The art of negotiation is one that Theresa May has had to quickly learn over the last few months, as she plans the UK’s role post-Brexit.
But when it comes to negotiating, politicians may not be best in class.
As bid strategists and writers, we know all too well just how important strategy, creativity and commercial acumen is when it comes to bids.
So how might the Government benefit from a Brexit-bid approach?
Keep it simple
One of the key rules of bid writing is avoiding complicated language, so keeping it simple is vital, particularly when dealing in 28 different languages!
So far during the Brexit negotiation process the government’s statements on certain key issues – such as whether or not Northern Ireland can remain in the Customs Union have led to some baffled looks.
The problem for politicians is they are taught the art of vagary, whilst the government can’t concisely express what they want. The risks of nailing your colours to the mast too early are obvious, but May could well impress – and even intimidate – her negotiating partners by showing a bit more clarity.
Think carefully about the other players
In any tender bid, you’ve got to put yourself in the position of those on the other side of the table and think about what is driving and motivating them.
Companies which have won high profile tender bids in recent years have had to learn what the other parties wanted in order to win. Richard Branson’s Virgin Care, for example, literally built their own trust by inserting positive opinion polling and endorsements from the Care Quality Commission into its bids to impress decision-makers, who needed to see that confidence in the company was high before they could award them the contract.
When Angela Merkel sits around the Brexit negotiating table, she’ll be thinking hard about how Brexit will impact her own domestic policy on migrants. A 360 proposal that benefits the UK as well as considering key strategic partners such as Germany, will be met with much more interest and openness than a UK-first focused proposal. It will also pave the way for a better, wider ‘spirit of negotiation’ – vital in what will undoubtedly be a long and painful process.
Give the bid a human face
Whether you’re bidding for a tender or even just bidding for customers to walk through the shop door, it’s vital that you show some humanity.
For that, everything from positive body language to showing an interest in others is key. While Theresa May has many skills, she’s not known for her public personality – and nicknames like “The Maybot” don’t do much to boost her image in Brussels.
Some of the most successful businesses of recent times, however, have attained success when their leaders showed a bit of empathy, understanding and self-awareness. Ryanair, for example, launched its Always Getting Better programme to show that it was willing to learn from past mistakes, and was rewarded with further success after some previously very bruising PR confrontations by its leader.
Bids need credibility. Credibility is built through trust and honesty. Extremely difficult when you have an electorate and media who want to know your every move and motivation. But like shareholders, the electorate has to trust the Board / the Government to negotiate on their behalf. And likewise, the Government must be honest in their dealings with their EU counterparts. That doesn’t mean revealing their entire strategy or plan, but through a clear strategy, they must be able to be frank and honest with their EU partners. Where we make a mistake, we must admit it. Honesty and humility can win bids.
A great example of this was when JPC were asked to lead the bid for a large UK hospitality firm, to try and retain a prestigious world famous contract for the 4th time – unheard of in the industry. By starting with ‘why’ the client would not win the contract, we built the bid story upwards. The central theme was “Hungrier than Ever” which reached out to every area of the bid (Sustainability; Greener than Ever, Food; Tastier than Ever and so on), and hit the core question head on; was the enthusiasm and appetite still there to retain the contract? Supported by a film, an inspiring bid document and presentation, history was made. The client won another 5 years, and the senior procuring Managing Director labeled it the ‘best bid he had ever encountered’.
So by keeping it simple, human, honest and considering other views Theresa May can become Theresa Will, and deliver a good Brexit for all.
JPC are a strategic communications agency making the complex compellingly simple. We specialise in Building Brands, Winning Bids, Sales Enablement and Creating Experiences. For more information contact our Strategy Director, Nick Pearce; firstname.lastname@example.org