Tag Archives: pitching for new business

Confident speakers win more business – wake up your ‘wow’

Are you apprehensive about public speaking? If so, this guest post by Cath Vincent, an amazing and inspiring motivational speaker and executive coach, is a must-read.

Jerry Seinfeld once joked that at a funeral most people would rather be “the one in the coffin” than “the one giving the eulogy”. It seems that public speaking is the number one phobia – but if you’re in business it could be costing you dearly.

It’s been said that there are two types of presentation: the one we gave and the one we wish we’d given. Or put another way, every person has two personas – the one who speaks confidently to a standing ovation, and the one who secretly doubts our own credibility as a presenter and wonders whether anyone is really listening.

Now be honest for a moment, when you stand to speak, which voice comes out?

The bad news is that if you are not supremely confident every time you speak, you’re probably not winning all the business you deserve. The good news is that it is simple to make massive improvements and there are lots of good reasons to do so. Here are just three…

3 business reasons to be a better speaker

  1. Because it’s considered natural to be nervous, most people never take the simple steps needed to fulfill their potential when speaking. If you invest just a little effort in this essential business skill, you will stand head and shoulders above your competition.
  2. When you find speaking in public effortless, there are heaps of FREE marketing opportunities such as network meetings where you can make your mark and become known as an authority in your field
  3. People listen to confident speakers. There is no better or more cost-effective way for your business to get noticed.

5 easy tips to being a more confident speaker

  1. If you slave over your preparation and getting the words just right – don’t! Think of it more as a conversation you might have with a friend than a formal life-or-death situation. In fact, verbal communication accounts for only 7% of the impact you can make. Allow yourself the freedom to ‘talk around’ your subject knowing that the impact of the actual words is very small. That way your personality will shine through too.
  2. If you do worry about forgetting your words, your message may be too complicated to remember. Boil your message down to just 3 key points. The audience can’t process and remember more than that anyway.
  3. People often tell me “I’m OK when I get onto the middle part” – you have to be compelling from the moment you start speaking. Whilst the body of your presentation can be free-flowing, you should learn your introduction and ending so you feel unwaveringly confident in delivering those two pieces. More time spent on these will pay dividends.
  4. Don’t be afraid of silence. Allowing a pause shows confidence and gives the audience time to process what you’re saying. You can afford to speak a lot more s-l-o-w-l-y than you think!
  5. Your job is to make it fun. Humour goes a long way in capturing audience attention. Clients often tell me “I can’t make legislation / technical specifications / annual accounts/ health and safety information fun”. You have to get excited about presenting your material. Energy is infectious. The audience will feel what you feel. If you’re uncomfortable, bored or uninspired, that’s how they feel too. If you’re excited, they’re excited!

A final word to encompass these tips: Don’t Learn It, Love It!

What do you think of Cath’s tips? 

Have you found that you perform much better in speaking/presenting situations when you have a positive mindset? 

For those of you in Auckland Cath, along with motivational speaker John Shackleton, is running a 1-day workshop to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking on Monday 5 September.

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Positioning your firm to win tenders before they come out

This is the second in a three part series about helping your firm increase its tender success rate. Last time we looked at how to evaluate tender opportunities. This time we cover what you can do to identify opportunities and position your firm before an RFP is released.

How do you know if a client will be putting work out to tender?

  • If you are on an existing panel, make sure you have diarised when the panel arrangements will come up for review. Ensure everyone who works with the client knows. Using your intranet and/or client management space are great ways to do this.
  • Talk to major corporate targets / government departments that either have panel arrangements, which you are not part of, or that have no formal arrangements, about how they procure legal services. Find out their future plans and what you would need to do to position yourselves to win their work in a particular area.
  • Understand any thresholds or practices around tendering regimes that your targets/clients have (e.g. has to go to tender over a certain dollar threshold). Talk to them about what projects they have coming up, and what their objectives are.

What questions should you ask?

Irrespective of whether you are, or aren’t,  a current provider, you should ask the same basic questions:

  • What is the person, his/her team and the wider organisation looking for in a service provider?
  • What is important to them? (from both a personal and company perspective)
  • What are the decision making criteria likely to be?
  • Who will be making the decision? And who will be influencing it?

And, if you are known to them:

  • What you do well and what you could improve?

Or, if you aren’t a current provider:

  • What are their perceptions of your firm, experience and people?
  • What do their existing providers do well and what could they improve?

You should never assume you know why an organisation is going to tender. You should also keep in mind that what they tell you may only be a part of the story. Depending on how strong your relationship is, how well you know the organisation and how probing your questions, you may come away with more or less of the full picture.

How do you position your individuals/firm prior to RFPs being released?

  • Having asked the questions, you need to respond. Work out what is important to the target/client and think about how you can demonstrate your expertise.
  • Develop a plan! What work do you want, who will you target, what are the issues in their industry, how will you position yourselves and how will you get to know the key people within the target organisation?
  • Make sure you demonstrate your expertise online and offline, thinking about the media the client uses/interacts with – for example placing relevant articles/thought leadership pieces in trade journals and newspapers, asking and answering questions and commenting on appropriate discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups (i.e. those to which the client belongs), Tweeting useful articles/other content both that others and you have generated, commenting on the client’s blog posts (if and when opportunities arise) and posting relevant content on your blog and website.

What else would you recommend firms do to increase their likelihood of winning RFPs?

How do you position your firm to win tenders before they have come in the door?

Does your firm properly evaluate tender opportunities?

It seems as though tenders arrive at firms’ doors in waves. It is not unusual for there to be 10 or more tenders, pitches or proposals being developed at any one time in some firms. This stretches resources and can result in less rigorous processes when it comes to assessing whether the firm is well placed to pitch, and in delivering the tender.

There are three stages which, if followed, will  increase the percentage of tenders you win:

  1. before the tender is released
  2. when the tender arrives at the firm and
  3. writing the tender.

We are going to start with the middle part – what to do when a tender arrives at the firm. In future blogs we’ll look at what you can do prior to a tender being released, and tips for developing the most compelling tender response.

The purpose of this discussion is to help you apply some rigour to the process, rather than simply reacting to every opportunity that arises. Before you even start writing the first word of an RFP response, be honest and rate your chances.

Should we submit a tender response?

This can be a highly pressured time and decisions need to be rational and have some level of objectivity to them.

We recommend having a preselected team who makes the decision, for example a CEO or Managing Partner, plus a practice area or industry sector leader. The team who make recommendations should be wider than this and include the partner who is responsible for the client / sector / main area of work, and a senior marketing or BD member.

Often, the best way to assess whether or not your firm should tender for a particular piece of work is setting up a system that enables you to rank each opportunity on a scale of 1 to 5. You can then decide what total makes a ‘definite yes’, ‘definite no’ or requires more consideration or conditions for tender. Some areas that you should always consider in deciding whether to submit a tender are:

  • how well do we know the key players – those who will be making (or influencing) the decision?
  • how do they perceive us as a firm?
  • how well do they know our expertise in the relevant area?
  • how well-resourced are we to do the work?
  • how well do we compare to our competitors (according to the target or others in the same industry)?

In addition, other things to consider include:

  • did we know the tender was coming? This can help answer some of the questions about how well you have positioned yourselves to be in the running for serious consideration.
  • is the tender a serious process? Some organisations have a built-in process whereby they must tender for service providers on a predetermined basis. This may mean there is little internal desire to change, but they must ‘go through the motions’ and are almost certainly going to reappoint the incumbent. If you are the incumbent you must take the process seriously.
  • have we worked with them before? If not, how do they know you? Have they seen your work? If you have worked with them before, how do they perceive you? Have you conducted any client or project reviews?
  • are we conflicted? You also need to understand what the organisation”s sensitivities to conflicts are.

There are always those tenders where it is important simply to be seen to tender. There may be influential people at the target who are important to your firm, or it is a small market and you need to tender for this particular role.

Whatever the reason you tender, make sure you have a process which ensures you are using your valuable internal resources wisely.

What other criteria do you use in deciding whether to tender?

How well do you think most firms approach this?

How often is it a case of he/she who shouts loudest gets the support?