Much of this stems from the fact that it seems ingrained in our nature to make rapid judgements about the people we meet. It’s easy to imagine how in early and more insulated civilisations this could be a handy skill when meeting somebody from outside our community.
It also seems that we have a natural urge to prove ourselves right. Possibly this is because it needs less mental energy and fortitude to confirm something we believe to be the case, than to continuously re-evaluate our point of view with each new piece of evidence.
Psychologists refer to this tendency as conformation bias. And it’s a powerful influence on our opinions and our behaviour. Whatever the reasons for it, humans have a tendency to sift and interpret information and evidence to match what they believe to be reality.
The bad (or possibly good) news, is that the impression potential clients have formed about your business is very difficult to break.
Ah, but you say: ‘the tendering process is impartial – we all get asked the same questions.’
Maybe you do. But the questions are asked by people and the answers are interpreted and scored by people.
Ask somebody if they are happy with their job and you will get a different balance of positive or negative responses than if you ask them if they are unhappy. And people like to frame questions in ways that are more likely to provide confirmation rather than challenge.
Psychological tests also show that you can present people with exactly the same information and they will interpret it according to what they believe to be the truth. Furthermore, the questions they choose to ask to clarify facts are heavily biased towards confirming their position rather than challenging it. Preconceived views become entrenched rather than softened.
What does this mean for bids and tenders?
The first thing to do is to ask yourself what sort of picture a client has of the organisation they would ideally like to work with. What characteristics, skills and approaches will they find appealing and persuasive?
Then comes the difficult bit. Do you, in your heart of hearts believe that that’s how you are perceived?
How will your prospective client have formed their opinion? Have you worked with them before? Or have you worked with somebody from the awarding panel when they were in a different role? Will they have asked other businesses that you’ve worked with? And will they look at your website and social media activity?
However they’ve formed their opinion – it’s an opinion that will be hard to shift. You need to recognise that fact and have strategies for dealing with it.
These days, social media and content publishing can go a long way towards convincing a client that you know what you’re doing before you get into a bidding process. And it’s just as important to understand what other people are saying about you on the same channels.
Ultimately, if you believe that a potential client perceives you as weak in certain important aspects of your service delivery, you know where you need to focus.
They will probably see their perceived strengths within your organisation without you having to labour the point. So put your effort into providing irrefutable, hard evidence to challenge any negative perceptions.
In my experience, businesses often fail to grasp this point. Instead of dealing with perceived weaknesses and disproving them, they tend to veer towards the areas where they think they are strongest. A big tactical error!
Or did it?
Get an insight into what potential customers are seeing and find out how you can change their perception.
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