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I wrote this letter to a client some time ago.


We have lost too many bids recently. In large part I think this is because we are leaping in too quickly with our services and capability, rather than finding out in great depth precisely what the client wants and why.

Dealing with each bid is an entirely new search for the precise needs of the target client. It is above all about listening actively. This is usually stressful because most of us are not so good at listening, we want the job and so we become more concerned with trying to impress with our expertise rather than pursuing the inquiry.

Over the years therefore I have built a check list. This is what we discussed at the last sales meeting. Get your people to adapt it as they go along. They must make it their own, and it will then not only become second nature to them, but will also give you a means of checking that all the bases have been covered before you make a bid. Here are the 21 Questions.


  1. Who is the client?
  2. Who are the decision makers? Panel members?
  3. What do they want/ need/ fear? (past experiences)
  4. Why have they asked us?
  5. What do they see as special about us?
  6. Who else is competing?
  7. How would they respond to questions 4 and 5?
  8. Precisely why should we get it / or not?
  9. Progress so far, gaps, mistakes, worries?
  10. How clearly have we checked 1-7?
  11. What do you fear? Where are we strongest/ weakest?
  12. What are the overt criteria for choice?
  13. What are the covert criteria for choice?
  14. If you could waive your magic wand, what would you change? Implications?
  15. Similar as above for other members of the team?
  16. So apart from the required basics – what are the 3 points of sale you will be stressing?
  17. Any other suspicions/delayed communications/sense of isolation?
  18. Any lack of back up/support from within our firm?
  19. What are the other client concerns e.g. funding, planning, staff backlash, reputation?
  20. What are the questions you most fear, how will you deal with them?
  21. Rate your chances out of 100? Why not 100?

See you soon,