The Final Countdown

It’s the middle of May, right at the height of competitive tendering season.

If you’re up to your armpits in multiple competitive submissions right now, you are probably running between three priorities; proposals that are still in start-up phase; proposals that are mid-stream; and proposals that are due tonight, or at least by 2pm Friday.

This week’s blog is all about what’s going on in the third camp.

Whenever the clock is ticking down to a tender deadline, with only seconds left to go, I hear Europe’s anthemic 1980 head-banger “The Final Countdown” in my head. (Those dudes sure did have fine heads of hair).

Even if you have only a tiny little bit of time left to go, there are three main things you can do polish your proposal and to help it to punch above its weight with evaluators:

  1. Write an Executive Summary (here's how to write a great one),
  2. Add benefit-based headings to visuals and text sections, and
  3. Edit to reduce your word count, and their cognitive load.     

Today we’re going to look at the second, and most overlooked, of these polishing techniques – adding benefit-based headings to your visuals and to break up sections of text.

Headings are a great opportunity to talk about the benefits of your offer, which can become lost in lengthy text. 

Most people completely miss this opportunity, instead titling each section something boring like ‘Our Team’ or ‘Our Approach’.

Don’t bury your best information where evaluators may not actually see it; use the headings to explain the customer benefit you are writing about. 

This is a great way to pull in ‘skim’ readers who may not read every word of the text, and is also the single quickest and easiest thing you can do to improve the persuasiveness of a proposal – even if you have very limited time left to complete it.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at these two examples.

In a manufacturing tender, respondents were asked to summarise their short term goals.

Which works better as a heading to this section – Heading 1 or Heading 2?

Heading 1:      XYZ Printing’s short-term goals are to achieve greater production efficiency, improved financial returns, and faster delivery for our customers.

(The response goes on to explain each of these goals sequentially).

Heading 2:      XYZ’s investment plan will allow us to deliver ABC’s orders 25% faster than we could before.

XYZ’s short-term goals are to achieve greater production efficiency, improved financial returns, and faster delivery for our customers. 

To achieve these goals, we are investing $50 million in upgrading the packing and finishing lines in all our manufacturing plants over the next two years.

(The response goes on to explain how this will happen and the benefits to the customer).

Whenever I have used this example in my Master Class program, most people eventually agree on Heading 2 – even those who initially opt for Heading 1.

That’s because Heading 2 explains how our short-term goals will benefit the customer – and not just what we are going to do to benefit ourselves.