The bid­der ques­tion — at what lev­el do you trans­mit?*

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.

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