In 1981, Friedemann Schulz von Thun invented or found a square that still tells us a lot about the way we communicate today: the “communication square”, also called the “four ears model” or “message square”. But what — you may ask — does this have to do with bidder questions in procurement procedures? Take a look for yourself!
The four messages
Whether I like it or not, when I express myself, it is always fourfold. I always transmit four messages at the same time, namely
- a factual information (what I inform about)
- a self-disclosure (what I reveal about myself)
- a relationship hint (what I think of my counterpart and how I relate to him)
- an appeal (what I want to achieve with my counterpart)
After all, it’s just about the cause!
Perhaps you are now saying: Yes, of course. But in award procedures, I only comment on business grounds; for me, at least, it’s all about the cause. For me, it is the most important thing, and all other “ears” have to be “deaf” accordingly.
Admittedly, I think that’s a somewhat remote view of life. In fact, you probably know this yourself. A bidder’s question may be superfluous at the factual level, for example because it has already been answered many times in the award procedure, albeit in different words. But what does this mean for the self-disclosure and relationship level? That the bidder, if he should become my contractor and partner, will lightly do unnecessary work for me because he ultimately values my time less than his own?
Another example is the very frequent, extremely direct bidder question as to whether this or that product can be permissibly offered on the basis of a certain item in the specifications. Such questions are a real feast for the client and, above all, for the competition, which receives the anonymized version of your question together with the answer. Because the self-disclosure message is quite clear: The questioner intends to offer exactly this product as well. So is this kind of question really clever?
Make it a habit
So you can analyze every bidder question — and of course every client answer — with the help of the communication square. Perhaps you should also start with exactly that before you ask questions in the future. Sometimes it’s just nuances that obscure messages that should also remain unclear — and at another level convey exactly what you want to convey. Go ahead and bring a little more rationality into your bid management and make it a habit to analyze bidder questions, e.g., according to the above model, before you send them out via the award platform!
*This legal tip is no substitute for legal advice in individual cases. By its very nature, it is incomplete, it does not relate to your case, and it also represents a snapshot, as the legal basis and case law change over time. It cannot and does not cover all conceivable constellations, serves maintenance and initial orientation purposes and is intended to motivate you to clarify legal issues at an early stage, but not to discourage you from doing so.