Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Question that Makes Sales and Wins Proposals

There is a question that, if answered, gives you the insight to make sales and win proposals.

I was invited to teach a class with Dr. Robert Frey, author of Successful Proposal Strategies for Small Businesses, at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in association with TargetGov. During our class, Dr. Frey said that, when possible, he always asks future clients a very specific question (the wording is important), “How would you paint a picture of success on this task/project/program now and going forward?” 

It is a question that, according to Dr. Frey, uncovers a spectrum of critical information. I couldn’t agree more. The following are four reasons this question must always be asked:
  1. Asking the future client to “paint a picture” encourages them to visualize the solution. In doing so, emotions are heightened and there is a more profound understanding and communication of their goals and challenges. The future client’s deepest hopes (benefits) and biggest fears (risks) are often shared.
  2. The future client gives backstory and connects the dots. They may also share unstated needs and concerns. For example, an RFP may read, “The offeror shall include three examples of quality control (QC) measures that eliminated errors on similar programs.” When asked the “paint a picture” question, the future client may reveal that they had great pain in the past due to poor quality control. Specifically, the QC process was skipped. Therefore, the examples should demonstrate that the quality control process would be adhered to in any situation. The question uncovers the logic behind the RFP requirements and exposes what keeps the future client awake at night.
  3. The words success, now, and going forward included in the question help to reveal short and long term considerations in the answer. Has the future client thought months, years, decades ahead? How far into the future? Is the path from today to tomorrow clear? Now is the time to know.
  4. The answer to the question ensures the future client and the solution provider are on the same page. For example, if I asked you to think of an office chair, what do you picture? If I ask another person to think of an office chair, do you think they will picture the same chair? Unlikely. For this reason, it is wise not to assume anything. Remain curious and ask clarifying questions so you can visualize the picture your future client is painting. Most sales documents and proposals fall prey to two egregious errors. Practice the following to avoid making these mistakes:
    a) Never paint part of their picture. If they are struck, help them paint it themselves. You want the future client to be 100% invested in their depiction of the solution, which you will deliver.
    b) Never paint your picture and hope that you can convince the evaluators or decision makers that your solution should be theirs. 

Next, Dr. Frey recommends creating a graphic that clearly illustrates that vision. Use the future client’s exact words and ideas in the graphic. Use this graphic as your roadmap.

Dr. Frey has had great success asking this simple question. Follow Dr. Frey's example, and you will make sales and win more proposals.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

4 Ways to Win During Sequestration

I'm back at Washington Technology sharing my tips for winning during these uncertain economic times. Please drop by and share your thoughts on sequestration and government bids.


4 Ways to Win During Sequestration
Expect fewer opportunities and stiffer competition in 2013 for government contracts. Layoffs, budget cuts, and price shoot-outs will be commonplace. To win in 2013, you need strategies. Consider this “4-D” approach:

1) Diversify. Can your existing solutions help commercial companies? If so, refocus (and rebrand, if needed) your products and services to support small and large commercial companies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions. There is likely an underserved niche or an unanswered challenge that you can solve with your existing solutions. . . .

Click here to read more.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Magical 2-in-1 Deck by Nolan Haims

Today the BDG blog welcomes Nolan Haims—former Presentation Director for Edelman who now oversees his own design firm, Nolan Haims Creative—as a guest blogger. I met Nolan at the Presentation Summit and was blown away by his workshop and the helpful PowerPoint tips he taught his audience. In fact, his workshop was so popular, he was asked to present again on the last day of the conference. The secrets he shares in our blog are guaranteed to make you a presentation magician.

The best presenters know not to hand out their on-screen slides as a leave behind for their audiences. But when under the gun and without time to create a separate more detailed handout, distributing slides is sometimes unavoidable in the corporate world.

To address this problem at Edelman, we created the “Magical 2-in-1 Deck,” a solution which exploits PowerPointʼs option to customize Notes View through the Notes Master. The result is a single PowerPoint presentation that looks one way on screen (minimal text), and a very different way when printed or made into a PDF as a leave behind (much more detailed text.) Hereʼs how it works...

Design your slides first and foremost for on-screen display. This means large and limited text and a preference for strong imagery. Write your speaker notes and place them like you might normally do into the notes section.

At this point, if you wanted to print and hand out your Notes Pages, you would be stuck with PowerPointʼs ugly default layout, shown below. This just screams “lazy,” and it is. But weʼre not done yet.
Go into the view for your Notes Master, and youʼll find that just as with your Slide Master, you have the choice of customizing your Notes pages any way you like. A more standard use of a custom-designed Notes Master would be to keep the portrait layout and reduce the slide thumbnail, leaving a healthy portion of the page for detailed text and supporting materials for this slide. Taking this route would be a great gift for your audience, but hereʼs my problem with this solution: Itʼs dangerously close to creating that second, separately designed handout that we originally had no time for. And if a presenter is editing his or her content at the 11th hour, a handout like this is going to feel psychologically like double the work. The next thing you know, all that detailed content is getting slapped on screen and handed out. Weʼre right back to our initial problem.

So hereʼs where the 2-in-1 Deck comes in: The first thing to do is to change the page orientation of the Notes Master to landscape—just like your on-screen slide layout. Then, just make a few design adjustments, so that your notes field becomes a sidebar add-on—almost like a souped up footnote. You can apply basic text and background formatting to the notes field, but donʼt go overboard. This view is now a print document and should be treated as such. Use 11-point type.

Now, if you have written your more detailed content for each slide in the notes field, all you need to do when ready to create your handout is to Print: Notes Pages or Save As PDF: Options: Publish: Notes Pages. All of your notes are automagically formatted for you into a completely different looking document. Voila!

If you wish, you can go into each individual notes page and further stylize the text or the entire layout on a slide by slide basis like we did with the blue subheads above. The important part of this is that if you donʼt want to think about creating two different documents, you donʼt have to.

And thatʼs the Magical 2-in-1 Deck.

Special thanks to Edelman and my New York Presentation design team who helped develop this technique.


After careers in theatre and the circus, Nolan Haims moved into the world of presentation, designing presentations for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions and all the major television networks. Currently Nolan is Presentation Director for Edelman, the world's largest PR company. He writes about visual communication at PresentYourStory.com.