NewsnFold ResourcesThe Psychology of Bidding

March 11, 2020by Larissa Cornelius


“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop.  It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.” — William Bernbach (1911–1982), American advertising creative director.

At the recent APMP BPC Europe Conference I heard a concept that fascinated me being: “100% of decisions made are emotional.” Yes, the concept was 100% of decisions are emotional.

That is one way to describe decision making, but the psychology behind this is a little more complex. In trying to keep it simple, I will attempt to explain my take, hopefully giving you some practical tips and some food for thought.


Paul Maclean, American Neuroscientist in the 1960’s formulated the model of the ‘Triune Brain’ or the three brains. He divided the brain into three regions – primal, emotional, and rational brain. These three sections are often associated with the gut, heart, and head.

Psychology plays a vital role in the science of winning business. The art is in mastering the skills, tools, and techniques to effectively trigger the right elements that influence decision making. This process is called “persuasion”.

This process takes place in the “three brains”:

  1. Your primal brain or gut brain is at the base of everything, especially in triggering decision making. This brain is your reactionary brain, it is always on to ensure that your survival and base needs are met. It is here where your emotional brain gets trigged.
  2. The emotional or heart brain is where most of the decision-making magic happens.
  3. Lastly, your logical or head brain needs to justify decisions to finalize them. Often you have multiple parties evaluating a bid process – placing further emphasis on justification to create satisfaction. We here to add value, not create buyer’s remorse.

Now that we know the “three brains” how do we use this to assist us in creating winning bids?

“Focus on the pain to get attention and on the gain to get commitment”

You want the primal brain on your side. To do this you need to focus on the pain to get attention and then on the gain to get commitment. We resonate more with preventing loss and reducing pain than we do with gain, but once our base needs are met, the higher up Maslow’s hierarchy we will need to address.

The tools you use here is to focus on the customers underlying needs or whatever is keeping them up at night. Placate this brain by creating a safe, familiar or relatable environment in your proposal.


The key tools here should be used to minimize cognitive dissonance (a complicated way of saying you want the customer to like you, relate to you and buy-into what you are saying) are:

  • Bidding is not about you or your business, it is about the customer. Customers don’t really care about you, not until you satisfy what they will get out of it.
  • The words you use need to resonate with the audience to take them on a clear journey of value that keeps them engaged, while visuals add power, clarity and impact. Use words and visuals and colors that will resonate with your customers and bring your message home.
  • Lastly use the power or stories to really connect. Stories get various aspects of the brain and body chemicals working. Use stories of the underdog achieving success, hero stories where your customer is the hero, day to day wins and journeys or stories where all odds are surmounted.

Stories, words, and visuals have immense emotional power.


By providing tangible value, quantifying your payback, and giving credible evidence, YOU empower your customers to justify their decisions.


“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” — Jim Rohn

Good content will always depend on how well we deliver it, how much impact it has and how successful it was in delivering the message. Putting it simply, the rule of three works on how our brains work and processes information. The human brain is absolutely brilliant at becoming comfortable with patterns that are found quickly as it is largely due to necessity and survival (the brain requires less on-the-spot thinking and helps intuitive behaviour). More memorable information, resulting in more comfort comes from a combination of pattern formation and brevity. The Power of Three can be thought of as a turbo engine for your message.

Just as the brain has three sections, writing powerful, engaging proposals have three main ideas, three sections and three visuals. Three is magic, and it is a writer’s best friend.

BBC Bitesize states that, “When writing to argue, persuade and advise, you are putting forward your view to the reader. Each purpose has different techniques.”

Ultimately, it is all connected. Making the decision-making process something that occurs in a matter of seconds. So, make your content count.

WITH GREAT POWER… Comes great responsibility

As per the Peter Parker principle – with great power, comes great responsibility. Use these tools for good, to persuade not manipulate. We bid to improve lives, add value, and create and retain jobs.
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