I had a bit of fun recently at the Association of Proposal Management Professionals conference. I was delivering seminar towards the end of the event when delegates were pretty much conferenced out, so I opted to take a slightly unusual approach: looking at how the laws of science and nature can inform the way we approach bids and tenders.
I suppose that in itself is a lesson - always put yourselves in the shoes of your audience. What are they going to be thinking and how are they going to be feeling? I’m sure a worthy and straightforward presentation with plenty of text based Powerpoint would have been a delight to the delegates who wanted to catch up on 40 winks before heading home, but not much value to anyone else.
Hence the slightly lighter approach – but hopefully with some valid, thought-provoking and memorable points along the way.
But how much do you think about the mental state and the needs of your audience when deciding how to deliver your pitch? Are you thinking: ‘This is what we want to say’ or ‘This is what they need to hear’?
What is the most effective way for them to receive the information rather than what is the easiest way for us to transmit it?
Seeing is believing
Perception was a theme of the presentation. What we perceive usually becomes our reality. Often in competitive tendering the differences between potential suppliers can be marginal. In these situations the details of your solution will be less important than the perception formed by the client about your competence, experience and suitability.
So what’s the focus for your presentation? Is it an exercise in describing your solution in detail or is it a systematic approach to building the client’s confidence and trust? There’s a huge difference in how you’d go about each and a huge difference in the corresponding success rates too. Building trust is something we always address in our presentation skills coaching.
I explored perception and reality a little more by looking at quantum physics and the nature of matter. We know so much more about how the universe works because we’ve become able to look at it in ever closer detail. When we do this we see that something as ‘solid’ as a piece of rock is mostly empty space.
Similarly, while we don’t observe quantum mechanics directly in everyday life you see the effects every time you switch on the electric light. And it’s only through quantum mechanics that you can really understand what’s going on when you flick the switch.
A deeper reality
How does this help? Well try to look at your prospective clients in the same way. You can either accept the reality that they want to project and see what everybody else sees, or you can look deeper.
Behind the self-confident public façade every business is a complex system of relationships, ambitions, anxieties and challenges. Seek to understand the ‘molecules’ and forces at work, and you’ll have a much better understanding of why organisations look and behave the way they do.
There’s no substitute for research to build up the most complete picture you can about the factors that drive your clients’ decisions and behaviour. Once you understand that you’ll be well on the way to delivering winning pitches.
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach
Whether you're a smaller business new to the challenges of competitive tendering or a corporate seeking to win major contracts I can help your team deliver a winning pitch. Call me on +44 (0)1963 240555 or email [email protected]
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.