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2015: Interesting Stuff

15th December 2015: 7 Life Skills That Tech Will Make Obsolete in 2016

Image courtesy of Matt Banks at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh, what a shame. Apparently, cursive writing, addressing and mailing letters, map reading, library skills, face-to-face communication and taking photos (that aren't selfies) will all fade away next year. And, our patience and attention spans will take a dive too. And all because of technology. I really do find this sad. Call me old-fashioned, but I still like to know I can write - even though my cursive is appalling as a result of too much typing. I like to send and receive letters, sometimes - even though it has become a treat. I like to look at a map and get the context of where I am going. And you can't beat talking to someone in person and admiring a beautiful photograph. Library skills, fair enough, I can't say I've used them in a while. As for attention spans, yes I am as guilty as anyone of flitting around and trying to do far too many things at once, not to mention feeling overwhelmed by information. I do like it when I find an article rebelling against the demise of tradition and singing the praises of a simpler, uncluttered life and mind. Maybe 2016 will be the year of the backlash? Anyway, enjoy the full article by Lance Ulanoff for Mashable.

3rd November 2015: Tech SMEs Call for More Effective use of Government Procurement Tools

To better understand the views of SMEs operating in the public sector technology market, techUK undertook a comprehensive survey to capture their experience on the ground. The resulting report is based on the views of 171 SMEs and sets out a small number of clear recommendations which techUK is urging the Government to act on now. i4 participated in the survey and attended an event on 3rd November where Sally Collier commented on the work: "We know that small businesses can be highly innovative and have the expertise we need to secure more value for the public sector. That's why Government is changing the way it does business to open up public sector procurement to more small businesses. Already, 26% of government spend flows directly and indirectly to small businesses and by 2020, this is set to rise to 33%." 

23rd October 2015: Honing the Edge

I enjoyed the APMP Conference this year - Honing the Edge. We heard from AP McCoy on how his attitude and belief kept him winning. Richard Fallon taught us how to adapt our communication to suit our audience. And Jim McNaughtie told some excellent tales out of school from his repertoire of political interviews. The conference website has a bevvy of photos including yours truly on stage with Richard Fallon having bravely volunteered to do some communications role playing.

My workshop presentation on Ethos, Pathos, Logos went down well. I explored different ways to weave Aristotle's three appeals on the page. I'll be turning that into an article before the end of the year, so watch this space.  

6th October 2015: Chop, Chop, Chop 

Chop, chop, chop. I read a blog some time ago with that title. It made me think. When I teach proposal writing, a key message is 'keep you writing tight'. By tight, I mean succinct and punchy with short words and short sentences. Avoid the long and the complicated. I am in good company...

Research by psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton University confirmed in five separate experiments that people who write simply are thought to be smarter. George Orwell said: "never use a foreign word, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent". In "On Writing Well", William Zinsser states: "most first drafts can be cut by 50%", and he sets his students that task. I will be pulling together a list of ways to pare back writing over the next few weeks. Until then, enjoy Henneke Duistermaat's blog on adverbs

5th August 2015: As If By Magic

Last year, I came up with the concept of "the pixies that write proposals in the cupboard under the stairs overnight". The image this thought invokes plays to the lack of respect afforded to the role of proposal management and writing. In my latest full-length articleI present the key to effective proposal resourcing to help you produce a compelling document by good management and not good luck with a sprinkle of pixie dust.

12th July 2015: UK Bid & Proposal Salary Survey

Congratulations to Bid Solutions for their latest UK Bid & Proposal Salary Survey; it represents the most comprehensive study ever undertaken. The survey successfully delivered against its six stated aims: 

  1. Provide employers and employees with accurate salary data 
  2. Report on significant salary changes since the 2012 Survey 
  3. Align salary data to specific roles and responsibilities, rather than job title alone 
  4. Assess job satisfaction of those working within the bid and proposal industry 
  5. Increase participation (800 in 2012) 
  6. Deliver a bespoke online tool that allows individuals to benchmark their own salary and role against alternative locations, industries, and experience levels. 

In total, 1,200 people from across the UK contributed to the survey. Bid Solutions is confident that employers, employees and self-employed consultants will find the results valuable for the purposes of salary benchmarking, staff retention, peer review and career planning. 

25th June 2015: If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter

So many people have been credited with this quote over the centuries: Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Voltaire, Goethe, Winston Churchill, Pliny the Younger, Cato, Cicero, Bill Clinton, Blaise or Pascale and Benjamin Franklin. It matters not, but the point of the quote does, indeed, matter.

 

John de Forte, of de Forte Associates, treated us to his rendition of this subject at today's APMP evening meeting. In his usual inimitable style, he started with his view of the top issues that cause poor responses: irrelevance; VETS (verbal earworms and tics!); implicit restatement; congestion; FAG (formality, authority and gravity); space eaters (line spacing, bullet points and widows and orphans). Check out his presentation on the APMP website for more explanation of the weirder ones in that list.

 

John then guided us through a poor response to a genuine question from a customer's tender. We worked in small groups to decide how we would have made the answer shorter and more compelling. John's approach was to distill the top four messages the supplier wanted to make and use those as sub-headings against which to state the most important supporting facts. 

 

However any of us would have re-written it, we were all in agreement that lengthy, verbose and flowery language is neither clever nor attractive. It simply serves to frustrate.

15th May 2015: Top Dog

I've just finished reading 'Top Dog: Impress and Influence Everyone You Meet' by Andy Bounds and Richard Ruttle. It's an engaging read. Especially if you tune into dogs. Using dog behaviour - both individual and pack - the authors build up an analogy of how we can all act to create better senior level relationships. Much of it is common sense, but there are some interesting gems. Like, don't thank a senior person for their time on the basis it suggests their time is more important than yours. Before you say 'but that's just common courtesy' (my immediate reaction) consider that instead of saying thank you, you could simply say you enjoyed the time you spent with them. Good point - much more refreshing. As always with Andy Bounds' books, this is a quick and easy read and full of good ideas that you can immediately put into practice to help you stand out from the crowd - when selling and bidding.

25th April 2015: 'You lost on price'

How many times have you heard those words? It's the easiest way for buyers to give you the bad news. They didn't choose you, so they want a quick way out of an awkward conversation. But, unless you are selling a commodity, it's hardly ever true. Even in the public sector, with transparent evaluation models, people still buy from people they like and trust. If you really know your buyers and they want to buy from you, your proposal will provide the logical justification for their choice. It will be a natural conclusion to the long process of forming a strong relationship. Don't get me wrong. You still have to produce a compliant and compelling proposal that hits the high scores, but you will make it easy for them to select you. David Tovey's article 'Did Price Really Lose The Sale?' resonates with these key messages. So, next time you lose a sale, conduct a professional 'lessons learnt' review with your client. Use it as a the first step to understanding if you can shake any existing supplier relationships and to begin to form your own bond.

1st April 2015: Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

Expressing value in your proposals is probably the hardest thing to do. It's difficult enough to get people to express quantified benefits, let alone true value. But it isn't just in proposals that value is important - it’s throughout the entire business development lifecycle. When built early and in conjunction with the customer, value is powerful and credible.

 

Value is often covered in sales methodologies and some salespeople have a good go at building it, but it’s easily forgotten in proposal development especially if the brief from the sales team to the proposal team is scant or non-existent. This article from i4 explores what value is, why it’s so important and how you can express it. 

26th February 2015: New UK Public Contract Regulations

The new EU Procurement Directive has now been transposed into UK law. The new UK Public Contract Regulations were published today. They include some key recommendations from Lord Young's report designed to encourage SME participation. Headlines for SMEs include: you should now get paid on undisputed invoices within 30 days; you will see all opportunities on Contracts Finder; no more PQQs for smaller opportunities; a new "innovation partnership" procedure might help you develop and sell products and services. As always with these things, the devil is in the detail - call me if you want to know more. 

 

15th February 2015: 14 Secrets of Really Persuasive People

I remember reading Emotional Intelligence several years ago. It changed my outlook on many things. And, although I know for sure I don't practice eveything it preaches, it made me much more self-aware and, I hope, better at my job as a salesperson and proposal professional. It's interesting to see Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is now on the streets, which I found via an excellent Linked In Pulse post by co-author Dr Travis Bradberry. "14 Secrets of Really Persuasive People" gives a super little checklist of characteristics that I will re-visit time and again as I herd the posse of folk required to get a proposal out on time. For quick reference, we're talking about: knowing our audience; connecting; not being pushy, or mousy; using positive body language; being clear and concise, and genuine; acknowledging other people's points of view; asking good questions; painting pictures; creating strong first impressions; knowing when to step back; greeting people by name; pleasing people; smiling; and putting all the above together! Oh, and if you want to know about the broccoli, go to the full article!   

21st January 2015: "How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings"

Oh, what great advice. Say no to attending a meeting! If you want some guidance and encouragement to take this brave step, watch this super TED talk by David Grady - "How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings." 

But let's turn it around. As bid or sales professionals, let's get back to basics. Meeting basics. Every meeting should have objectives, an agenda and a timeslot beforehand, and minutes and actions (each of which should have an owner and completion date) afterwards. Every meeting participant should have a role to play and value to add. The meeting itself should be chaired and kept on topic and on time. And there should be ground rules - try no mobile phones and no laptops, "one out, all out" and how about applying the rules of the famous BBC radio show "Just a Minute" - no hesitation, deviation or repetition. Whether we are running a key proposal review or an account planning meeting, we should set a good example and help ourselves as well as David Grady's crusade.  

1st January 2015: Creativity is Developed; it's Not a Birthright

What a great way to start the new year. In his blog, "9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next 10 Minutes", Larry Kim, Founder and CTO of WordStream, encourages us to unleash our inner creativity. From doodling to sketching, from role-playing to going for a walk, Kim covers a range of activities all within our power to just get on and do.

This is important because we must engage our right brains (the creative side) as much as our left brains (the logical side) to maintain harmony and balance in our personal and professional lives.

When we are developing proposals, it is easy to get wrapped up in the detail of requirements, compliance matrices, schedules, timing and tasks. But we should give equal time and brain power to the writing, graphics and presentation. By melding our logic and creativity, we stand a better chance of achieving the important balance espoused by Aristotle of ethos, logos and pathos in our proposals. 

 
 

The Government Commitment to SMEs

The UK government aspires to procure 33% of its goods and services from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

Sounds good, but it can be daunting for those new to public sector bidding, who do not understand procurement rules and fear the red tape. 

If you need help, contact sarah@i4salesperformance.co.uk

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