"In any battle you need a strong team. I would prefer to have you on my team than my competitors.”  Past Blog Contributor

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nFold has two blogs you can follow to improve your proposals and keep in touch. Read the latest posts below or click on the tip names to see the blog archives.

nFold Proposal Tips

Based on best practice and experience, these tips from Sandy Pullinger on a wide range of proposal topics will inspire you as you learn the art and science of proposals and tenders.

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Relax and enjoy the tales of friendly witch and proposal pioneer Wendy Word as she keeps you in touch with the latest news in the local South African proposal community.

nFold Proposal Tips

Don't TELL it, rather SELL your solution

Writing to persuade is very different from writing to inform, just as telling is not the same as selling. People with sales experience seem to write better proposals. Unfortunately, many proposals fail to persuade because the authors focus on what rather than why. They focus on telling rather than selling.

Audience, Purpose & Structure

In his book “The Language of Success”, Tom Sant talks about adapting your business writing to suit the audience and choosing the right structure to achieve your purpose. For example, he argues that if you want to inform the readers of a newspaper then you start with the broadest most important facts and include more specific details later. He calls this the funnel structure.

Winning by a NOSE

If we want to persuade our target audience then Tom Sant suggests that we must match the psychology of decision-making. When making decisions, people ask themselves: am I getting what I want, can you do it, are you giving me value for money and why should I pick you? So in our proposals we need to provide the right information in the right order to win the deal. Start with Needs, then Outcomes before outlining your Solution and providing Evidence that you’re the right choice. Tom Sant calls this the persuasive structure or NOSE.

Aligned to Sales

The persuasive structure for proposals aligns well with popular sales methodologies. This alignment is important because the purpose of a proposal is to advance the sales process. And a good proposal is one that wins. We encourage sales folks to ask customers about the problems they are experiencing and what they hope to achieve by overcoming these problems. Only then does the good salesman show customers how our solution aligns with their goals before overcoming obstacles in their path to moving forward with us rather than the competition.

Does it work?

In our training we offer delegates several example of executive summaries to review. In my experience, about 80% of delegates prefer a persuasive structure written according to best practice principles. And that’s usually before we teach them anything. So I would definitely argue in favour of using the NOSE structure in your proposals. A customer survey conducted by Qvidian (formerly The Sant Corporation), way back when, concluded that people who use this structure win 30% more than those who try to inform.

Readers Rule

I know that very few people enjoy writing proposals, or reading them for that matter. For me the joy in writing proposals springs from the fact that each one is different. What I am selling is different, the decision-makers vary, and the competition changes. I like to get under the skin of the people reading the proposal so that I can focus on what matters to them and give them some good reasons to pick what I’m selling rather than choosing an alternative. This art lies at the heart of a good proposal and makes it a joy to read.

Posted 183 weeks ago

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Having a bad hair day

Sandy says that when she hit send on her last proposal tip, she began to feel chronic symptoms related to holiday brain fever and error mania.

Have you ever typed an email, got distracted, hit send in a hurry, and skipped the quality checking step or paid it lip service only? Heard the expression more haste less speed?

Then maybe you too have had the same symptoms. Nausea. Emotional trauma related to a perfectionist making any error whatsoever. And turning bright red because you haven’t done anything quite so stupid since you were 3?

A tip to the tipper…cutting and pasting introduces errors. Only use it in a proposal or email campaign when your source content is ‘clean’ of date or customer specific details.

Sandy’s response is the same one she gives to her children. Sorry! Guilty as charged. Do what I say, don’t do what I do.

Posted 169 weeks ago

Getting it right the first time

On the 8th of October 2015,  an eager bunch of Group Bid Office recruits attended the two-day Right First Time Bid and Proposal Management training at the EOH Head offices, along with several people from other business units.

In the session Sandy Pullinger covered everything from creating a compelling Executive Summary, writing efficiently all the way to ensuring that delegates create a compliant and comprehensive winning proposal.

The normal expectation for training sessions, such as these, is that you listen for 16 hours over a 2 day period and hope that you have something useful to report back on. Most Bid Mangers in the EOH Bid Office already have extensive experience in running a tender process with years of experience behind them. Still, they said that the session taught them something new and helped them to discover practical ways to enhance what they already DO know.

Posted 179 weeks ago

Winner takes all

Last night I attended the APMP annual general meeting. It was the last meeting chaired by Sally Jacques. We’ll miss your sense of humour and inspirational leadership, Sally. I’m flying some flowers to you on my broomstick to say thanks for all you have done to take the association to the next level. Our new APMP chair person is Izane Cloete-Hamilton. We expect great things from the new boss lady. Onward and upward.

I was excited to find out that Barclays Africa won the last nFold proposal award. Well done Marlize and Elmien on your steady progress year by year and the truly excellent proposal that you submitted this year! Finalists in 2015 were Tracy-Ann Damons for quantifying the payback and Reza Forouhar for differentiation. For 5 years, nFold has sponsored the award.

Here is a happy snap I took of all the winners with their cheezy trophies. From left to right, Marlize Schwar (Barclays Africa) 2015, Belinda Engelbrecht (Aurecon) 2011, and Larissa Cornelius (EOH) 2012-2014. You go girls!

Posted 182 weeks ago

To certify, or not to certify

…moot is the question. Another 18 brilliant proposal people passed the APMP certification exam in August, bringing the total in SA to about 130. Yee haa!

APMP is the first best and only globally recognized certification for proposal pioneers like you and me.

Tell your friends to register for the next certification event planned for April 2016. Study group sessions kick off on 18 January, so be sure to register before then. You can book online: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/11967-apmp-foundation-certification-and-exam/#/schedules.

Be there or be square.

Posted 187 weeks ago

Of Cowboys and Soldiers

I attended the 6th annual APMP SA Conference on 23 July. The topic was Prepare Produce Propose Present. Try saying that quickly three times in a row after a glass of wine and you’re sure to put your tongue in a twist!

Sandy spoke about what to do before the RFP arrives and presented a tale of two bids: one managed by cowboys where everything goes wrong, and another managed by soldiers where planning pays off. She made the point abundantly clear that you cannot rely on luck but should rather plan to win. Sandy looks good in a cowboy hat, but not as good as Clint Eastwood.

Posted 193 weeks ago