Archive for the 'Pitching' Category

Push Me Pull Me

I recently spotted some interesting research by Ronald Friedman and Jens Forster. They’re a couple of social psychologists.

In 2002 experiements the found that ingrained in our brains is an association between the act of pulling and positive feelings. While the act of pushing is associated with negative feelings.

I think it’s fascinating how interconnected the mind and body are!

Also it’s fascinating that the current business trend to greater consumer pull (rather than organisational push) has a foundation in neuro-physiology! Is this why pull works better in business and organisations?

Applied to communication ‘pull’ is less about pre-designed messages and channels and more about listening, empathisising, provoking, and engaging in the moment. It’s more about letting meaning emerge. It’s less about leading and more about meeting.

Well sometimes anyway.


assuming they’re remember

I was running late today to catch a bus. In the front of my mind was how little time I had left myself to get where I needed to be. As I rounded the corner, the bus sailed past. I knew I had 100 metres to sprint to get to that bus-stop. And I hoped that there were enough people waiting so that the bus would still be there when I got there. I was in luck. I’d got my timing perfect. For someone in a hurry, I’d lost no time waiting for a bus!

Unfortunately while timing was perfect, there was another criteria that was just as important – destination! That’s right, I got on the wrong bus. Now, I know destination is important. I know buses at that bus-stop take different routes. But, it wasn’t front of mind when I made the decision to get on.

I’ve talked earlier about the dangers of assumption when it comes to communication. It’s dangerous to assume others think like me. It’s dangerous to assume others have the same values/motivations to me. It’s dangerous to assume that others know what I know. It’s dangerous to assume others will react how I expect them to react. It’s dangerous to assume others will draw the same meaning/conclusion as I do. A useful discipline is to always test our assumptions. Don’t assume, find out.

But here’s another dangerous assumption. It’s dangerous to assume that others will remember what they already know! When leading or seeking to influence others don’t ignore what your audience already knows. They may be forgetting it’s relevance to this specific situation. Don’t assume they’ll remember, remind them. You may need to be explicit. Not because they don’t know it. But because you want it at the front of their mind when you’re communicating. Particularly if it’s important to your objective and message. Don’t assume they’ll remember. They may get on the wrong bus!

When the tide goes out – managing in a downturn.

“A rising tide lifts all the boats”.But when it goes out some of the boats end up sitting on the rocks!

The good economic times over the last few years have probably covered over a few business shortcomings. It has been hard not to do well, when there has been lots of business around. Now the game has changed in two ways. First there is less money around, and secondly, because there’s the same competitors, there will be more competition for the business that is around.

The natural response is to cut costs to manage the anticipated reduction in revenue. That’s important always. But here are a couple of other things to think about:

  1. How effective is your business development process? In particular I’d look two aspects – at the quality of the sales interaction and the effectiveness of sales management. I am always astounded by the generally poor perception of clients towards suppliers involved in tender situations. Most sales people still don’t ask enough questions and don’t listen well enough. And most sales management is focused on results. You can’t manage results as you have no control over them! Clients decide! Sales management needs to focus on behaviours. What are the right behaviours at this point in time? Based on the sales pipeline, sales targets, and the specific client.
  2. How effective are your client/supplier negotiations? Like cost savings, these go straight to the bottom-line. What I notice in sales teams is a tendency to give value away. They want to get the deal, profitability isn’t that important! Of course, they don’t say that. There is always a very good reason why they have to give value away!

A new mindset?

There’s alot of commentators advising on how NZ should survive and even prosper during the current financial turmoil. Mark Weldon is quoted as advocating “we need a new mind-set of aggressively competing”. I think he’s wrong. For three reasons:

  1. A mind-set of aggressively competing has partly contributed to the mess we’re in. Banks were so focused on competing that they have created the largest economic down-turn since the Great Depression.
  2. Changing the mind set of an individual is hard enough, let alone a whole country. Even if it was a good idea, it would be practically impossible.
  3. And it’s not a good idea. Much of the NZ psyche or mindset is important to keep. I’m talking about our friendliness, warmth, creativity, freshness, tolerance, and egality.

I’ve just returned from overseas and my experience is that people love Kiwi’s. Let’s not lose that. We just need to be bolder and less self-deprecating. To value ourselves and what we have to offer to the world.

A few small changes that could have a big impact. (and I’m taking my own advice – watch this space!)

Tailoring the message

I had to smile today as I walked past the preacher on Lambton Quay. He has been there since I can remember. His message is usually along the lines of – we are all sinners, repent before it’s too late, etc. He never seems to get much traction with the passing foot traffic.

Right at the moment, the world seems to be impoding internationally due to the banking crisis. Today his message was – smile, it’s not that bad! At least he’s thinking about his audience. I didn’t stop today but will next time and talk to him about his apparent change of heart.

Premature Articulation!

Premature articulation isn’t a good idea …. when it comes to influencing. What I mean is articulating your solution, recommendation or advice before your audience is ready to agree with it. I had a boss once who was a master of getting you to arrive at his idea yourself. He made you think it was your idea all along. Instead of showing me his picture of the solution and asking if I liked it, he would paint his picture in my mind before he showed it me. And of course I loved it then, as it matched what I had in my mind. That is a very subtle and empowering form of influence.

How do you do it? The key is great questions. Think about all the questions you considered in convincing yourself and simply ask your audience so that they arrive at the same conclusion. Or you both arrive at a better solution because the combined thinking was better. Arrive together at the same place.

Also takes the struggle out of influence – for both of you.

Winning tenders – don’t just ‘throw your hat into the ring’

Yesterday I was talking to a senior public sector procurement specialist. What he had to say concerned me and should concern any large supplier pitching for government contracts.

Thinking of a recent procurement process, he said:

  • none of the suppliers effectively used their opportunities to ask questions and discuss options prior to probity commencing.
  • suppliers often fail to recognise during briefings that the people present will be evaluating the responses.
  • suppliers often only address the literal questions rather than considering the broader issues.
  • the quality of the responses were poor, even though sufficient time had been provided to submit responses.
  • suppliers often make it difficult for the procurement process to evaluate their response.

It seems that despite the effort and cost of responding to large tenders, many suppliers treat tenders with a ‘toss our hat in the ring’ approach. And hope to win. The issue behind this is often a lack of pre-sales resoiurces or just workloads of the people needed to be involved in a major bid.

A more cost/time efficient approach would be to:

  • qualify hard each opportunity – only respond to those with a better than average chance of winning.
  • start early to understand what would really motivate the client to choose you.
  • develop the bid strategy before building the solution.

If my friend is right, there’s a great opportunity here for someone.

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