In this podcast, I’m covering an often overlooked issue that can sink your proposal – a simple thing called perception.

Perception can be a problem for you when writing your RFQ or RFP proposal response in two ways. First, your perception of the client and their requirements may not be true, and could taint your proposal response. Second, the client’s perception of your organization and your service may not be valid, yet it will influence how they evaluate your proposal.

In “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, their 4th law of marketing is the law of perception. The authors say marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.

This is true of proposals as well.

First, we’ll discuss how your perception of the client can impact your success, then we’ll tackle their perceptions of you – an even more damaging issue.

First, Your perception of the client

It’s very important to base your proposal response strategy on fact and information, not your perceptions, since perceptions are often incorrect.

One of the easiest ways to alienate the reviewers is to frame your message around something you perceive is true when it isn’t. Since the client is doing the evaluation, they have the facts and the data, and they understand their circumstance. If you don’t abandon your preconceived notions and establish the facts, you may miss the mark or even offend the client.

Make sure that information you use as a basis for your response, or when developing your strategy, isn’t rumor or somebody’s perception of the client. Do more research and challenge opinions until you’re convinced you have facts and a solid understanding of the client.

Even information you get from the client’s past employees should be verified and carefully considered. The information will always be filtered through personal experiences, and even their position within the organization or it’s too old to reflect the client properly

Second, their perception of you

The client’s perception of you and your capabilities easily influences their evaluation of your proposal, even when there’s a rigid evaluation matrix and criteria. It’s simply human nature.

Because of the impact of perception, it’s important to understand the rumors, innuendo or other perceptions in the marketplace about you.

This includes the perception of senior members of the client organization, the individuals performing the evaluation, and any consultants or transaction advisors, including technical experts, involved in the process. This is especially important if the participants don’t have first-hand experience working with you.

There may be perceptions you need to counteract.

For instance, one of your contracts wasn’t renewed and you lost the business. Almost certainly there will be rumors and innuendo in your industry about why you lost the business, most likely negative, and this will have an impact on the evaluators.

Through your network and through discussions with other people in the industry, you need to get an honest idea of how you’re perceived in the industry. If you’ve worked on proposals for this client, you hopefully gained some information as a result of either successful or unsuccessful bids, and have an understanding of what their perception may be. This is another reason why debriefings are very important and can provide you with information you need to improve your bids going forward.

Also, if there are key procurement or outsourcing consultants who work on RFP’s you often respond to, introduce your company to them and seek input and feedback between proposals. It’s in their interests to understand the marketplace and clear up any perceptions so that they can provide the best possible advice to their clients.

If you know there’s an RFP coming out, contact the client and have discussions in advance. Ask direct and probing questions to get the client’s impressions before the RFP is issued and your communications are limited.

Whenever you hear about a negative perception, deal with it directly as if it were real. Don’t discount it because you know it isn’t true. As long as others believe it, it will have the same effect as if it were true.

Either clear up the perceptions before the RFP is issued, or deal with it through facts and information in your proposal. Don’t be afraid to identify the perception and then demonstrate why it isn’t true. Leaving any doubt will have a negative impact on your proposal.

Now you know how to deal with the simple yet damaging issue of perception that can prevent you from winning.

Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website