“You need to read this blog now”

How does that statement make you feel? Does it get you offside or grab your attention? What is the mental picture that pops in to your head when you read that sentence?

For many people, that statement doesn’t go down well as it is just too, well, bossy.

Compare to an opening like this: “Latest blog available now.” Thank you, I’ll read it if I want to.

A winning tender relies on compelling and persuasive communication that convinces the client that you offer a great value solution that meets their needs. And with almost every tender, especially if it relies on people to deliver the solution or manage the contract, the client is also looking to see if you are the people they want to do business with. This means that what you say and how you say it make a difference in how compelling and persuasive you are.

In our experience, the most compelling and persuasive style of communication is consultative. This approach is more likely to be interpreted positively so that the client develops a positive attitude toward you and decides they want to work with you.

For many subject matter experts, particularly those that aren’t experienced in the art of persuasion, their default communication style is directive. But this approach is often interpreted as domineering, aggressive, arrogant etc… and is more likely to alienate the client.

Consider the following example:

“What you need to do is properly plan the phases of the project and ensure enough time is allowed for each phase, particularly the XYZ phase which needs about 3 weeks.”

A directive statement like that can come across as domineering as well as condescending. You could easily get your client offside because of your lack of tact and courtesy in how you have addressed them. It also assumes that there is only one right answer (yours) and that whatever else your client planned on doing is incorrect.

When I read directive statements like this, I immediately cringe because it leaves the author open to being shut down (at least mentally) by anyone that is even mildly oppositional, including me.

Any number of automatic thoughts could pop in to the reader’s head, including:

  • “I don’t need to do anything you tell me to.
  • “I disagree – I think there are more important things to do.
  • “I’ve already done that, so back off.
  • “I’ve taken that approach before and it didn’t work.

Instead, consider the following examples which are more consultative:

“What we typically suggest is that clients ensure enough time is allowed for each phase, particularly the XYZ phase which needs about 3 weeks.” OR

“You might have already addressed this, but if not, now might be a good time for your team to plan the phases of the project and ensure enough time is allowed for each phase, particularly the XYZ phase which needs about 3 weeks.” OR

“Depending on how you are coordinating this, it might be prudent at this time to plan the phases of the project and ensure enough time is allowed for each phase, particularly the XYZ phase which needs about 3 weeks.”

Each of these statements gives your client the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t idiots or incompetent, and it shows that you have an open-minded approach to consider their point of view or alternative actions. Consider how embarrassing it would be – for you – to dole out the directive statement above (“What you need to do is…”) and for the client to inform you that they have already done that, or didn’t do it for a very good reason, or are doing something else instead. How do you backpedal from there? #Awkward

Here’s another example:

“You should review that immediately and make sure that you have covered that off.”

Again, the directive style can come across as aggressive and condescending as it assumes that the client hasn’t done the thing that they should have, thereby implying that they dropped the ball or are incompetent. And the more subject matter expertise your client has, the more this directive approach will backfire.

Instead, consultative statements are more likely to influence and persuade your client from a positive perspective:

“If you haven’t already, we’d suggest that you prioritise that review session and make sure that you have covered that off.”

“If you can, it might be a good idea to review that immediately and make sure that you have covered that off.”Both of these consultative statements show more respect and courtesy to your client while still advising them from your perspective.

Consultative communication is not only more compelling and persuasive in sales processes with clients, but also in the bid team environment. Bid teams are often drawn together from multiple areas in a business or from multiple businesses (meaning there aren’t always clear chains of command), plus the people are often highly skilled and experienced in their particular domain, and they are typically going above and beyond the requirements of a normal job with long hours and competing priorities. You’ll get much better results from bid teams with a consultative, respectful, collaborative way of communicating.

To move to consultative language, try incorporating phrases such as:

  • It might be a good idea to…
  • What we typically find…
  • Often what happens is…
  • From our experience, we frequently see…
  • Given what you’ve explained, I’d recommend…
  • From our discussion, I’d suggest…
  • One thing to think about…
  • In this situation, I’d think about…
  • You might have already done this, but if not, it would be worth considering…

Hopefully, you can see that these phrases add a buffer of respect and politeness, and allow the client to consider the suggestion for its merit rather than react to its delivery.

The following clip illustrates perfectly how directive communication can backfire.

Click HERE to view 

The Aurora Marketing team are experts in consultative communication that compels and persuades. Contact us today if you would like help on your next tender. Call 1300 976 312 or email info@auroramarketing.com.au.

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