I recently heard a true tale being recounted where a service provider's RFP response arrived at the prospective client's headquarters with a child's lolly-pop stick stuck to the opening page.
Nothing beats first impressions when a provider declares its intention to be your service partner. It's like someone viewing your profile on an Internet dating site - if you fail to pass muster with that first encounter, you'll most likely get jettisoned to the rejection pile before you even get to show up for the first date.
Many of you in the sourcing industry will have come across Jolie Newman at some point in your lives - she has tirelessly supported companies such as EquaTerra, Exult, Millbank Tweed and SSON over the years as a communications specialist. Jolie has even helped out HfS on occasion with her editing skills (and she frequently remarks on our typos...). After many years of toil, Jolie's realized that many service providers are just plain awful at submitting a pristine proposal when they are seeking a sourcing marriage with a client. So she's launched her own company, aptly-named "ProEdit Solutions", that's focused on helping service providers put their best foot forward when they respond to RFI and RFPs - and we, at HfS, feel she fully deserves a plug for her new firm's services.
Quite why she turned her back on a budding career as an opera singer to trawl through details on payroll-support abandon rates, I will never fully comprehend, but she's a super-nice lady who deserves every success with her new venture.... so over to you, Jolie:
The secret of outsourcing success – write to read
In the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “easy reading is damn hard writing.” With apologies to this 19th century romanticist obsessed with the inherent evil of humanity, when reading outsourcing proposals, presentations and sales collateral I’d say the reading is pretty damn hard!
In an industry in which differentiation is critical and prospective buyers look for quality in every meeting and communication, it’s surprising that few providers invest in the development of clear, concise and compelling proposals and presentations. Granted, while clients and advisors sometimes force providers down rabbit holes with the number of irrelevant questions for which they demand answers, reading their RFP responses sometimes takes the likes of a cryptographer to decipher.
“Cut and paste,” florid sentences in incorrect business English that run on for a paragraph, “non answers” and lack of proof points all detract from a provider’s message to its prospects. But document after document repeats the same mistakes. Is it haste? Hubris? Inability to string together a cogent, coherent sentence? A lack of comprehending the correlation between clear and concise technical communication and company growth?
Most providers understand the importance of communicating in an existing client relationship, but when it comes to explaining their value propositions in the written word, they are at a loss. Therein lies the problem – without good, high quality communications on the front end, which speaks to the needs of their prospects, providers unwittingly miss out on deals.
It’s a big ask to think the staff of offshore and nearshore providers can suddenly forsake “In-glish” for American or British business English. But it is fair game to ask them to close the communications gap, developing proposals, marketing and sales materials that resonate with their prospects and don’t bore the socks off their readers.
How can providers do so? In our global business environment, one solution is glaringly obvious…”reverse outsource” the creation and editing of their written communications in order to make them readable, cogent and compelling. There are individuals and companies who can help….and the results – stronger RFP responses, understandable collateral – speak for themselves.
We all know that writing is damn hard. But perhaps moving the editing and creation onshore will make for easier reading...