Obvious, you might say, we’ll be focusing on the customer! That’s what everyone says and what most businesses think they are doing.
But will you, really?
If it’s more than just a handful, you could be missing an opportunity to build empathy, rapport and a relationship with your potential client. If you use the word ‘we’ repeatedly other than in a context of how you will meet the client’s needs and issues, you definitely have a problem.
‘We are the largest supplier of sprockets in the UK’, ‘We’ve won the Digby Jones award for shameless self-promotion’, so what.
Now go back and count the number of times you used the word ‘you’ to denote that you are specifically talking about your client, their situation and the challenges they need to overcome.
The reality is that your customers really don’t care that much about what you’ve done or how impressive you think you are. They want to understand how you are going to help them.
Yet ‘we’ is still how so many businesses pitching for new contracts decide to fill their presentations and proposals.
How do you think this makes your clients feel?
Maybe they’re relishing the opportunity to read yet another account of a potential supplier’s achievements, how many specialists they employ and how many awards they’ve won. Or maybe, just maybe, they find it all a bit tiresome.
Now I’m sure a part of you is thinking that it doesn’t really matter all that much. All potential suppliers follow a similar approach and want to establish their credibility by focusing on their size, history, capabilities and achievements. Surely clients expect this?
They might expect it, but do they welcome it?
And what happens when one of your competitors comes along with a different approach?
“The point of ‘you’” is a concept well understood by successful advertisers. The overwhelming majority of successful adverts have headlines and copy that put the focus of attention on the customer. Boastful adverts never work. This should tell you something about the type of conceps and language people respond positively to.
The most successful businesses understand that what their clients want is to feel they are at the centre of their universe. These businesses are skilled at showing empathy with their clients’ current situation, their challenges and their ambitions. They use ‘you’ much more than they use ‘we’.
Conversations and communications are predominantly about the client, not about the supplier.
And ultimately this is a more powerful way to demonstrate that you are the right people for the job – that you have not only the experience, but also the specific understanding and approach that your client needs to be successful.
If you can convince them that your focus is their success first and yours as a consequence, they are much more likely to be persuaded, and much more likely to trust you with their business.
Here are two techniques every business can adopt to help demonstrate to potential clients that their needs will come first (which is, after all, what they really want to hear):
- Try to ban the word ‘we’ from your presentations and proposal documents. And don’t try to get around it by substituting your company name for the offending word. You may not be able to get rid of all of them but by trying not to use the word you will inevitably switch the focus from you to your client. Try if you can to rewrite each offending sentence so that the subject becomes ‘you’ and not ‘we’.
- Get your bid team to monitor each other in client meetings. Be aware of whether a member of the team is spending too much time talking about your business rather than interacting with the client on the basis of their situation and challenges. Step in and redress the balance if necessary. It’s really easy to get carried away with talking about your achievements thinking that client will see the relevance to their own challenges – often they don’t.
Naturally, your track record and capabilities are important. But if the client didn’t already understand these they probably wouldn’t be talking to you in the first place. By taking the ‘we’ out of your documents, presentations and conversations you’ll be demonstrating the quality that they value more than any other: dedication to helping the client deliver their objectives.
Talking about yourself can be a difficult habit to break. Often, you're not aware of just how much you are doing it.
This is an issue that businesses often overcome successfully when they get independent support with the bidding process. FIND OUT MORE