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    Generalisation is becoming less and less acceptable

    Generalisation is becoming less and less acceptable

    By Ken Whitson, Monday 27th February 2017

    Generalisation is becoming less and less acceptable. It seems that not a week goes by without someone in the press or social media generalising one group or another and someone else is taking exception to it.

    What we are becoming less tolerant about is the very nature of the generalisation. “How dare they make a sweeping statement that includes me in the group of X” but that’s what generalisation has always been.

    The ‘general’ dictionary definition is “a classification of a group on the basis of limited observation”, or would the different dictionary publishers take exception to this generalisation? Where do we stop?

    On a blog dedicated to tender proficiency why am I talking about generalisation you might ask but generalisation is the enemy of a good tender response in no small part due to the fact that people these days do value their differentiation.

    Psychologists tell us that we look for similarities in others. This is particularly so when we are out of our comfort zone and that may well be where generalisation has historically found its greatest motivation. In the tender situation however, the people that have released the tender have ‘generally’ taken time to make sure their stated requirements address everything that is specific to their organisation.

    For this reason it’s dangerous in a tender response to indiscriminately generalise. We saw a response recently where the client producing the requirement had taken the time to explain in the introduction and supporting material what their internal culture was and what made them different from their own competition. The response we saw ignored all this. It didn’t refer to the culture, to what they saw that differentiated themselves from their competition; it didn’t give any evidence of understanding the client’s business at all. However it did throw in three generalisations that screamed at the client “To us you’re just another food producer, we don’t care that you go out of your way to differentiate yourselves in your own customer’s eyes. We’re going to offer you what your competitors have ordered and you’ll take it because we know what we’re doing.”

    Well guess what, they didn’t know what they were doing. It was obvious they used boilerplate and didn’t adapt it to suit. The result was that the client labelled this bid as arrogant and marked them down with a greater emphasis than if the arrogance hadn’t been perceived.

    We need to be sensitive to the perception others will have about statements we make. In a tender response this is paramount as you won’t get a chance to recover the situation and explain what you really meant. As political correctness continues down its path, social acceptance of generalisations shrinks.

    This suggests two considerations:

    The first is that if you’re creating a client proposal or answering a client bid you must have done your homework so you can tailor how your solution fits their specific (as against general) needs.

    Secondly, try to make sure all the contributors to your final bid document are briefed properly by you on your client preferences and can get their material to you early enough for a review to take place. At the very least you should have an internal review but it goes without saying that I’d advocate an independent review as sometimes you can be too close to what you’ve written.

    Bid response is not about production line techniques, it’s about customisation. Or am I being too generalist?

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