10 Ways That Fear Causes People To Lose Proposals
Fear is one of the major reasons people lose their proposals, but most people don’t realize it. It can be pretty sneaky. Here are some of the ways it can manifest:
- Fear of saying something the customer won’t like. This is only natural when you are trying to persuade the customer to select you. However, it becomes counter-productive when in order to avoid saying the wrong thing, you end up saying nothing. Or you hide behind jargon or business-speak. Or you use passive voice. When you water everything down to make sure you haven’t said anything “wrong,” all you end up with is RFP compliance. RFP compliance is not enough to beat the competition.
- Fear of sounding different. Most people, when they try to write a proposal, want an example to follow. They are afraid that what they say won’t be appropriate (sufficiently sophisticated, stylistically correct, detailed, etc.). As a result, they try to sound just like everything else they've read in the business world. Most of which, is, of course, poorly written. They fade into the background when they should be trying to stand out. Worse, instead of speaking from their soul in a style that comes naturally to them, they affect a neutral style that gets in the way of their ability to express themselves. They run a high risk of being extremely unimpressive.
- Fear of looking different. Bad experiences in school have taught people that if they don’t put their name at the top of each page, followed by the date, and their course number, they’ll get a bad grade. They end up afraid to format their proposals and start looking for a template so that they won’t “break a rule.” They spend way too much time on formatting, at the expense of saying something that matters. The customer is looking for a proposal that says something that matters, regardless of how it is formatted.
- Fear of being different. Instead of thinking outside the box, people tend to propose the same thing as everyone else. It’s dangerous to stand out from the crowd. Or you do the same things you've always done, which is just another way of playing it safe. You end up with an offering that you hope is a little better than your competitors, but probably isn’t because you are counting on your competition being as timid as you are.
- Fear of your boss. In some companies, executives throw tantrums if you lose a bid. That environment does not encourage innovation, risk taking, or aggressive competition. It encourages you to do no more than follow the instructions in the RFP, because then you can say you did what you were supposed to do. Why do you think that almost every losing bid is “lost on price?” It’s an easy excuse. By the way, this environment destroys profitability, because it tricks you into obsessing on winning by having the lowest price.
- Fear of losing your job. Even if you don’t fear the wrath of your boss if you lose, your job may depend on winning. This is often true for the staff who will be working on the project if you win. People often handle personal risk in irrational ways. If your job is on the line, you may not compete as aggressively. You may not propose something radically better, but settle for an incremental approval. You become vulnerable to radical and aggressive competitors.
- Fear of change. This one often strikes incumbents the hardest. It’s easy to propose the same thing you’ve been doing. Nobody will fault you for it. In fact, proposing something different exposes you to every fear on this list. How are you going to tell your boss that you want to propose something that will be labor saving, resulting in lost jobs and billable hours when you don’t have to? The only problem is that your competitors, who are not incumbents, will be doing just that.
- Fear of getting stuck. One reason that some people don’t like to be confined to a process is that they're afraid of getting stuck. They are up against a deadline and their instinct is to not limit their ability to act. What they end up doing is painting themselves into a corner. They don’t build the right foundation, so they end up wasting precious time on repairs. They run out of time and often submit their proposal without
adequate any quality assurance.
- Fear of losing control. Playing on a team means being dependent on others. Doing a proposal on a team means that you lose some control over the outcome. You are dependent on others to complete their assignments on time and to do a good job. Worse, you are dependent on their decisions regarding everything from process to what you are offering the customer. When combined with fear of your boss or fear of your job, this one becomes fear of being responsible for what someone else did. It can result in individuals working against each other instead of playing as a team. Your competitors love it when this happens.
- Fear of being caught unprepared. Most people procrastinate. If you try to implement a proposal process that defines the flow of information and enhances accountability, you should expect some resistance. It will become clear when people are not prepared. People often resist accountability out of fear.
People often process fear in irrational ways. Your instincts can lead you astray. Often by playing it “safe” you end up exposed to an even larger risk in the form of a competitor who doesn’t have the same constraints. To win, you have to beat the competitor who is without fear.
This article is part of a discussion we're having over on LinkedIn. Join us on LinkedIn to discuss it.
By Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com
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