The client interview is often a critical stage in the tendering process. It needs meticulous planning and preparation. It is your make or break opportunity to convince them of your credentials, experience, and USPs and leave them in no doubt that yours is the business they need to hire.
If you agree with the final sentence of the previous paragraph you might have a problem.
I’ll illustrate why with a straightforward example.
I recently helped a contractor that was bidding for a street lighting and pavement maintenance contract for a town in the Thames Valley. Their first instinct when preparing for the interview was to do what they usually did and make a list of what they needed to tell the client.
The experience, awards, accreditations, processes and procedures, and USP’s were all marshalled in the expectation that they would ‘wow’ the client and win the project.
What do you imagine their competitors were doing? Yep, making a list of the experience, awards, accreditations, processes and procedures, and USP’s that would win them the business.
In reality any number of potential contractors could have delivered the work competently to an acceptable budget.
What really matters?
With a bit of research we established that the council’s strategic plan aimed to make the town THE most desirable commuter town in the Thames Valley.
We positioned the street lighting and pavement contract as helping the council achieve their objective by making the streets safer and more attractive for residents. We specifically referenced how it would improve the experience of commuters leaving early and returning late from jobs in London.
We won the contract. While there were other factors, the interview feedback showed that the client was impressed that the contractor had taken the trouble to understand their aspirations. They appreciated how they had made reference to them during their proposal and in the interview.
So why doesn’t everyone do it this way?
It’s not hard to grasp that addressing the issues, worries or pressures clients have – now and throughout the course of the project - is likely to be more engaging.
In my experience two factors get in the way of focusing pitches in this way.
The first is human nature. When we’re in a competition it seems natural to focus on our own capabilities and the reasons why ‘we are better than the others.’ This behaviour is often so entrenched that an outside influence (like a coach) is needed to shift the perspective.
Second, it’s usually much harder to focus on somebody else’s challenges. We naturally know about our own business. Unearthing the factors that are driving our clients takes research and, often, effective relationships based on mutual trust. Relating our solutions to those challenges is a more demanding task than trotting out a list of credentials.
Questions to ask:
During the interview:
As a final thought I’ll leave you with this quote from Abraham Lincoln:
“While I get ready to reason with someone, I spend a third of my time thinking about what I’m going to say, and two-thirds of the time thinking about what they’re going to say”. That pretty much sums up how to divide your energy!
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach
Need help preparing for a big client interview?
Call me on 01963 240555
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.