Proposal Personality Profile, Part 1

In today’s BulletPoints newsletter… after dozens – or hundreds – of hours of work on your proposal or presentation, time runs out. You eventually have to submit it. It’s the day of reckoning.

And, although Sales dutifully reports back the substance of their conversations with the client, you still have no real idea who’ll be judging your submission. All you’ve really got is the RFP’s vaguely menacing claim that a team of experts from every imaginable department will be looking at it.

So how do you persuade them? How do you persuade a group of people whose composition will keep changing based on who’s on vacation, who’s swamped, who’s sick and who pissed off their superior? Check out the video to find out:

Highlights from the Video:

The key concept for us comes from jury research. Because this is the same problem attorneys face every day. A group of strangers over whom you have minimal control decide your fate. In the next few BulletPoints, we’ll look at what jury research tells us about the four main personality types and how they react to evidence.

There are many ways of classifying people. Myers Briggs. Right brain, left brain. Quizzes that tell you which Harry Potter character you are. All of those can be useful when you’re planning a proposal or sales presentation. Why? Because it’s always better to impose some sort of order on the chaos of the real world. It gives you a way to think systematically instead of just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

However, the most useful framework for thinking about how people will react to your proposal is a concept called “need for cognition.” Need for cognition is a measure of how much a person enjoys and is willing to engage with complex ideas.

The reason this is so important is because need for cognition is the single biggest factor in terms of how willing somebody is to consider the evidentiary support that you put in your proposal. And as I’ve emphasized in previous BulletPoints, every distinct part in the structure of your message must have evidence.

Jury research shows that about 80% of a jury’s decision is determined by the actual evidence. It’s overwhelming. So, we better know how people react to evidence.

And what need for cognition shows is that there are two main factors that determine how people take in evidence.

The first factor is their drive to engage with complexity. Drive encompasses motivation, interest, willpower. People can have high drive or low drive.

The other factor is ability. Again, some people have high ability and some have low ability in terms of actually being able to solve puzzles and understand complexity.

If you put these factors into a 2 x 2 grid, you can start to understand why different people react in different ways.

People who are high in drive and high in ability are the ones that I call “Scrutinizers.”

Jury research shows that Scrutinizers tend to speak up in group deliberations. They have more influence in a group. They tend to be leaders. You’re frequently going to find these people in management and executive roles in companies.

Research shows that Scrutinizers are active deliberators. As they’re reading through your proposal, Scrutinizers are actually thinking about what you’re saying. They’re processing the message and testing it against other hypotheses and against what they remember of your competitors’ proposals.

Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t make mistakes or that their search for truth is necessarily correct. In fact, studies show that Scrutinizers are the most likely to engage in “confirmation bias.” In other words, when Scrutinizers are reading through a batch of proposals, they’ll come to a decision very quickly and then they’ll selectively choose to believe or disbelieve ambiguous or conflicting evidence in a way that supports what they already think.

This is one reason why you need to support your main points with multiple types of evidence: statistics AND case studies AND third party rankings.

This is the basis of my concept of siege evidence. If you think of persuading the client like storming a castle, you can see that you can’t just attack from one direction because they’ll just sneak out the back.

If you studied medieval architecture and things like flying buttresses, you know that these alternative exits are called “yeahbuts.” Because you say, “We worked with GE and increased their win rates by 40%.” And they say, “Yeah, but maybe not every client did so well.” Or you say, “Our clients increase their win rate by 35% on average.” And they say, “Yeah, but maybe those clients aren’t anything like me.” And so on.

However, this also means that you can persuade the Scrutinizer. As a result, with Scrutinizers, the goal is to have so much support for your main points that they can’t simply keep dismissing it.

You want to provide Scrutinizers with as much diverse evidence as it takes for them to realize there’s only one way out. And that’s to choose you.

Eventually they have to engage with your point, and when a Scrutinizer engages with a well-supported point, they are willing to change their mind and support you.

What about those other three personality types from our 2 x 2 grid? Join us next time when we’ll see how to persuade the personality type that you’ll encounter most frequently – the “Security guard.”

Until then, I wish you much success.


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P.P.S. Wanna see the previous BulletPoints? They’re all on YouTube here.