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Avoiding the “can’t-care-won’t-care” moment

 

No matter how important this bid is to your business….
No matter how high the value….
No matter how well you know you can deliver to that client…
.. there comes a point in the development cycle when you just stop caring.

You’ve spent so much time on the research, the planning, the writing and the proofing, so many days staring at the same paragraphs, that you actually can’t see the words objectively any more.  The deadline is looming and, despite your rational mind knowing there are probably lots of things that need correcting and improving, you find yourself saying “Look, just send it”.

But really you know, don’t you….that this is JUST the wrong time to send it.

It’s just that one proof-read or sanity check too early.  One last read by someone with a fresh eye on it.  One last check that will pick up the silly things you didn’t mean to say, the turn of phrase you could articulate better, the transcription faults that creep in when people are editing – the ”It didn’t say that half an hour ago!” errors that can completely change the sense of your carefully-crafted prose.   But right at this moment, YOU DON’T CARE!  You just want to see the back of the whole thing.

If you do succumb to that moment and despatch the document, at least with physical mailings there’s a chance you could cancel the courier or dash to the Mail Room and seize back your envelope.  However, with so many bids submitted by email or into e-sourcing portals these days, there may be no going back from hitting that SEND key.

So how do we get past “Enough! Just take it away!” to achieve the level of quality response we know we can produce?

Step 1.  Acknowledge that a “Can’t care, don’t care” moment isn’t an anomaly, a blip or a one-off.  It’s a completely normal part of proposal development.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care.  It doesn’t mean you are a useless bid manager or ineffective bid writer.  It happens to all proposal professionals at different times, to the smallest and the largest of bid teams (yes, size doesn’t matter here).

What it means, realistically, is that your ‘care buffer’ is overloaded.  Like when they say no-one can eat more than 3 doughnuts at a time (don’t test this on my account) because no matter how much you wanted the cake, after a few you will crave something completely different… It’s exactly the same with reading and re-reading your proposal sections:  you get to a point where you just want to read SOMETHING else, ANYTHING else… but the same rows and rows of words are being put in front of you, page after page, and you know you don’t have time to let the pressure drop….

You can see how tempting it can be, in that environment, to say “Just send it….”

Step 2.  Once you’ve acknowledged that this is a natural part of proposal development, the next step is to realise the danger it poses!  Basically, it’s a risk to your bid development.  So recognise it exactly as you would identify and record all other potential risks to that bid.  Whatever you call it, whether it’s “Team burnout”, “Writer’s cramp” or even “I’m a bid manager, get me out of here” – add it to your risk register!

Step 3.  As with all other bid risks, make a plan to mitigate, manage or eliminate it.

The best answer – which I appreciate isn’t possible every time but MUST become an integral part of your planning for future bids – is to tee up that “someone you trust” to do that final read for you.  It doesn’t have to be an industry expert or bidding expert or subject matter expert.  I’ve worked on bids for clients where security guards in their building have been handed large sections of bids to proof late at night and have done an excellent job.  Working long nights, they were happy for the distraction and, being trained security guards, they stayed perfectly calm amid the panic.

Whoever you plan to ask, depending on the resourcing plan, costs and their availability, do you want them on call for ad-hoc help or will you need more support earlier?  It will depend on the volume and complexity of the bid sections and the likely percentage completion near the submission deadline.  The main thing is to identify when the danger moment might strike and PLAN for that support, because all our years of experience on bids shows that just  recognising it can happen and planning to have someone to share that burden can be enough to stop it happening….

Trust me, it’s your best hope to avoid “Send it or shred it, just get that thing away from me!”