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How to write about numbers without using any

Just because you can’t quantify something doesn’t mean you should give up.

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Dealing with adversity

RFPs are often ambiguous and fail to provide the information that you need. Even worse, sometimes they contradict themselves. It’s hard enough to come up with good estimates when you have all the information you need. When you need information that’s not in the RFP, sometimes you can ask questions. But sometimes you have to figure out how to make your submission based on the information that you do have. Here are some techniques for dealing with numbers when you aren’t sure how to quantify your response: 

  • Compare it to something where the quantities are known
  • Pick numbers that you know are too high or too low, and then use words like “at least,” “more than,” “almost,” “nearly,” “close to,” etc.
  • Use the word “average” in a way that does not imply you actually calculated it
  • Use a metaphor
  • If you don’t have a better source, use “in our experience,” “what we’ve seen,” “on similar projects,” or something similar
  • Hedge by saying “approximately” or “about” 
  • Turn your lack of knowledge into a benefit by talking about your flexibility and give multiple answers
  • Talk about the need for precision instead of the numbers
  • Talk about the importance of the results
  • Talk in terms of contingencies based on different values
  • Talk about your method for calculating instead of the results of the calculation
  • If you can’t quantify your response because you don’t have the data you need, talk about how you will get the data instead
  • When you don’t know how you’ll calculate things or where to get the data, talk about collaboration
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