The Debrief - Why It Matters & Tips for Success
The debrief is the final, often overlooked step in the proposal and interview process. If you do not ask for debriefs, you should. If you already do, are you making the most of them?
Why are debriefs important?
Whether you won the job, got shortlisted or were cut completely, getting a debrief on your performance and the quality of your marketing or presentation materials is a key factor in determining your success on future efforts. These informal information sessions can tell you what you are doing right, where you have room for improvement, what your competition is doing and establish a baseline for your industry – plus it shows the client that you genuinely care about doing a good job and are open to feedback.
What if the client will not give a debrief?
Sometimes clients give debriefs, and sometimes they do not. It really depends on the client, the situation and the personalities of those involved. If one client will not give a debrief, that does not mean you should quit trying on future efforts. If everyone gave up after one failed attempt, many historic successes would never have happened. If someone refuses to give you a debrief, simply thank them for their time and move on.
If a client agrees to a debrief, what comes next?
First and foremost, make sure that you keep your end of the conversation calm, positive and unbiased. This can be especially difficult if you did not make a shortlist and are still feeling some sensitivity over the loss - but in these situations it is of the utmost importance. You still want to leave a good impression with the client, and you want to make sure your attitude or responses are not influencing the feedback they are giving you.
The questions you ask will vary according to the project type, industry, position within the selection process (ex: proposal versus interview stage) and the type of information you are hoping to take away from the discussion. If you have trouble developing your list of questions, consider employing the services of a third party marketing professional. They can help you not only develop your list of questions, but also put together a game plan for how you will approach the client, the type of information you should try to gather and how to best put that information to use once you have it.
Now that I know what I should do, what are some things I should avoid?
Once a client has made their final decision, it is only on a rare occasion that they will change their mind. Do not argue with them about their final choice or criticize the competition you were up against. This will only make you appear in a negative light. Measure the questions you ask with care, avoiding any subject matter that may seem inappropriate or off topic. Do not be defensive. Even if you do not agree with everything they have to tell you, always thank them for their time and feedback.
I completed the debrief. Now what?
Take the information you received from the debrief and share it with the team members involved in the proposal/interview process. Learn from both your mistakes and your successes. Use the knowledge gained from your debrief as a training tool to improve your processes and performances in the future.
- Amo Creative Solutions, LLC staff have been creating successful proposals and presentations - and conducting debriefs with clients - for over 14 years. Contact us and we can help you prepare for your next debrief session, as well as decide what to do with the debrief information you receive.