Our decisions and actions are driven by perceptions. Sometimes these are accurate, sometimes not. Perceptions are hard to change - we tend to look for evidence that reinforces, not challenges them.
Your clients and your prospects will have their own perception of your business. How they view your strengths and weaknesses will heavily influence their judgement about the types of contract you could deliver and the value you add as a business. The perception might not be accurate. And who knows how they formed it (could even be hearsay). But in their minds it’s real and it affects their decisions.
Once businesses grasp the importance of perceptions they are on the road to more successful bidding. They can then understand the evidences, proofs and language needed to change those perceptions in their favour.
Can You Really Change How Others See You?
The good news is that it is possible to change how a business is perceived. Think about Skoda in 1990 compared to Skoda now. It isn’t easy or instant and it needs consistency.
Here are a few pointers:
Face to face meetings. With the right kind of positive relationship you can have a frank discussion. With careful questioning you can tease out how your organisation is perceived and why. You then have something to work with and specific perceptions to target.
In my experience few organisations want to face up to these questions or will have the persistence to go beyond bland responses. Those who do so tend to be more successful. Getting expert external support to help plan, structure and role play these conversations will help enormously.
Subsequent meetings then have another purpose - to reinforce the perception that you want to create.
Documentary evidence. Every communication and every piece of marketing collateral can either help build the perception you want to create or reinforce what your client already believes. Look for evidence that supports the perception of the ‘real you,’ perhaps projects you’ve executed for other clients (it’s so easy to get pigeon-holed).
Make sure your information reaches the right people, especially those not directly involved in the decision but who may influence it.
Professional help with the content and phrasing of your tender submissions and supporting material can help accelerate the perception-changing process.
Presentations. The appearance, content and delivery of your presentations are vital aspects of building the right kind of image. It’s all too easy to unintentionally send out the wrong messages, which is why an ‘independent eye’ can be so valuable. And there really is no substitute for rehearsal and constructive feedback.
Has Your Business Suffered from Inaccurate Perceptions?
When you previously put a lot of work into a tender that you didn’t win, did you find yourself saying: ‘they just don’t understand our business’? Consider this: your prospect can only measure potential contractors based on the evidence that gets put before them in the RFP documents. Perhaps they were seeing what they expected to see because you didn’t try hard enough to help them see something different?
In the next article we’ll look at some of the practical ways you can help your clients form a more accurate and positive perception of your business.
I’m sure we all know somebody who plays sport for fun and tries to improve their game with free online coaching resources. Every possible bit of advice you could ever need to improve your game can be found on YouTube.
So with all this free and knowledgeable advice, how come golfers everywhere are still slicing, pulling and shanking shots? Why are tennis players across the globe serving long and mishitting volleys into the net?
Talent, of course, is a factor. So is looking for shortcuts to performance improvement. A friend of mine watches golfing tips on YouTube after every bad round (believe me, that’s a lot of videos watched). “I think I’m probably getting too steep on my downswing,” or some such nugget is identified as the cause. Next round, no difference.
The problem with all this free online coaching is that it isn’t really coaching at all (and this is where it becomes relevant to the work we do to help companies win more bids).
What’s presented is a generalised view. Most golfers with a bad slice tend to do this… See how Federer hits a forehand passing shot...
Good coaches look at what you’re actually doing. They normally identify small changes to your natural style that will have the maximum impact on performance. They give you drills that you can practice to ingrain those changes. As a result you get real, measurable performance improvements.
And that’s pretty much how the Bid Coach team works.
With presentations we don’t aim to turn you into everyone’s idea of a charismatic presence. We look at your natural communication style and identify practical ways to make it more persuasive, while still being ‘you.’
With tender submissions we don’t aim to impose model answers to questions. What you submit has to be authentic and representative of your organisation. We’ll look at your draft response and suggest improvements: maybe use more active language, rearrange it slightly to cover the customer’s main issues first, add a couple of bits of key information so the customer can see that you really understand their objectives.
With competitive dialogue and behavioural assessments we provide an environment where we can observe how you handle the challenging situations these processes throw up. We then give targeted advice so you can focus on changes that will have a significant impact on performance.
We know that this approach works by analysing bid feedback from procurement teams. In the areas where we’ve worked with bidders they consistently outscore other areas of the bid and the competition.
It works because we follow the fundamental rules of good coaching: building on the strengths you already have and adding specific skills and techniques so you can see and experience the improvement. This gives you positive feedback and the confidence you need to go on improving.
Adversity is always a learning opportunity, so they say. In which case the recent blast of icy weather gave us plenty of chances to absorb some valuable lessons.
Comparisons also help us understand where we stand in relation to others. As a bid coach I also can’t help reflecting on parallels between how snowstorms affect the UK compared to other countries, and the performance of well and poorly prepared teams facing the challenges of a bid interview or behavioural assessment.
Let’s use Denmark as a comparison. Here they routinely deal with snowfall and temperatures on this level without loss of life, travel chaos, interruption to vital services and legions of stranded motorists. There are five key areas where their approach differs from the UK. These factors are highly relevant to the tender process.
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.