The first sale is to yourself

What goes through your mind when you’re faced with a big, juicy opportunity that you would really love to win? Requests for Tender present exactly that kind of opportunity. The pot of gold that a huge contract might bring looks as shiny and enticing as a lotto win. On the flip side, there’s sky-high anxiety when teams are forced to re-compete for business already worth millions to them – and that competitors now also have the opportunity to bid for.

Because competing for business is so stressful, pretty much everyone’s first reaction is to start babbling about themselves and why they deserve to win. Left unchecked, the proposal will reflect that kind of shallow, self-centred thinking and the underlying current of anxiety it came from. This is very off-putting to buyers, who - like the rest of us - are wired to tune out at the first sign of a sales pitch.

Jakob Nielsen, an expert in website usability, did an experiment to measure the way that writing style affects selling on the web. He concluded that “promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users, who have to spend resources on filtering out the hyperbole to get at the facts. When people read a paragraph that starts ‘Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions,’ their first reaction is ‘no, it's not!’, and this thought slows them down and distracts them from using the site.”

Therefore, when you’re writing a proposal to convince a buyer, the first and most important sale is to yourself. It’s essential to take the time to define your proposal strategy - what the customer most wants, what you can best deliver, and what positions you most favourably against competitors. This gives you access to the most powerful competitive weapon you could ever have; belief in your ability to make a difference for the customer.

Despite this, most organisations don’t have a good methodology to define proposal strategy. It’s common to see less than 5% of proposal development time devoted to strategy, and this usually amounts to kicking around “our points of difference” - the output from which then gets translated into the proposal as some kind of laundry list titled “Why You Should Choose Us.”  Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for ourselves will never be as compelling as enthusiasm for what the customer wants to achieve and how we can help them to achieve it. Or as Dale Carnegie puts it in How To Win Friends and Influence People, "the only way on earth to influence others is to talk to them about what they want and show them how to get it."

The Persuasive Tender and Proposal Writing Master Class provides many valuable tools and techniques to help you to develop your proposal from the customer’s point of view. For example, you will be trained in my Bid Strategy and Purchaser Value Topics Development Methodology, which is licensed and used by organisations in very competitive industries that consistently win almost everything they bid for. Watch the video to find out more.