The Proposal – How I Created A Winning Strategy & Scored A Big Contract

Several years ago I got word that a large tech company was going to send a “Request for Proposals” out to several vendors for a large consulting and training contract.

My advantages – I had already worked with several divisions of the company. I understood the culture – its habits, strengths, and weaknesses and “lingo”. My work had gotten consistently good ratings from the groups I had worked with.

My disadvantages – Would the decision-makers worry that my “lean and mean” operation could not deliver on a huge contract?

☑️ Who were the decision-makers, and how would they decide?

☑️ What were their decision-criteria?

I received the RFP –   It was a fat white binder with blue tabs dividing the sections.

I asked questions about various attributes and aspects of any training program “how important is price to you”? and watched the person who answered, as well as the nods or body language of the others in agreement or disagreement.

When my scheduled time arrived I greeted the group, making eye contact with each person and used five of my allotted 20 minutes to ask a few questions. I assumed that at least some of the group assembled here may not have been part of the original committee which had written the criteria for the RFP, so I wanted to learn more about their individual decision-making strategies. I asked questions about various attributes and aspects of any training program “how important is price to you”? and watched the person who answered, as well as the nods or body language of the others in agreement or disagreement. This gave me valuable clues; when I made my presentation, about who cared about what criteria, so I could emphasize the various features and benefits of our program. This also gave me the opportunity to improvise and omit sections if they no longer seemed relevant or interesting to this group. This technique also helps to ”warm up” the room, so you don’t feel like you’re facing a Parole Board  And it shows my facilitative style and comfort level with a group.

Then, I handed out my Presentation Binder (the response to their RFP document). What did my presentation binder look like? Well, it was a white binder, with bright blue lettering.  It had 10 sections, divided by bright blue tabs with white lettering. “Pandering”, you might say. Maybe so, but one woman said, “this looks familiar”, and I could see in peoples’ body language that they felt comfortable with the look of it.

During my presentation, each time I focused on a particular benefit or advantage, of my program,  I looked at the person who had expressed (verbally or non-verbally) a positive interest in that feature. I completed my presentation in exactly the 15 remaining minutes (you don’t want to go over your time and have to be escorted out by Security)

The end of the story?  Well, I wouldn’t have spent this time telling you all this if it didn’t have a happy ending! About a week later, we were notified that we had been chosen as the company to get the contract.  And as for being a “small” company, they wanted to choose an entrepreneurial, flexible and small contractor, so what I thought was a liability ended up being a great asset!


Elaina Zuker
Elaina Zuker
ELAINA is the president of Elaina Zuker Associates in Montréal, Canada. She has taught seminars to hundreds of employees and managers at major corporations such as AT&T, IBM, American Express, and MCI International, and is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and industry events. She is the author of six books, on leadership, management, and communication. Her best-selling book, “The Seven Secrets of Influence” (McGraw-Hill), the recent Main Selection for the Business Week Book Club, has been translated into four languages and its new, revised 2021 edition is now available on Amazon in paperback and as an e-book on Amazon Kindle. Her new book about Peer Mentoring YOUX2 has also just been launched on Amazon. Her internationally successful program “Secrets of Influence ™ is now available as an online learning program, either as a completely online self-study program or in a hybrid version. The program, created with the latest educational technology, can also be customized for an organization’s specific requirements. Ms. Zuker holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in Management/Organizational Development, and is the 2004 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award from New York Polytechnic University. To engage Ms. Zuker as a speaker or consultant, to book a seminar for your company or organization, or to learn how to become a licensed Affiliate for Secrets of Influence, visit or contact us at [email protected]

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