Proposal Personality Profile, Part 2

In today’s BulletPoints, we discuss the most common personality type that you’ll encounter for your proposal or presentationthe Security Guard.

And cool news to share! I’ll be doing a third talk at the APMP conference in New Orleans. More info below!

As we discussed in part 1, jury research shows that the most important factors in what jurors decide is the evidence. And the same is true in your proposal or sales presentation.

People evaluate evidence depending on where they fall in their “need for cognition.” This is a person’s drive and ability to consider and engage with complex topics and evidence.

We previously talked about Scrutinizers – people who are high in drive and high in ability. Since you’re reading this and actively working on your own to improve your proposals, you can be sure that this group includes you.

In fact, one of the great joys of being a consultant is exactly this – working with and training smart, motivated people. I don’t claim to be an expert in software for the defense industry or banking procedures or multinational outsourcing. But I do know a few things about persuasion and effective proposals. So, when I get to add my contributions to the contributions of bright, engaged proposal, sales and marketing people, it’s extremely rewarding.

Who Are These Security Guards?

People who are low in drive but high in ability are the ones that we call Security Guards. This is because they normally won’t put forth much effort, but they will spring into action if it’s absolutely required.

Security Guards are the most common personality type you’ll encounter in most large company sales and proposal activities.  Now, most people who’ve achieved those levels of responsibility would normally be both high drive and high ability. But they are so busy and overwhelmed and oftentimes frustrated by the bureaucracy that they function as a high ability, low drive Security Guard – stretched so thin that all they can do is to just try to prevent harm from occurring.

Research shows that Scrutinizers are leaders. They’re active participants in a discussion. They carry a lot of influence.

By contrast, Security Guards tend to be passive. Yet at the same time as they’re being passive, they are judging. So they’ll skim down your proposal, not actively engaging in each point that you’re making, but keeping a sort of emotional scorecard of how they feel and what they think about your proposal.

If you’ve ever heard someone say something like, “Well, I didn’t calculate the numbers myself, but what you’re saying makes sense,” that was a Security Guard at work.

As we talked about before, Scrutinizers tend to jump to a conclusion early on. This is often called the primacy bias, where the first thing you hear becomes what you believe. Scrutinizers do this because they’re actively processing the vision the proposals are presenting. So you better present a vision in your proposal! And it better correspond to what they want to achieve!

By contrast, Security Guards tend to display the recency bias. That means that whatever they heard last is what they’ll tend to support. This is probably because, when they get to the final few proposals, their brain is telling them, “Hey, dude! Enough with the skepticism. Hurry up and pick one!”

How Do We Win Over Security Guards?

There are a few things you can do to win Security Guards over.

First, like the others, they’ll listen to and follow Scrutinizers. So you need to arm the Scrutinizers on your selection committee with clear, specific, easily understood, easily remembered points in your favor.

Second, as jury research shows, evidence does matter. Now, remember, for Scrutinizers, we want to use siege evidence. (Click here to watch the previous BulletPoints on YouTube.) This is where you support the same point from multiple angles with different types of evidence, so there’s nowhere to escape to. You want your evidence to cut off their cognitive escape routes.

For Security Guards, it’s a little different. They’re lazy and skeptical, but they are paying attention. For them, you want to make sure that you deploy your main points with wedge evidence.

Whereas siege evidence is designed to go wide to cover all potential sources of escape, wedge evidence is designed to go deep to counteract the Security Guard’s passive skepticism.

The risk with a Security Guard is that you’ll present solid evidence and they won’t engage with it. Instead, they’ll shrug and say something like, “Well, everybody can find some statistic showing they’re the best.”

This is why, for your most critical points, you want to present a wedge of evidence. It’s just like a wedge of cheese. And the goal is that, no matter how the Security Guard slices the evidence, you’re still the best.

And keep in mind that these folks are cognitively lazy. Connect the dots for them. Tell them exactly how much revenue they’ll make. Don’t expect them to calculate the numbers themselves. They won’t.

Unfortunately, far from spurring passive Security Guards to become active Scrutinizers, most proposals actually push Scrutinizers into becoming passive Security Guards.

Third, you can persuade Security Guards by not looking like everyone else. Remember, they’re looking for shortcuts. So give them some. Be the only proposal that:

  • Is personalized and specific – not generic and vague
  • Uses color and graphics
  • Follows a persuasive structure
  • Shows quantified, differentiated value

Remind you of some of the proposal best practices? Is that a surprise? Security Guards are, after all, the most common personality type.

In other words, be so much more professional and clean than everybody else that there’s no comparison. Primacy and recency biases only have an effect if you’re dealing with many proposals that are roughly similar. If yours stands out, these biases aren’t nearly as important. Scrutinizers and Security Guards are why you need to insist that claims be specific and not vague.

Scrutinizers are why it’s so important to start strong, so that the very first impression you make is positive. Security Guards are why it’s equally important to finish strong with a confident call to action, so that the final impression is persuasive.

Make sure you join us next time, when we’ll look at how to make it easy for low ability people to choose you.

Cool News

A couple cool pieces of news. First, I’ll be giving a third talk at the APMP conference – a panel called “Get a Clue!” on gathering intelligence on competitors and clients with federal gurus Randy and Chris Richter. This goes right to the heart of how you personalize your proposal. It’s also how you figure out what they value so that you can show them that you offer more of it. If you haven’t seen it, the schedule for New Orleans is here.

Second, I’m thrilled to announce that Dwight Lawrence has joined us as director of marketing. Dwight is originally from South Africa. Despite being discriminated against because of apartheid, he managed to become one of Chevron‘s heads of project management for Africa and the Middle East. Pretty amazing guy! He’ll be joining me in New Orleans, so make sure and stop by and say hello to us!

Until then, I wish you much success.


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