: When thinking about George Orwell, it is easy to underestimate the influence of Aldous Huxley. ‘A Brave New World’, Huxley’s depiction of a future…etc…etc

We’ve all done it – answered the question that we know the answer to, not the one that has actually been asked. In bid writing, it is a fatal mistake, and one that although easily avoided, is very common.

Once you as an organisation have put together your solution design, it is good practice to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of that solution. This is a positive step – it links your bid to your sales strategy, and allows you to weave a commercial thread through the bid.

However, then come the ITT questions – and they don’t ask about your biggest strength. So, instead of answering the question asked, you instead answer the question you wish that they’d asked. 

When the evaluation panel opens the responses, and gets to that question, they will be confused – why is organisation x talking about Aldous Huxley when we asked about George Orwell? We really wanted to know about Orwell, and here’s a load of Huxley. Mark it down.

There are some easy ways to avoid this.

  • Carry out a thorough review process – and if a response doesn’t seem to fit, then speak it out loud. Often saying the words makes it clear that an answer isn’t right.
  • Make sure that someone reviews your answers who didn’t write them. And that you allow them to be critical
  • Think about how your strengths can be reflected in your answers without completely diverting them – this can be subtle, but is important

However, the best way of avoiding this situation can only happen before the writing starts at all – know and engage you potential customer. If they know about your strengths well in advance of coming to market, and if you have done a good enough job of convincing them that these strengths are critical to the success of their contract, then you will see that reflected in the questions.

It’s one of our key tenets – writing a winning bid starts long before a tender is issued.

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