The Big Five Traits
During my MBA and also during my Masters in Psychology, an interesting concept that I fiddled with was the concept of the Big Five traits. The five factors have been defined as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, often represented by the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE. The more effort I took to comply with the Big Five Traits, the more I realised I was becoming someone I always wanted to become.
Each of these traits has sub-traits. For example, anyone who exhibits extroversion as a trait, also is someone who is open to talking. Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness are most likely some of the attributes you would notice in someone who can be branded as an extrovert.
What if my RFP response is a person? What would I want its personality to feel like? Should it not score high on these traits? Should these features not be exhibited in my executive summary?
Here are some things I have tried to reflect the big five traits through my writing
Openness to experience: Say something like "We don't say we can solve all your problems from day one. While we have systematic problem-solving techniques, we are aware that there are unique problems you face. You can be sure that should a problem as that should arise, we would take radical, inventive, innovative and policy-compliant approaches to making life simpler for you."
Conscientiousness: Conscientiousness is the attribute of consistency and discipline. You can show this in your proposal by taking care of things like layout, grammar and spelling consistency. But if you want to show that your organisation is consistent and disciplined, say something like "Your organisation can rely on us knowing that we dedicate a lot of time to planning well. Our services are process driven, rather than being dependent on people. This ensures that our services meet your demands, no matter who is at the table"
Extroversion: There is not too much a proposal writer can do here. Extroversion needs to be shown by the sales person. But when it comes to proposal writing, being an introvert may actually do you more good. Introverts are proven to be better thinkers, more logical, who think before they act. So, as an organisation, position yourself as an ambivert- a neat mix of extroversion and introversion. Show your customer that you are genuinely excited to provide your solutions to them. But showcase the people behind the scenes as introverts who do a great deal of thinking. I believe that good ambiverts showcase empathy and exuberance- each at relevant times. In fact, studies show that companies led by introverts are more successful than companies led by extroverts (see here)
Agreeableness: Agreeable people are those who are empathetic, warm, and considerate. A great way to show your customer that you are an "agreeable" partner is by telling them that you have experience with similar problems. Use plenty of case-studies to show agreeableness. Use the cover letter and say something like, "During our conversations, we noted A, B, and C as three chief problem areas. We have solved these for other customers by deliberating upon their issues and coming up with specific plans to address them. Please refer to the case studies in page 43-45."
Neuroticism: Neuroticism is the lack of control over mood-swings. Neurotics tend to be anxious, fearful and troubled. The root-cause of neuroticism is poor time management. This is often a problem that employees in any organisation have, including your customer's organisation. Say something like "Your organisation can depend on our product/ service is designed to save your time and resources. In our other engagements (refer to case study), our customers saved 40% of their time and were able to be 50% more productive."
A gist: Show customers empathy, excitement, deep thinking and clarity. Show them that you value the time they have on their hands. Keep your proposal writing simple. Avoid long sentences or words that your customer would need to use a dictionary to understand. Play the doctor. Tell your customer that you are there to ease their pain and take their load, so they can focus on the things their business should focus on.