Selling Professional Services
Why Great Proposals Don’t Win You More Clients
Love them or hate them, for many businesses competitive bids are unavoidable.
You know the ones. You have to send in a proposal, present your plan to a gathering of the great and good. Answer a bunch of tricky questions.
Here's my experience:
You don't win by doing great proposals. You don't even win by doing great presentations.
You can lose by having a rubbish proposal and a rubbish presentation of course. And you can edge ahead when it's neck and neck. But it's unlikely that a brilliant proposal and presentation will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
You win in these competitive situations by going in ahead.
Having the odds stacked in your favour before the process starts.
Once someone thinks you're the right person for the job, good old confirmation bias sets in. The evidence they then see that confirms you're the right choice seems to stand out. The stuff that favours others gets ignored.
Doesn't always happen that way. But it happens a lot. Enough to make a huge difference.
That's why the guys who spend their time monitoring websites for news of the latest tenders they can bid on are usually the last to buy a round at the bar. Chances are they've lost before they even throw their hat in the ring.
How do you get ahead of the game?
You build relationships with key buyers way before they start looking to hire someone.
You can start that relationship in many ways.
You can target potential clients (think: Linkedin) and look for common connections to refer you in.
You can present your best material at events they're likely to attend, or write articles in publications they read. Online and print. Or send them a copy of your book if you've got one.
You can do what I do and promote your content through targeted online advertising (note, I said promote my content, not my services).
Loads of ways. If you can't find one you're really not trying hard enough.
But that first connection's not the tricky bit.
The tricky bit is following up, building that relationship.
More details on how to do that soon. For now, to summarise:
- The best way to win competitive bids is to start way out in pole position.
- The best way to do that is to establish credibility and trust with key buyers well in advance of them looking for help.
- To do that you're going to have to work at it. Look exhaustively for avenues to connect. It's not going to drop in your lap.
And please, please, please: don't become one of those opportunity chasers who spends half their life writing proposals and responding to tenders and RFPs without winning anything but the worst of them.