Enthusiasm is the outward expression of engagement. When we are truly engaged in what we are doing – whether it’s performing a task, having a conversation, or making a pitch – we come across at our most enthusiastic, attractive and creative.
And engaged people are the people that customers want to hire.
You’ll hear a lot about employee engagement these days, and for good reason.
A study by the Hay Group showed that over a period of seven years, companies with highly engaged workers grew their revenues two and a half times more than those with low engagement levels.
Originators of the Net Promoter Score, Bain and Company, has also found that your level of ‘customer advocacy’ (how likely customers are to recommend you to others) closely correlates with your levels of employee engagement.
Employee engagement underpins the entire experience that customers have with your organisation, and that customer experience begins with your proposal.
So what practical behaviours can you encourage to show engagement when you are writing proposals?
This topic generated a lot of debate in a recent bid and tender leadership workshop.
On the day, I was working with a dozen bid leaders in a technical professional services business, who are responsible for leading projects and winning ongoing work for their firm.
Culturally, technical professionals often think that being ‘professional’ means they need to be restrained and respectful, and wait for customers to engage with them.
So, when I said their proposal should always ask for the business, and clearly explain what it means to them and why they want it, not everyone was sold on the idea – even though one participant admitted that failing to do this had actually cost him work in the past.
Another, having observed the conversation for a while, chimed in with an interesting connection.
“It’s like on The Bachelorette!” he said.
Although he didn’t say this particularly loudly, of course, everyone heard it.
After the obligatory guffaws and howls of derision from his colleagues had finally died down (it was the final weeks of the show, and his wife watches it, not him, OK?) he explained why he had made that connection, and everyone could see that he had a point.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, The Bachelorette (like The Bachelor) is a TV reality dating show, where a couple of dozen contestants are lined up to win the heart of an eligible single person. In Australia, this year’s Bachelorette was TV personality Sophie Monk.
Every week, one or more contestants are eliminated, until Sophie, the Bachelorette, has just a handful of to choose from.
By this point in the show, contestants are under constant pressure from the show’s producers to reveal their feelings to her.
Turns out this probably isn’t just a ploy to make for better reality television.
Although every series is slightly different, the story arc of The Bachelor/ette follows a pretty consistent pattern. Contestants who are noncommittal or restrained about their feelings, and who don’t declare themselves by the crucial final weeks of the series, are the most likely to get eliminated.
This holds true in business too. When others are equally qualified, showing your connection to the work and how much you want it could be the key to winning too.
Do your proposals sound like you really want the work, or do they in fact do the opposite?
What are you doing to inject more energy, enthusiasm and personality into your proposals?