If you have attended some of our webinars or workshops in the past, you know that we have always insisted that, in order to prepare an outstanding and tailored business proposal, a SWOT analysis is a crucial step.
A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved with a project or, in this case, your proposal. It involves specifying the objective of your proposal as well as identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to winning the contract.
In this article, I would like to explain how to neutralise the weaknesses that you might have identified during your SWOT analysis.
For every proposal or tender you are preparing, even though you believe your strengths are ‘stronger’ than your weaknesses, not paying attention to them or not neutralising them might diminish your chances of winning the contract.
According to J. M. Beveridge in Positioning to Win, there are two types of weaknesses. A weakness may be real or imagined. In order to win, you have to neutralise your prospect’s concerns about those weaknesses.
If a weakness is real, you have to correct it before you neutralise it. For example, if you realise that you don’t have a specific skill required to deliver the contract, you might need to hire someone with those skills or to partner with another company. Do not hide that weakness; just mention in your proposal how you are addressing it.
By ‘imagined weakness’, we mean that the customer perceives an aspect of your company or service as being weak but, in fact, there isn’t one. Be aware that some of you competitors might create an imaginary weakness regarding your services. A supermarket offer is a perfect example. We all know that Waitrose and M&S are considered to be high-quality but expensive shopping stores. Since the beginning of the recession, Tesco and Asda supermarkets have widely advertised their availability to provide cheaper goods. As a consequence, Waitrose and M&S customers have started to shop at the supermarkets they perceive to be cheaper, like Asda (or Walmart in the US) and Lidl. Therefore, Waitrose and M&S profits have suffered and they have lost some of their regular customers. To counter this, they have launched TV campaigns advertising ‘branded’ goods that match competitors’ prices.
That is what we call ‘neutralising’ weaknesses: making sure the customer understands that what might look a weakness is just a perception, not a reality.