Submitting a statement of qualifications (SOQ) for a project is table stakes. It is easy to believe what we write and present in an SOQ is what wins the project. It is not! The SOQ/proposal is the minimum entry requirement for the right to compete for the project. So where exactly does an SOQ/proposal fit into the sales process? How much weight does it really have in the final selection of a firm?
Here are the most important factors that determine a project win.
Notice that the three most important factors to winning a project have little to do with the SOQ/proposal. By the time the client is reading our submission, they should know who we are and trust us. The SOQ/proposal is the final step (besides a shortlist and interview) that should seal the deal. The data we provide in an SOQ/proposal should be justification for the client selection committee to select us.
What an SOQ is NOT! An SOQ is not . . .
You are on your way to a conference to enjoy a few days of networking and training. You are excited to be away from the office for a few days to soak in new ideas and find inspiration to keep doing your job. You get checked into the hotel and start making some new friends.
Your cell phone buzzes. You ignore it.
It dings and buzzes again. You keep trying to ignore it.
Finally, you take a moment to check your phone and discover an email notification of an RFP your boss wants you to look at. You see a text from your boss asking if you got her email. As you open the email you get a phone call. It's your boss wondering why you haven't answered your email or text.
You explain that you were just reading the email when she called. She frantically explains the proposal is due in 5 days. We have to respond to this. Can you work on it at your conference?
You are deflated. You realize every spare moment you have will be spent putting together a rushed proposal. No networking. No extra time discussing marketing issues with colleagues. No downtime to just enjoy being out of the office.
Why can't I say, "No?"
Many A/E/C marketers ask themselves this question regularly. We get unreasonable requests that ignore who we are and what we were hired to do. So why can't we say "No" when it would be perfectly appropriate to say "No?"
There are several reasons why most A/E/C marketers cannot say, "No."
Back to the opening scenario. The boss says you have 5 days to respond to the urgent RFP. Rather than shriveling up into a ball of nerves and anger, resentfully saying, "yes," you can do the following.
Learn how to say, "No!" Saying "No" effectively means a lot of groundwork has been laid before having to say, "No." At the end of the day, it is your responsibility, A/E/C marketer, to lead your company in marketing excellence.
Most content that centers around communication and conflict resolution has to do with assessing your feelings, your body language, your decision-making process, your attitudes, and your behaviors. Not that these are bad recommendations, but they fall short of what makes the biggest impact when resolving conflict and negotiating. Where most advice falls short is that the advice focuses on YOU, YOUR feelings, YOUR body language, YOUR decision-making, YOUR attitude, YOUR behaviors.
Many of you have heard the saying, “God gave you one mouth and two ears. He intended for you to listen twice as much as you speak.” Ears are the gateways to receiving critical information about your environment. Ears collect sound waves. During conflict or negotiation, ears are data gathering reservoirs collecting what is coming out of the other person’s mouth. Ears are your strongest weapons in resolving conflict and negotiating a solution.
To be fair, your ears are only the front end of a process that leads to great conflict resolution and negotiation. But if you cannot get the front end of that process right, nothing else in that process will work. Therefore, ears are where you begin.
When you focus on opening your ears, closing your mouth, and focusing on the other person, several key dynamics are put in motion.
"Use your ears to negotiate a resolution!"
Let us consider a real-world example.
You are in discussion with a material vendor who is angry with the contractor on your job. The vendor says in a very agitated tone, “The contractor is impossible!” Your ears have informed you the vendor is in conflict with the contractor and is angry. So you say, “What do you mean when you say the contractor is impossible?”
PAUSE – To make your ears work better, you sometimes need to ask CLARIFYING questions. You want the vendor to clarify what he means by the term, “impossible.”
The vendor responds, “He rejected some of our material and it’s going to cost us more money than is budgeted for the job. We are going to lose money.”
Now you understand impossible means the contractor’s decision to reject the vendor’s material is costing them money. So you ask the vendor, “Tell me what happened. Walk me through the story step by step.” Again, you are only opening your mouth to request more DETAIL for your ears to receive.
The vendor proceeds to explain, in detail, that they delivered the ordered materials to the job site only to have the contractor stop them from unloading and reject the materials. The contractor claims the materials do not meet the specifications of the design. The vendor showed the order slip signed by the contractor’s foreman, but to no avail. The contractor begins yelling and cussing demanding the material be loaded and returned.
Without belaboring the example, we now have DETAILS AND CONTEXT from which to work toward resolution and negotiation. The same process is required once you speak with the contractor. You do not assume, but give the contractor the benefit of telling his story with his details. It is only at this point you may be able to proceed with negotiating a solution to this conflict.
Opening your ears means;
Use your ears to negotiate a resolution!
This blog was originally published at The Engineering Management Institute
Your Ears Are Your Strongest Resolution and Negotiation Weapons (engineeringmanagementinstitute.org)
Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC