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Is Your Organization Guilty of the "Spray and Pray"?

In the previous entry, we talked about how building trust is the key to advancing your position of preference with the customer - and ultimately increasing your odds of winning their business.

In this entry, I want to talk about what it's like to do the opposite.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Have you ever gotten an email with this subject line:

"FW: FW : FW: You're invited: Request For Proposal No. 12345"

It first went to Larry in Legal, who sent it to Mary in Marketing, who sent it to Brian in Business Development, who then sent it to you. His note says in the email chain "This is a GREAT opportunity! We have to bid!"

You, roll up your sleeves, pull the emergency brake on all of your other work, and put in 36 straight hours to turn around a response in time, since you got the RFP a week late. After you submit, you never hear a word from the issuer.

One week later, another one comes in just like this one. And another. And another.

This is the "spray and pray" where you're spraying your company message around to everyone, and praying that something comes through. A.K.A. The "respond to everything" approach. A.K.A. The "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" methodology.

It's exhausting, it's not a strategy, and it doesn't work.

To be fair, we've been conditioned since childhood not to "put all of our eggs in one basket". Naturally, most people draw the same conclusion: that to win more business, you have to "cast a wider net". With proposals, it doesn't matter how wide the net is because you're not catching fish. In fact, it's not like catching fish at all. It's more like dating. I don't know about you, but my husband didn't catch me in a net with 200 other women...

I met a really awesome proposal writer at the last Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) conference in 2021 who described his work as being like "The Mystery Date Game". He said "My job is to make the nerd behind the door sound like a hunk!"

After I could finally breathe again, I knew he was exactly right. The whole buyer journey is like dating.

Every decision we make as humans starts with an emotion - whether it's conscious or subconscious. A split second later, we back it up with logic. That includes decisions to buy something. Go ahead and think about that for a second. Think about the last time you bought something totally random. You probably felt a spark of something inside that was simply "I want it". The next moment you might have thought "Well I need this. I'm out of X" or "My last one broke" or "OMG, I want this to sit on my desk so I can look at it all day" (True story - I have a tiny corgi made out of Lego-like bricks on my desk for this reason).

If the whole buyer journey is like dating, that means that building a sales relationship with a customer is the part of the strategy to get the customer to feel something. That's the emotional component. The proposal is the logic used to back up that decision.

TIP: A good proposal can't win your business for you, but it can lose it. How scary is that? It's important that you submit a really good proposal when you've put in all of that effort up front to build a relationship with the customer, otherwise the customer may not come to the logical conclusion that they need your solution. (They can tell something isn't quite right behind that door...)

"But - these customers need to at least learn who we are!" Fair point - but you don't have to do that through responding to a proposal you're not suited to win. Instead, you can send a killer Decline to Bid letter with supplemental information. Read on for a sample Decline to Bid Letter that creates awareness and builds trust!

To summarize, don't get in the habit of doing the "spray and pray". A cold proposal is not the most effective way to get a customer to feel the emotion they need to make the decision to buy your solution - and doing it over and over is a a really inefficient way to use your resources. Proposals are a much more effective tool for selling to warm prospects.

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