The Other Side (part three)

In my first post on this subject, I discussed the importance of understanding how Government evaluators think and act as a guide for what those of us on the industry side of the fence need to think about and do in our proposals. I then introduced the first of three key things to know about Government proposal evaluation: Evaluators don’t read proposals; they scan them and score them.

In the second post of the series, I continued the discussion with the second thing proposal professionals must understand: People buy from those they know and trust. This point is important because it reminds us that we also need to understand how evaluators make decisions–because that affects how we write our proposals.

I conclude the series with this post, which focuses on the third key thing to understand about happens on the “other side”:

Proposals have multiple “customers.”

Whereas contracts typically have just one customer, in the source selection process every evaluator is a different customer—with different likes and dislikes, preferences, biases, filters, wants and desires, Hot Buttons and Pain Points. Your proposal is not directed at just one, monolithic customer; it must be addressed to multiple different people, each with their own unique knowledge base, evaluation approach, and personality.

To the extent that you can identify, ahead of time, who will be involved in source selection and what matters to each of them, you will be ahead of the game. Then you can tailor your proposal to those specific individuals. For example:

  • Specifically address each evaluator’s particular Hot Buttons or Pain Points, needs, desires, etc. As much as you can, make sure you give each evaluator the feeling that you are “scratching their itch” in a direct, personal way.
  • If you have had the chance to speak with members of the source selection team ahead of time, pay careful to what they say and how they say it. Note their specific words—and then mirror that terminology in your proposal. Notice what they don’t say as well–sometimes the silences speak louder than the words.
  • Make sure your presentation appeals to how different evaluators assimilate information most effectively: Incorporate narrative for the verbal people, powerful graphics for people who are visual learners, data and metrics for numbers people. In most cases, you’ll need to have some balance of these elements, because it’s unlikely that all of the evaluators are the same type of people.

In brief, tailor your proposal to *all* of the different “customers” for the document—i.e., the evaluators. Make them feel as if your proposal is addressed to them personally, and you can take advantage of the (mostly subconscious) impact of that appeal. It won’t win the day for you by itself, but it may give you at least a marginal advantage over your competitors.

So, there you have it: Understand how evaluators approach proposals, whom they trust, and how to appeal to them as individuals, and you’ll maximize your chances of scoring highly. By applying the principles and suggestions I’ve offered, you can bring “the other side” over to your side.

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