Expand Your Business Reading List

IMG_3805I’ve been reading a lot of literary fiction this year. I always enjoy escaping into a different world, meeting diverse characters and the underlying complexity that informs their choices. Storytelling that challenges me to understand a different perspective or imagine another person’s motivations doesn’t just fulfill my leisure pursuits it stretches my mental muscle. And there’s proof that it does just that!

A 2013 study by researchers at The New School in New York City found that people who read literary fiction improve their empathy. These readers have a greater capacity for understanding social behaviour than those who solely read non-fiction or genre fiction. And we all know how important emotional intelligence (EI) is to being an effective leader.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman brought widespread recognition of the concept of EI when his book was published in 1995. He argued that the most successful leaders had greater EI, or the ability to recognize their own and others’ emotions and use that information to adapt their approach and work styles.

So, I propose the at-work book club with a twist. Sure, it’s valuable to consult the latest productivity tome or a bio from a well-respected leader, but add literary fiction to the reading list. Expose yourself to challenging characters who push you to alter your perspective and think about how you’d manage a scenario outside your sphere.


Connecting Counts When Crafting an RFP Response

conversation_puzzleHave you ever been chatting with someone for the first time, trying to get to know them and open up about yourself, and felt like you’re in an alternate reality? The kind of conversation that goes like this:

You: “I just got back from Italy. It was one of my favourite vacations because of the history and culture there. Have you travelled anywhere new recently?”

Stranger: “I bought this iWatch last week. It’s the coolest thing.”

You: “Oh, neat. I don’t have one, but hear that it’s great for tracking steps and being reminded to move more. Do you track fitness with it; what’s the most important feature for you?”

Even Stranger: “My favourite beer is IPA. There are so many great craft beer options now.”

You: “I agree. I think I’ll go get one at the bar. It was nice to meet you. So long!”

Dumbfounded, you feel like you were speaking a different language entirely. You put in the effort to give and take, but your partner in this dance was not engaged or worse, rather self-absorbed.

Now apply this example to writing a response to a request for proposal (RFP). Like an introductory conversation, you need to strike the right balance of sharing information about yourself or your business that you want to get across with providing targeted answers to the questions asked in the RFP. Yes, it’s part sales job, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.

You could take the approach of Even Stranger and share random information unrelated to the presented topics, but meant to sell your so-called strongest features. In Even Stranger’s case, he thinks having the latest tech gadgets and drinking trendy beer is going to win points. But that conversation comes to a quick close given the frustration of it being so one-sided and disjointed.

Personality aside, make your sales pitch flow by knowing (or at least listening to!) your audience. Try to get a sense for what is most important to them, learn as much as you can about their needs or interests and then craft a response that addresses those needs, while weaving in your story in an impactful way.

Let’s take another look at that conversation and how it could have gone.

You: “I just got back from Italy. It was one of my favourite vacations because of the history and culture there. Have you travelled anywhere new recently?”

Stranger: “I haven’t recently, but I love to travel and I’ve been to Italy before. It is fantastic. I did a lot of walking when I was there. I wish I had this iWatch back then; it would have been handy for tracking my steps. Did you find you walked a lot there?”

You: “I did. I tracked steps with my phone, and I do love to know what my stats are and the reminders to move are helpful when you sit at a desk all day. Besides the fitness tracking, what other features of your watch do you like?”

Less Stranger: “Well, I’m still learning. I just got it last week. Hopefully I can answer you in a couple of weeks! What was your favourite historical attraction in Italy? I love the Pantheon.”

You: “I agree! That was my favourite…”

And You will keep talking to Less Stranger to at least find out more about them. Craft an RFP response more like this and, congratulations, you’ll be invited to the next round. Connecting with your audience by showing interest in what they value and sharing relevant information is the key to developing successful RFP responses and communications in general.