I love finding quotes in another context that could have been written about proposals. Take this from the Guardian newspaper earlier in the week, interviewing Thomas Bangalter of dance act Daft Punk:
“The only secret to being in control is to have it [from] the start. Retaining control is still hard but obtaining control is virtually impossible.”
He was talking about the media circus surrounding the release of the band’s new album – but the same clearly applies to proposals: if you don’t get your team working in the right way and to a clear plan from the outset, the project is forever going to be a struggle.
OK, so we’ve been quiet here for the past little while – but with, we hope you’ll agree, good reason, as BJ and I have been working away on our forthcoming book. We’re currently putting the finishing touches to ‘Proposal Essentials’: I’m working with our designer Ciara today, and our proofreader’s standing by. The book is scheduled to appear over the summer – and I’m sure we’ll be bringing you more details nearer the time!
We’re also very much looking forward to Bid & Proposal Con in Atlanta at the end of the month. Our topic, inspired by a certain best-selling book? “50 Shades of Great”:
Is proposal development a pleasure – or is it painful for you? Are your proposals compelling, creative and dynamic – or merely grey? Does your organization take a disciplined approach to proposal development -or does your team need to be whipped into shape?
Whether you are a proposal virgin or a proposal master, this session is sure to provide you with new insights that will help you improve the quality of your proposals and the efficiency of your proposal operations.
We’re still debating quite how far we can push the topic. Props? Audience participation? Suffice it to say that I’ll be in Atlanta a couple of days before the conference starts, and have been tasked with buying grey ties for us both before BJ arrives in town…
OK, I confess…. my office is something of a mess. Not in terms of paperwork on projects that I’m running: I can lay my hands on that in a flash. But I’m forever tearing items out from newspapers and magazines, and then finding that they show up a year or more later. “Oh yes,” I then think: “That was interesting!”
One such materialised as if from nowhere on my desk this morning. It’s from The Economist a fair while back, about research into gambling addicts by neuroscientists at Nottingham University. What caught my eye was the opening line of the article, which could almost have been written about bidding:
It is not the thrill of winning, but the thrill of almost winning that sets a problem gambler apart from those who just fancy a flutter.
Not, of course, that I am suggesting that salespeople ‘gamble’ when it comes to bids, wanting to roll the dice whenever they think there’s the slightest chance of success. Or that this is a ‘problem’ needing help (i.e. a much stronger qualification process). Oh no…!
An interesting discussion recently on the age-old topic of “features versus benefits”. Sometimes I find that one has to ask “so what?” twice to get to the real benefits. Here’s one example I rather liked:
“Our laptop has fingerprint security.”
“Well, that improves security, as users don’t have to remember their password. And there’d be fewer calls to the help desk, too.”
But, to me, that only took it so far. “So what” again revealed some much stronger benefits:
Less time spent by Help Desk solving password issues (= saving in IT support costs)
Less time wasted by end-users requesting and awaiting password resets (= cost saving too)
Lower risk of fraudulent or unauthorised access to your information (presumably there’d be data to quantify that as well).
It’s a fun game – and good mindset to be in when working on proposals. What are your favourite “feature versus benefit examples?
I laughed aloud the other week when driving in Ireland with Emma. She’d phoned one of Dublin’s top restaurants to try to book a table for my birthday, which falls on 28th December. (Following the principle established by my friend Sarah, who’s also my PA, I’ll be 36 again this year!).
She asked whether they were open between Christmas and New Year, and the response was just perfect:
“Jesus, God, no; I can’t think of anything worse.”
I hope your bosses think the same way when it comes to proposal centres working over the festive season, and that you have a good break.
While cleaning my office (I find I need to do that every once in a while or it gets difficult to open the door) I came across a CD that I had used as a promotional piece at an annual Southern Proposal Accents Conference (SPAC) a couple of years back.
The theme for that conference (each SPAC always has an interesting theme) was “Proposal Jukebox: Don’t Just Spin It, Rock It!” and the presentation I delivered at this conference was titled, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”.
The CD was designed to look like a music CD. It had the Strategic Proposal tagline, “Passionate about Proposals” as the title, “Mad Rush Records” as the record company and showed that the songs were written and performed by The Proposal Guys.
For the CD I came up with 10 fictitious song titles that related to proposal development. These were:
1. Late Nights, Cold Pizzas
2. Passionate about Proposals
3. The RFP Release Rag
5. Content Discontent
6. Two Week Turnaround Boogie
7. I’m a Proposal Guy
8. Submit This!
9. Do the Right Thing and Do Things Right
10. Let’s Do That Again!
When I came across this CD it occurred to me that reading about this CD might prompt our readers, who are always so creative, to come up with song titles or song lyrics of their own.
We look forward to hearing what you come up with.
An amusing evening recently with a small group of very senior salespeople, who shared their favourite (true) stories from their bidding career. (And I do love good sales folks: they’re such good company and such fun to work with).
The first anecdote concerned a bid to a major Japanese institution. During the pitch, it became obvious that many of the client team didn’t speak especially good English, or really understand the complex solution under discussion. So the bid team started to introduce fictitious information into their explanations. Amongst the financial regulations and indices that would affect the deal were four that were particularly important: ‘R2′, ‘D2,’ ‘C3′ and ‘PO’…
And then there were the days in which financial houses could pretty much name their price for services to ill-informed clients. One offer included an “administration fee” – equivalent, effectively, to pure profit for the bidder, with little actual justification. So, how to fix the amount? Here’s the game they played in some London meetings: look out of the window, spot the number of the third bus to pass, and go with that. If the number 9 bus went past, the admin fee was £9,000; pity the client on the day it was the number 141…
As one of them commented, relating a conversation with a colleague:
“I’m a sales guy at heart.”
“What does that mean?”
“I try to legitimise my lies.”