A few years ago we were asked to review a large bid response for a major multi national HR department. As we worked through it we were impressed by the care that seemed to have been taken. It was written in a way that looked like the bid team had done their homework. The answers were pertinent, informative and evidence based. The text flowed as if it had been written by one person. It exuded enthusiasm both for the subject on offer and the opportunity to deal with the end client. But right in the middle it fell apart in a big way. They forgot who they were addressing and the sensitivities there might be. Instead, in an ongoing effort to maintain their enthusiasm they cast major aspirations on the competency of the in-house HR team and worse still it was the in-house team that were running the bid.
What happened? Well the original invitation to tender, and the face to face meetings before the tender was issued, were all seeking to address the automation of a function within the HR department. It had been recognised that this would require a helpdesk backup to support the internal customer. It had been stressed a number of times that this was a new activity for the client HR team.
In their effort to produce a strong message of their own competency the team bidding altered the client message during their bid strategy planning. No one noticed and gradually it became an accepted part of the speak through later bid meetings and document build. The part of the client message they abbreviated was the reason for the automation and outsource. An authoritative member of the bid team had, at some point in one of the early sessions started talking about the struggles the client had with their own process and people, and how they, the bidder, would solve that for them. If anyone questioned the assumption it was lost in the mists of bid time. This was a six month bid process and many elements should evolve as the bid is refined but just not the customer message.
The erroneous assumption by the bid team was that the work involved was current not additional so when the client had created the bid because their in-house HR team couldn't manage and weren't capable, the bid team then included text in their response that repeated the statement but with a slight addition, i.e. 'created the bid because their in-house HR team couldn't manage and weren't capable of doing what was required of them and that the bidder would come in and provide a professional outsource solution'.
A reminder - it was the HR team that were running the bid and the bidder had just tried to tell the HR team they were professionally incompetent.
Put yourself in the shoes of the HR team and take this scenario out to conversation between two people. If someone stood in front of you and with no obvious substantiation told you to your face you were incapable of doing your job and that they replace you, what emotions are running through your head as they continue to talk? If for any reason you are still standing in front of them, how much more are you hearing of what they say? Not very much at all because your brain is seriously tied up working through the disbelief and negative emotions that are are being felt. No matter what they say about wanting to help you, are they someone you want to work with? Put this back into a tender situation, how well will you score any of the rest of their submission?
As reviewers, we look at the submissions independently so we can then pull our notes and scores together later for a consensus report. Each of us involved in that review not only highlighted the negative emotion felt but measured how much further we got through the document before we could concentrate on the submission again.
Having an awareness of how we feel ourselves, allows us to put ourselves in other people's shoes temporarily and feel the emotions we might engender in them. The written word is as important if not more so, than the spoken word. In real time i.e. the spoken word, you can recognise a reaction and try to take back or change your affect but in the spoken word the reaction cannot be changed.
When we review documents we measure the type of emotion different paragraphs have on us and offer suggestions to the authors on how they can lessen the impact of negative emotions. This is something you can do for yourself but if you don't have time give us a call.
By the way our client took our advice and won the bid.