Viewing entries in
Tender Process

Grappling with Graphics

Comment

Grappling with Graphics

There are no surprises to be had when I say that bidding is mainly writing. With this naturally comes the organisational aspects such as planning and time management, but, in order to churn out the 50000 words say to complete a compliant bid, content is key.

However, content is not necessary limited to letters and punctuation. The idiom "a picture is worth a thousand words" comes to mind. In bidding, you have to show the Commissioner your vision, and what more practical way to achieve this than through images?

Photos can be used, presenting a certain location or initiative already established within the community. This can aid in supporting an explanation, or providing the Commissioner with visuals to further fortify the foundations of your bid. It also simply breaks up the text for those who are reading your work, making it easier to digest.

Graphics are also great for illustrating structures, models, and pathways. For example, most bids ask for a staffing structure to demonstrate how you plan to run the service, clearly showing the lines of governance. Describing that would leave the interpretation of the structure itself up to the reader, a potentially risky strategy when explaining a complex service. This is where graphics spring in to leave no question as to the proposed plan.

Another key factor is what everything means for the patient, the service user, the client. How it modifies their care pathway. How it changes their life. This pathway is the keystone of your answer, how you can innovate and revolutionise healthcare in that area with your proposal. It's all very well describing the service through the delivery model, but not enabling the Commissioner to visualise the impact within the community does it no justice. This is where patient pathway diagrams are useful, guiding the reader through the positive changes for the service user.

You don't need to be an expert in graphic design to create these diagrams (although you can create some pretty snazzy ones if you are), as programmes such as Microsoft PowerPoint enable you to easily create a basic flowchart. However, getting to grips with products like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign allow for the creation of simple and striking diagrams to effectively support your writing.

Do you want some help with your graphics? Or maybe just need some support explaining your delivery model? No matter what your bidding need, HealthBid are here to help. Drop Tom Sheppard a line at tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk to find out more.

Comment

Word Counts: Make your Words Count

Comment

Word Counts: Make your Words Count

Capture planning, designing the solution, story-boarding answers… Here at HealthBid, we recognise these as the key parts of the process that is bidding. However, when composing the bid itself, the basic rules of writing come back into play: structure, content, & word counts. Structure and content are on the whole prepared for through the previous stages, yet word counts are set by the commissioning body and have to be adhered to. Unless, of course, there is no word count... Either way, capped or uncapped, it is a useful part of the question to take into account.

 

Capped

When there is a word count, this is a good indication of how much content you should include. For example, 500 words indicates only the bare bones of your ideas should be cohesively included, whereas 4000 words really gives you room for examples, thorough explanations and justifications.

Despite what can feel like frustrating restrictions at the time, word counts can improve your answer. They prevent you from waffling, forcing you to be concise and really reflect on what you are writing. They are therefore not just there to consume yet more time through cutting words at the end of the project.

However, the amount of content you have for each question will differ. There is little point padding out an answer just to reach the word count when you could have said the same information in half the number of words. This will retract from the key points within the response and just serve to dilute your answer. It is important to be confident with your writing; if you believe you have covered all the important points and communicated them well, yet are under the word limit, leave it be.

With a capped word count, also make sure to thoroughly read the tender documentation. Where you include diagrams, appendices, etc., be aware that, in some cases, these may count towards the word count.

 

Uncapped

Bid responses can also have no word count. This may initially seem like the ideal situation, with the possibility to write whatever you want without any consideration for its length. It certainly is a lot easier when you first put pen to paper, as there is less pressure to adhere to a limit. However, as mentioned above, word counts can help your answer. The danger is that, with an unlimited amount of words, the key points are hidden within a large amount of other information which, if we’re honest, isn’t entirely relevant and consequently doesn’t need to be there.

In this situation, it is often helpful to set your own limit. Having read the question and knowing your content, the information required is usually clear, thus the necessary length of the response reflects this. It also makes sense if there are multiple bid writers working on the same submission, as it avoids large discrepancies between the lengths of answers, making the bid more cohesive when read as a whole.

 

If you need support with any part of the bidding process, from simply cutting down your answers to fit the word count to writing it your responses for you, get in touch with our Managing Director, Tom Sheppard, at tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk.

Comment

Refine your design

Comment

Refine your design

As you may presume, the main focus of bid writing is, indeed, writing. Yet it is important in the early stages of your planning process to fully think through what you’re offering, i.e. what you will be writing about. The service specification will provide the basis for what you’re writing, but the way that your organisation interprets it and provides its solution is another way to secure a win.

 

The solution design really comes from that early planning stage we always speak of – you can gather information about the commissioning team, the incumbent, the approaches of competitors, and any other relevant information. Bidding events are another great way to gauge the situation, often giving you a chance not only to clarify the spec but to get a feel for what the commissioners want.

 

So, with all that in mind, solution design should reflect what you’re capable of, what your organisation believes in, and what is being asked for. Ensuring you come up with a solution at a reasonable price (not always the cheapest, just so long as it represents good value for money), which offers something that not only responds to the service spec but also has room for progress and innovation, gives you the all-round package. Once you have your solution design, the writing can begin to take its final shape.

 

Here at HealthBid, we don’t just write bids. We also use our expertise and strategic viewpoint to support the creation of your solution design. If you want help with creating your plan, or maybe just a bit of support with putting it on paper for the final bid, we can offer our blended approach of writing, reviewing and expert strategic advice, or whichever combination suits you best. Give our team a call on 07341 338 200 if you want to find out more.

Comment

Manage to win

Comment

Manage to win

To be successful when bidding, there’s a simple way to approach it: to manage to win, manage the process. There are obviously other factors which contribute to the success, such as sector knowledge, meticulous scoping and effective writing. Yet without thorough management, your bid risks lacking focus and losing direction, ultimately meaning it won’t be at its best on submission day. Which is obviously too late.

 

We have said this many a time here at HealthBid (& we will continue to do so!): preparation is key to unlocking the door to success. It’s never too early to start on a tender, especially ones which run over a relatively extensive period of time. With the best will in the world, someone can’t keep when every document and every answer is due, as well as who needs to do what, all in their head. And, quite frankly, what’s the point? It won’t help others to see the progress of the team, and it’s so much easier to write it down.

 

If you do this, you’re already on the right track. However, your own notes and squiggles can often be difficult to interpret by someone else, which is usually fine if they’re just for you. With a bid, it’s the teamwork which can make or break the process. For this reason, you need a communal document which everyone can access, consult and update; you then know what’s happening and when, and whether it has been achieved – perfect for keeping an eye on progress, and managing the outcomes.

 

With the emphasis on teamwork, HealthBid are not just your average bid consultancy. We can of course follow the usual approach, providing you with one of our associates, but we can also offer our a more multi-skilled approach with our in-house bid engine. It keeps it simple and effective: with only one day rate to pay as standard, you get the best combination of bid writing, bid management, and specialist insight of a whole team, with all the varying skills in there. To revolutionise the way you bid or simply just to find out more about our blended approach, contact our Business Development Manager, Joe, at joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk

Comment

Style & Substance

Comment

Style & Substance

 

When doing creative writing as part of an English class, it is always important to write for your audience. School tends to teach you how to identify who they are, what they like, and then tweak your writing style accordingly. Register, tone, tenses… These are all buzzwords of English writing which have an impact on your final piece.

 

Even though your school days may feel like a while ago (or perhaps just a few years!), the lessons learnt here are valuable. For example, the tone and register you use in a job application will be different to that when writing a party invite to your closest friends. In every situation, there’s a subtle difference in style which is important to pick up on, and bidding is no exception.

 

The bidding style could be seen as a unique combination of commercial (sales) writing, essentially persuasive writing, and storytelling. It’s important to be concise and clear to get across your key points, your win themes. The style you use will influence how your message is communicated to the Commissioner, and so it’s important to be on point. For example, talking about yourself in the past tense too often makes it seem as though you’re not looking forward, and aren’t also currently achieving all of these things. Subtle nuances in the text like this can mount up to change the feel of the text, and so it’s important to bear in mind.

 

If you would like some support with your writing style, want us to write answers for you, or to simply review what you’ve done to maximise your chances of winning, give our Business Development Manager, Joe, a ring on 07341 338 200.

 

 

Comment

Excel with Experience

Comment

Excel with Experience

In certain situations, experience and the knowledge it provides is vital. For example, if you aren’t feeling 100% and you want to get a reliable second opinion, you’d trust the advice of your GP over that of your friend, as your GP has more knowledge and experience in that area. Likewise, if you have a specific issue when you go to your GP, such as an eye problem, you are sometimes referred to a specialist, an ophthalmologist in this case.

 

Experience is therefore evidently an asset. Bidding is no exception. You may know your organisation inside out, but ensuring that the knowledge is communicated in the best way can be a challenge. Writing a good bid isn’t just about knowing your own company either; other companies who will be competing, the commissioning body and the incumbent all are key things to analyse, and being able to use this knowledge effectively to your advantage is a skill.

 

Additionally, if you don’t have a bid team within your company, someone will have to write the bid on top of their day-to-day workload. We know that you’ll already be working your socks off, and this could be a big ask. Instead of compromising the quality of the bid, you can use HealthBid. We can help you to write your bid, write it for you, or check it at the end. Not only are we experienced in bidding, but we also know the healthcare sector inside out. When a contract is worth a hefty amount over, say, 5-7 years, why not invest in extra help to ensure you maximise your winning potential? If you want some extra support, give us a ring on 07341 338 200.

Comment

A Win-Win Situation

Comment

A Win-Win Situation

As we have said many a time here at HealthBid, preparation is key. You always stand a much greater chance of success if you take the time to prepare and organise the bidding process. There are many stages to this, but no matter which you’re at: if you want to win, you have to know how. Enter the win strategy.

 

As part of the capture planning process during your preparation, you will perform both analyses of your company and your competitors. Out of this should blossom factors which can be highlighted to put you in a prime position to win, as well as instances where you can’t quite match up to others... Win strategies incorporate all of these: your strengths are obvious winning leads, yet identifying your weaknesses and mitigating them is also an important part of strategically developing your answers.

 

To ensure your bid really gets across your strengths, streamline your win strategy into win themes. Having concise bullets which perfectly encapsulate why you should win makes it easier to weave them through your answers. With these key ideas both overtly and subtly included in all of your responses, not only can you provide an answer to the main areas of the specification but you can also reinforce your strengths to make your bid stand out above the others.

 

Without these win themes, you have less focus on what you’re aiming to highlight. Win themes therefore not only help the writing process but also the Red Team (what is a Red Team? See our previous blog post here!). You can compare and contrast what your answers really say with the key ideas you wanted to initially get across, making any relevant changes to strengthen them before submitting the bid.

 

Want help with creating your win strategy? Picking out your win themes? How about checking your answers are in sync with them? For any help with the bidding process, get in touch with us on 07341 338 200, or send an email over to our Business Development Manager, Joe (joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk).

Comment

Reasons to Red Team

Comment

Reasons to Red Team

Composing a bid can be just like any other sort of writing: at the start, you have good intentions of allowing yourself enough time to check your work thoroughly, reflect on the specification and make sure you have answered everything. In practice, when life happens, you may find yourself finishing the bid a bit closer to the final deadline than anticipated. Ideally, you should still check your work; in reality, you skim read it and think ‘it’ll do’. This is why red teaming is so key: organise a time to discuss the work, constructively criticise it and spot those little errors.

 

First things first, how can you avoid sailing a bit too close to the wind when it comes to deadlines? If you know that you have a tendency to finish things last minute, create your own deadline to stick to. If you make plans to go through your work with other people, something which is extremely beneficial to the resulting bid, there’ll be more motivation to get it done in advance.  

 

Once you have met your own deadline, it’s important to get a second opinion before that of the commissioner. Go through your work line by line, picking up on any small turn of phrase or grammatical mistakes which could be improved, as well as keeping in mind both the question and your win themes (if you find yourself scratching your head at this term, keep an eye out for our next blog!). Don’t be afraid to change it up a bit – on a first draft, it’s important to answer all of the points and, on the second, make it a more engaging read and ensure it will stand out above the others.

 

Finally, be impersonal. Obviously pick up on things you could improve next time you’re writing, but don’t take anything to heart. Your colleagues criticising your work constructively isn’t them criticising you, and it’s always easier to improve pre-existing work than to write it from scratch! This is what a red team is all about: a joint effort and open discussion will ensure an all-round better bid, helping to secure that win.

 

There are no prizes for second best – clichéd maybe, but very true here! There is little point in writing a bid half-heartedly, and so if you want a new yet extremely knowledgeable pair of eyes to have a look through your bid, contact us on 07341 338 200.

 

Comment

The Strengths of Story Time

Comment

The Strengths of Story Time

There is no doubt that writing is a powerful tool. When you’re young, bed-time stories are one of the highlights of your day. When you get just that bit older, despite the narratives changing slightly, stories still remain a great channel through which to engage people and express a point. This is why we believe they are a key factor to bear in mind when composing a bid.

Evidently, the aim here is slightly different to when you were a child; instead of falling into a blissful slumber, you want a story to bring your day-to-day accomplishments as a company to life, and strike a chord with the commissioner. Short of showing them in person how your company works, which of course you can do once the bid has been won, a story gives the most realistic impression of how what you do (and how you do it) would greatly help the situation in question.

Simply describing the way in which your services work and letting the commissioner deduce its benefits is a passive method which makes the reader disengage. Be creative: imagine up a character who is using your solution in their organisation, use it to show them how it has a positive influence on the lives of the patients, and therefore how it’s their best option. They can then visualise why they should choose your bid and services over others, setting you up nicely on the path to victory.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell your company’s story. Just like tailoring your bid to the tender and to the commissioner as discussed in the last post, make your company relatable through giving it that more personal edge and help the reader to understand its purpose. Finding out who created the solution and why will make your bid stronger, as the commissioner will further comprehend your reasons for tendering. If you fancy getting your stories straight and streamlining your bid, don’t hesitate to call us on 07341 338 200 or send an email to joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk!

Comment

Being Bespoke: the Benefits

Comment

Being Bespoke: the Benefits

So you’ve found a contract you want to compete for, you have a sound knowledge of your product and company, and you want to get cracking with composing your bid… At HealthBid, we know that when you're creating a winning response, it’s good to start early, rein in your horses a little, and reflect on precisely what is being asked of you and perceive exactly how you’re going to approach the task in hand.

 

In this day and age, personalisation is the key to winning people over. Just consider internet adverts, hotel stays... Recognising the importance of tailoring something to someone is a great way to increase their satisfaction. Writing bids is no different. The tender is there to express what is needed in that particular case, and so it’s no use writing a story all about your great product or method if it’s not fundamentally fitting the specific requirements.

 

Think about it this way: would you like it if someone got you a Christmas present that has no relevance to you, and quite frankly was probably given to them as an unwanted gift last year? Well it’s the same here – recycling old approaches to quickly fit the spec could make your life easier in the short term, but it’s important to establish your operational solution which can do precisely what this contract is requiring & more: you have to be in it to win it!

 

Finally, people react to people. Simply stating the role title when describing your work depersonalises it and can desensitise the reader – make it relatable! Say who will be doing that role if (when) you win, and why not throw in a nice little picture of them in there too? On the same note, do your research on the commissioner, and address them personally. Tailor your bid to the reader and make it about your people. Be perceptive of what is needed. Make that extra winning effort.

Comment

The Self-Awareness Strategy

Comment

The Self-Awareness Strategy

Writing a bid isn’t as simple as just sitting down straight away and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!): it is important to know both your product and strategy as well as what you’re competing for in order to put in that winning piece. Reflecting on your organisation as well as being perceptive of the specific situation is key to tailoring your bid to fit the mould… It’s all very well us here at HealthBid telling you this, but what are the practical implications? What should you be doing?

 

First things first - be self-aware. This doesn’t mean being able to critique yourself personally (although this isn’t such a bad thing!), but rather your product as a whole. Researching competitors as part of your capture plan not only shows you what you’re up against but also helps you to have a heightened awareness of your key strengths, enabling your win themes to develop.

 

In a similar light, if you are the incumbent and know certain occasions haven’t been your finest hour… don’t shy away, tackle them! The commissioner will be aware of what you’ve done, and so, instead of making empty claims, tell them (and, even better, show them through modifying your processes) how you are improving and how this has been the catalyst for change.

 

On a final note, being aware of your company means knowing your team. Need to ask a question about the operational solution? Call Gemma. The pricing? This one’s for Jeff. You get the picture – reflecting on the skills and roles of your team and therefore delegating responsibility in the best way possible enables information to be provided by the most pertinent people and a winning bid to be written.

 

Our next blog shall focus on the importance of accurately perceiving the demands of the tender, but if you find yourself needing any advice or more practical help with bidding in the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Joe, our Business Development Manager, on 07341 338 200.

Comment

Fail to Prepare...

Comment

Fail to Prepare...

Excuse me… If I could just interrupt your new year’s resolutions for a second. Dumbbells down, pens off paper, e-cigs in pockets… this is important.  Thank you.

Its January 2016, an opportunity for a fresh start, new challenges, and with that successes. Hopefully by now you’ve caught up from the Christmas break.

While you’re busy feeling the effects of that 6th mince pie, and planning the new and improved you, I thought it necessary to remind you not to forget about changing the way you tackle your bids.

As an organisation, we have found the most common reason for a poorly written bid is lack of preparation. Organisations often come to us last minute, having let the deadline creep up on them and in a bit of a panic. This panic is often evident in the work produced thus far. It can be mismatched dialogue, unclear goals or simple things like poor grammar or too much repetition. When you’re stressed in work there is less time for you, and your diet/gym program/travel plans will soon take back seat.

Here are some of the best way to prepare properly for a bid, and ensure that 2016 is your healthiest yet!

1.   First things first, if you want a winning bid, start planning EARLY. Waiting until the ITT is released means you have lost valuable time, which will result in late nights and weekend working.

2.   Get your strategies together upfront. Start analysing before the tender is out. We know this stage as a blue team, and is an ideal way to start assessing your strategies, win themes and competitive analysis.

3.   Get your deadlines in the diary…and stick to them. Breaking up the project into chunks and putting those in set timeframes avoids a last minute rush. Also you won’t be too phased by sudden date/deadline changes if you’ve already started the work.

4.   Remember Bid Projects Involve People – And these people will be busy too. Get your team together and delegate, arrange meeting dates, and set deadlines with them.

5.   Get your tools together – Often in large bid projects we suggest having a ‘bidhub.’ One room reserved for planning, meetings and is a centre for the whole project. You also won’t believe how much investing in a big pack of coloured pens will help.

At HealthBid we have a team of strategic experts that can do all of the above for you. From creating win themes, to helping engage and motivate your team for success. It’s never too soon to call and discuss. Contact Joe Gatenby our business development manager on 07341 338 200.

Comment

Comment

Finding the right tender for you

Searching for tenders can be frustrating, and it can often seem that there is not something out there that fits your product or service. 

The first step to solving this is to make sure that you are searching in the right place. Before you spend money with an expensive service that finds tenders for you, make sure you have spent some time familiarising yourself with Contracts Finder, the Government's website that aggregates opportunities. It is much improved, and the search function is pretty granular to find relevant things. 

The second step is to go back to basics on your core strengths. Instead of thinking of yourselves as creating a specific product or service, think about the problems that it solves. Link this to your research into the health sectors pressure points. For example, your transport company isn't just a provider of patient transport, it is a way of improving flow around the hospital system.

If you think about opportunities in these terms, it makes it much easier to find things to solve.

The other thing that we always advise our customers is to look for subcontracting opportunities. The NHS has a tendency to put out very big tenders, then let potential bidders work out who they would need to partner with to make them happen. Look to see who has won work in your area, and see if there are opportunities to subcontract. This can save a lot of time, and open up a much broader set of opportunities.

As always, if you want some advice and support with finding the best opportunities for your business, then drop us a line, and we can have a chat.

Comment

Comment

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.

Comment

Comment

How do you future proof a bid?

How much time do you spend thinking about the future? Enough? Too much?

Sometimes it’s hard to create the space to look forward and imagine what is and what isn’t possible. Healthcare organisations spend a lot of time trying to predict the future develop strategies that will work for them. Often in isolation and sometimes without deep consideration for speed of change.

Technology will increasingly become central to everything we do in healthcare. It is something we’d be foolish to ignore; it fragments and changes services beyond recognition; it has the powerful potential to create deeply personal health budgets. We are facing a future where people will want to decide how to manage their own health outcomes and become more demanding of healthcare professional as a consequence.

It is a complex and difficult landscape and one which in the bid world requires you to gaze into the future without any great certainty. However there are steps you can take to help manage this process. It starts early, way before the bid is out to market and involves building a strong business strategy leading into a well conceived capture plan. By the time the bid pops out, you should have worked with commissioners, partners and patients to think about what steps you can take to radically improve your services and ask yourself the deep and challenging questions about how that might unsettle the status quo.

Doing this will almost certainly improve your bid, engage your commissioners and help you not only win or retain business but have a profoundly different outlook towards your services in the future. We can see how this type of approach is fundamental to the recent Vanguard sites and how the future will be shaped by a very different set of rules.

Comment

Comment

Why aren't there more tenders at the moment?

If you've been searching for NHS tenders over the last few days, you will have noticed how few there are. 

Why? 

Well, it's the General Election, and the rules surrounding it. We've entered a phase called purdah, which started on 30th March.  

Diring this period, government bodies, including the NHS, refrain from announcing new policies or contracts. While not a legal thing, it's one of those generally accepted practices.  

So, it will be quiet on the tender front for a couple more weeks - great time to build your bid library, storyboard ideas and plan strategy for what will certainly be a busy May and June. 

Comment