Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.


Presentation stage tips

 December 18, 2018
by Paul Heron

Large bid processes usually include a presentation phase. Since public speaking ranks alongside death as a major fear, it’s no wonder many team members dread this part of competitions.

No one likes speech making—so start by resolving not to give a speech. Instead, plan to have a conversation, one in which you’ll do most of the talking. Most people enjoy a good conversation.

With that in mind, here are five tips for a great presentation/conversation.

1. Don’t be boring

Who hasn’t sat through a boring presentation? Remember your last one and ask yourself: Why was it boring? I don’t know about you, but here’s my short list:

  • Way too many (ugly) slides
  • Way too much stuff on each slide
  • Lots of numbers I’ll never remember
  • No unifying theme or message—why should I care?
  • A presenter who obviously wants to be anywhere else

So do the opposite. Take in a well-designed deck of no more than one slide per two minutes of presentation time and no more than 20 words per slide. Lose those mind-numbing tables of data. Most important—focus the presentation on the prospect instead of yourself. Build it around one to three clear benefits you want the audience to remember.

Look (and be) glad to present. The remaining tips will help.

2. Tell stories

Everyone loves and remembers a good story. Telling stories is what old friends do when they get together. A story has three parts: what it was like, what happened, and how it turned out.

Stories are a natural way to showcase your strong team and ability to perform. Chose stories that focus on features and benefits your prospect cares about and that your competitors can’t match. Start each story by linking it to a hot button issue for your prospect.

3. Show emotion

Showing is always more powerful than telling. You’ve told the evaluators in your proposal how passionate you are about what you do and about winning their business. This is your chance to show them.

Smile. Get excited. Walk around. Gesture. Show the audience your team members really like each other and love working together. Don’t be that presenter who obviously wants to be anywhere else.

Telling stories (see item 2) instead of reciting facts makes it a lot easier to get excited.

4. Rehearse so it doesn’t sound canned

This is counterintuitive to new presenters, who often say, “I’ll just wing it, so it won’t sound rehearsed.”

That’s a recipe for disaster. Especially when—as we recommend—you’re using a small deck with too few words to simply read off the slides.

Rehearsing—out loud and together—is essential to a winning presentation. When you’re absolutely sure of what you want to say, you’ll come across as more natural. When you’ve practiced expressing ideas with your colleagues and integrated their feedback, you’ll be more convincing. When you’ve rehearsed handing off to your team members, you’ll look like a team.

Make sure everyone who will present (yes, including the boss) attends the rehearsals.

5. Don’t try to be perfect

Some great presenters purposely fumble a bit. It gives them a chance to laugh and makes them more human. The audience laughs along and thinks, “She’s all right. Not too full of herself. I can see working with this team.”

So don’t try to be perfect. If you follow the first 4 tips, you’ll come close enough that your audience will forgive any slip you make. Just be sure to keep smiling.

Good luck—and above all, don’t be boring!


Need help developing and delivering great presentations?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 




Capture planning

 December 11, 2018
by Paul Heron

Recent posts focused on business development, including understanding the prospect and developing value propositions. This post recommends you go a step further and develop a capture plan—especially for highly attractive opportunities.

The aim of pursuit is to position your company favourably with the prospect and to ensure your proposed solution addresses the prospect’s needs and hot button issues. The question is: How do you organize and manage the pursuit process?

Develop a capture plan

Capture plans are opportunity-specific strategy/action documents.  They use information from the account plan to create a roadmap for pursuing an opportunity. They also provide half or more of the content for the proposal plan (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: A capture plan guides and documents the pursuit process and provides input to the proposal plan.


Typical capture plans include information about the:

  • Opportunity: What it is, strategic importance, requirements and implementation schedule
  • Prospect: Economic buyer, technical buyers, user buyers, other influencers, evaluation team members, broader power structure, hot button issues, satisfaction with current provider, attitude towards our company
  • Competitive position: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, likely competitors’ offerings, our relative strength on key requirements/issues, prospect relationships with key competitors
  • Solution and pricing: Probable offer, pricing strategy, performance relative to requirements, value engineering opportunities, risk pricing
  • Pursuit strategy: Win strategy summary, pursuit team alignment with the prospect team, call plan, intelligence requirements, solution development, communications

These categories are flexible. Decide on components that suit your industry and business category.

As you execute the capture plan, develop a matrix of how you and your competitors score on the key requirements and issues. Be realistic about your chances, so you can make needed adjustments and make a clear-eyed bid/no-bid decision.

The payoff

A detailed, regularly updated capture plan will improve your ability to target and benefit from pre-RFP pursuit efforts. In our client work, we see a wide range of preparedness when RFPs are issued. Clients with disciplined pursuit practices, supported by robust capture plans, routinely beat those without.


Do you need help managing a capture planning effort?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 




Writing strategy statements

 December 4, 2018
by Paul Heron

In the past several weeks, we've been discussing how to use the capture team’s knowledge of the prospect (including likely evaluators) and your competitors to analyse the issues for each section. See this post on how to use a competitive solutions matrix.

For each issue, strive to express solutions and gaps using quantitative values (issue resolution in hours, housekeeping using ISO standards), rather than less certain qualitative measures.

Once you’ve done this, identify actions you will take to highlight your strengths, downplay your weaknesses, exploit competitors’ weaknesses and offset competitors’ strengths.

Strategy statement examples

Create strategy statements that express your intent and include specific actions you will take. The table below contains examples:

We will show our ability to control costs by . . .  

. . . Presenting a table of our 5 most recent public projects showing budgeted and actual costs

We will create confidence that we can complete the project on time by . . .

. . . Citing tour perfect record of on-time completion over the past five years

We will defend against our higher initial cost by . . .

. . . Presenting a table showing MTBF for each critical component compared to cheaper competitor products
. . . Citing the cost of downtime associated with cheaper solutions
. . . Citing 2017 independent review comparing lifetime costs of our system versus competitors’

We will call attention to our high housekeeping standards by. . . 

. . . Citing our ISO compliance
. . . Including photo of Calgary maintenance shed

We will show our ability to offer innovation solutions by—

. . . Listing innovation awards and citations over the past three years
. . . Show images/logos of awards sponsors
. . . Including a client testimonial (CEO of XYZCo.) attesting to a cost-saving innovation

Notice that the actions do not include “claim to be the best.” These empty boasts have no scorable value for evaluators. Instead cite and show factual evidence of your differentiators.

Take time to do it right

Don’t skimp on strategy making. Unless you have very weak competitors and the lowest price you need to make every effort to help evaluators understand why they should select your company for this project.

For any complex proposal, schedule at least a full day to build and test your strategy.



Need help implementing bid strategies?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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