“Unsubscribe” and the Need for Audacity

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“Unsubscribe” and the Need for Audacity

Back on 10th June 2019, the top movie at the US box office was The Secret Life of Pets 2. It grossed just under $5m that day, from a little over 4,500 cinemas, on its way to total revenues worldwide of $430m.

Fast forward twelve months. Top of the charts? Unsubscribe. A half-hour thriller in which (without spoiling the excitement): “Five YouTubers join an online video-call and find themselves haunted and hunted by a mysterious internet troll.”

Total takings: $25,488. From one movie theatre. Which had been booked out by the producers, who’d paid for all the seats themselves.

Total cost of shooting the film: zero. They did it over Zoom, using amateur actors.

And nobody can ever take away from them that they produced a movie that topped the charts. It’s there, on the record. Forever. On a par with any Harry Potter. The Godfather. Paddington (to which my daughter’s fast becoming addicted).

So, how does this relate to proposals, I hear you ask? Well, directly, not at all. I’m not going to spin some tenuous yarn linking this to the skills needed for online pitching using Zoom, for sure.

But indirectly? Don’t you rather love the tale?

  • Being audacious. (“We’ve always done it this way” is too often the blueprint for a slide into failure.)
  • Making sure you understand the rules of the game you’re playing, and hence how to win. (How many proposals fail because the proposal team hadn’t really got to grips with the evaluators’ scoring system and their real hopes and fears?)
  • Understanding the competition. (There wasn’t much, to speak of. But they had to know that to time it perfectly.)
  • Making people smile at what you’ve done. (We heard tell from one of our clients last year about the head of one evaluation team literally “taking the proposal out of their briefcase in meetings and cuddling it” because they loved it so much. Did the buyers do that with your last proposal?)

I’d argue that too many proposal support teams out there spend too long in their comfort zone – or, if the status quo isn’t comfortable, too long tolerating the situation. “This is how we do things round here” becomes a recipe for complacency. ‘Good enough’ is as good as it gets – even if ‘good enough’ isn’t winning that many deals. “We know we’re struggling, but we can’t get it changed” becomes a source of stress for all involved. There’s always an excuse for losing; a reason why the proposal document and pitch weren’t as good as they could have been.

And the best teams? Success breeds success, of course. But their hunger for understanding best practice marks them out – as does their energy in taking the lessons they’ve learned and implementing them internally. They’re passionate about hiring the best people – and those people are passionate about their own self-development. (Want to sharpen your bid or proposal skills? Off the top of my head, I could point you to more than fifty hours of excellent free audio and video content online – never mind all of the white papers and presentations out there waiting to be downloaded.)

As Unsubscribe demonstrated, the world’s very different now than it was twelve months ago. ‘Normal’ is a thing of the past. Change may be forced on you – or you could seize control.

So, work out how you really think you ought to ‘do things round here’ to gain competitive advantage, whilst respecting the well-being of your bid and proposal professionals. Pluck up the courage to bang on the (virtual?!) door of your most senior executives. Proposals are the job protection and creation engine for many organisations, after all; you have a right to be heard!

This is not a time to stand still. It’s time to work out how you can get to number one in this brave (and, probably for many, quite scary) new world.

This article was written by Jon Williams.

Jon and his team work with clients worldwide to help them establish winning proposal capabilities and to capture major deals. He has built and led numerous bid and proposal centres; managed, reviewed and benchmarked countless proposals; worked in over thirty countries; and trained many thousands of course participants.

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