Episode 13 Key Takeaways

Eve is a psychology enthusiast and bid winning consultant at BidCraft.

Published on 25 April, 2022 | Last modified on 28 May, 2024
the psychology of RFP response processes

In our latest episode of Talk of the Trade, Mike McNary interviewed Eve Upton about the psychology that influences the RFP proposal process. Eve is a psychology enthusiast and bid winning consultant at BidCraft, a proposal and bid service that helps organizations win more complex bids. 

Throughout the episode, Eve shares various findings from psychology that inform how proposals are crafted and consumed. She also offers best practices for organizing your proposal writing committee. Here are three key takeaways from the episode:

Leverage Psychological Principles to Optimize Your Proposal

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To many people, the RFP process appears objective and sterile. A committee at the prospective customer prepares the request for proposal, and sometimes that committee includes more procurement experts than it does users of the requested service. The proposal requires answers to an exhaustive list of questions that tries to standardize your services against other bidders. Meanwhile, your organization assembles a committee of sales people, writers, subject matter experts, and executives to complete the proposal. In the final step, the prospect’s committee evaluates lengthy bid documents from multiple vendors to make their selection.

Where most people see an objective process, Eve sees the opportunity to apply group and individual psychological principles. For example, cognitive psychology offers insights into how individuals read documents, like the F-pattern research from Nielsen Norman Group. Proposal writers should keep that in mind to make sure key points land in the most-read areas of the page so that even skimming committee members remember your selling points.

On the flip side, you can also use group psychology to manage your own proposal response committee. Many teams rely on post-mortem meetings to analyze why a bid was lost, but that leaves you subject to hindsight bias. Eve suggests holding pre-mortems to plan why your proposal will lose the bid. This gives you prospective hindsight, which research suggests increases predictions by 30%.

Eve goes into more examples throughout the episode. The key takeaway is that there is plenty of research being done on how people influence each other in groups and how they interact and understand written content, and the smart proposal team will leverage those findings to optimize your RFP responses. 

Make the Most of Your Relationships

By the time you make it to the RFP invitation, you should have some sort of relationship established with your prospect. Your sales team likely knows the key contacts and their individual personalities as well as the organization’s overarching goals, mission, and values. All of that can inform a proposal tailored to the organization.

First of all, Eve recommends that your sales representatives serve as the voice of the customer throughout the RFP response process. At all times, they should be making sure that your writing team pitches your business in a way that solves the prospect’s unique challenges. For example, if a prospect has expressed a need for 24/7 customer service, your sales representative should ensure that wherever possible, your customer service providings are highlighted. 

Even more than that, Eve suggests using the IKEA effect to get your prospect’s buy-in even before submitting the proposal. Ask your prospect for insight into what they mean by a specific question, or get their help on prioritizing which of your services are most important to them. By getting your key contact to participate in your proposal response, you increase the likelihood of them reading, remembering, and favoring your bid.

Always Ask “So What”? 

Finally, Eve suggests using the “so what” barometer to make sure every part of your proposal speaks to the prospect’s needs (not your own company’s ego). Why does your proposal reader care about how many locations you have? What does it matter that you have hundreds of employees across the globe? How does it impact your prospect to know that you are a minority-owned business?

By always asking “so what,” you’ll make sure your proposal is oriented towards the prospect and what they care about, rather than simply providing templated answers that will disengage the selection committee.

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