Unlocking Your Inner Shakespeare: Mastering the Art of Compelling Proposal Writing

This webinar was hosted by Jeff Goldfinger, Founder of Xtra Mile Training & Development, who has been helping B2B companies grow revenue through more H2H interactions for over a decade. Jeff is a renowned expert in proposal writing and has trained countless sales teams to craft compelling proposals that win business.

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In this webinar we discussed


How to find the "Denouement" in a contract?

Denouement is the point in a story at which the conflict is resolved. Borrowed from French, the word literally means “untie the knot,” which refers to the narrative entanglements the author has woven through the first four stages of plot development.


How to use automation to quickly identify key terms?

Insight into VisibleThread’s platform and how to analyze complex documentation in minutes.


How to use this analysis to improve your win rate?

Jeff shared some in-depth examples and stories from his experience. You’ll learn how to make your responses more compelling and increase your win rate.

During the webinar, Jeff shared his insights and strategies for crafting proposals that engage and persuade your audience. You’ll learn how to create a compelling narrative, use storytelling techniques to build rapport and close the deal with a strong call to action. Whether you’re a sales professional, business owner, or marketer, this on-demand webinar is perfect for anyone looking to improve their proposal writing skills.

Our Speaker(s)

Jeff Goldfinger

Founder of Xtra Mile Training & Development

About VisibleThread

Our mission is to make business communications clearer & more transparent, leading to better business outcomes.

“This is a unique opportunity to learn from a leading industry player about the power of automation.”

Webinar Transcript

Micheál McGrath (00:00):

You’ve joined us today. You’re very welcome. Thank you for choosing to join the Visible Tread webinar. We have an amazing webinar today on proposal writing. We’re delighted at Jeff Goldfinger with us. My name is Micheál McGrath. I am the head of marketing here at Visible Tread. I’m really excited for this topic. We have a huge audience here, so welcome. A little bit of housekeeping before I pass to Jeff and allow him to start his presentation. We have lots of really great resources underneath the q and a box. So there’s the ultimate guide to propose a writing. We have some assets related to this webinar and this topic. So feel free to enjoy those assets. They’re, they’re there free as free resources. We love our webinars to be super interactive, so we want to get feedback.


Micheál McGrath (00:48):

We wanna get feedback during the entire presentation. So feel free at any time to raise a question to me, to Jeff, if you wanna kind of chime in on a slide, feel free to use our q and a box on screen. We do have a designated q and a at the end of the session where we will try and answer as many questions as possible. But feel free to get involved. And if you’ve any questions, we’re more than happy to help. So, without further ado, I’m gonna pass you to our esteemed guest Jeff Goldfinger from Extra Mile extra mile training and development. Ge I met Jeff at AP and p Europe. Fantastic presentation on proposal writing there. So we’re delighted to have Jeff. Jeff, how are you today?


Jeff Goldfinger (01:32):

Excellent. Thank you, Micheál. Appreciate it. And esteemed, perhaps thank you, but less hair for sure. So I’ve, I’ve quite the, quite the different hairdo present, but I won’t let that be a distraction, so thank you. And I want to echo what Micheál said about the q and a. Please feel free to put questions in. I’ve asked Mehol to look at ’em, and if there’s by the way, I can’t pronounce that with the, with the Irish accent. My apologies. That’s okay. That’s okay. If you have a question, feel, you know, if it’s something burning and substantial, I’ve asked him to interrupt me with the, the q and a. I won’t actually be watching the box. However, I do have, if you wanna save up your questions. I also have a dedicated time slot for that towards the end of the presentation. By timing myself the other day, this is only gonna take about 30 or 35 minutes, and it’s not just the, the Jeff Goldfinger show. I’ve got a couple of entertaining video and sound clips and music clips in there. So there’s gonna be plenty of time for the questions. And again, don’t feel shy about interrupting at any time. I enjoy the in the moment thoughts that you, you might have. So with that, anything, any other housekeeping we have to do, or should I launch right in?


Micheál McGrath (02:49):

No, I don’t. I’ll find out. One last thing, Jeff. There is if you love Jeff’s presentation, which I know you’re going to, there is a survey on the screen to contact Jeff after the, after the webinar, and we’ll be passing the details onto Jeff afterwards. So if you want to kind of book some one-on-one time with Jeff, feel free to fill out that survey and we’ll pass over the details. But other than that, Jeff, all yours, take it over.


Jeff Goldfinger (03:15):

Great, thank you. All right. So dealing with the Denouement, the title, the Denouement, the specific word, it’s a French word. We’re gonna talk about what it means in a little bit, but it’s part of storytelling. And so we’re gonna tie the, both the art and the science of storytelling to compelling proposal writing. Now, I use the term compelling let me make sure this is working here. Okay, there we go. I, I wanna highlight the word compelling for a moment and focus in on what I tend to use as a strategy for my proposals whenever I’ve been either a capture manager or proposal manager. So most people in the b and p business, we always hear about influence, right? We’re gonna influence the customer’s requirements. I’m not a big believer in influencing, I’ll tell you why. So when you look up the definition of influence in any dictionary, I chose Miriam Webster’s for this example.


Jeff Goldfinger (04:10):

The actor power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command, it’s intangible. Well, I’m not a big believer in that. Rather, I like the word compel to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure. I’m not a big fan of influencing the, the requirements because I believe it’s disingenuous. And it, it puts us as a, as a community in a bad light. I’d much rather compel the customer to choose my proposal over somebody else’s. So that is the context in which I present today’s information is how do you create compelling narratives that force your customer to go your way? All right, so let’s start with a question. What this is the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, which is considered two of the most epic poems in written history.


Jeff Goldfinger (05:15):

We have Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which depending on which site you look at, is either the number one or two most popular of his plays. We have the Blair Witch Project, which is unarguably the most profitable movie of all time on a budget of around $60,000. It earned over close to 250 million at the box office, which is a 4,100 X R O I. So for every dollar they put into it, they got 4,100 back. And what about proposals Most compelling is what I’m trying to drive you towards. So what do we see as the, what do they all have in common, these four things, your proposal plus the Blair Witch Project, Romeo and Juliet and Homer. So that’s the question that I’m gonna answer for you today in the webinar. All right, so our purposes, MI, Nicole, and I, and visible thread our purposes are helped you outcompete in this highly competitive marketplace for the purpose of growing your revenue, to take care of your survival or the survival of your institution.


Jeff Goldfinger (06:28):

So one of the things that most proposal writing tones recommend is they all talk about storytelling. They all tell you what to do. Make your proposal compelling, solve the customer’s pain point. Think customers first mimic their language. Use testimonials, use storytelling. That’s all how and what, sorry, that’s all the what, but they leave out the how. So that’s what I’m gonna focus on today, is to actually how to do storytelling appropriately in a proposal. So if we’re gonna answer that question, where shall we begin? Let’s begin with Ezekiel 25 17. The path of the righteous man is be said on all sides. I’m not very good. Let’s turn that over to Samuel L. Jackson.


Video Clip (07:25):

Ezekiel 25 17. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill separates the weak through the valley of darkness. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord. Would I lay my vengeance upon me?


Jeff Goldfinger (07:57):

Okay? So I’m not encouraging anybody to take a gun to their customer, but what I am pointing out is that if you believe Quintin Tarantino and are a fan of his movies, what you learn is that we live in a very dangerous world. And if you go back about 50,000 years to where we are living on the Savannah Plains of Africa, and we were not as fast as the cheetah, we didn’t have the sense of smell of a hyena, and we didn’t have the strength of a baboon, how did we learn to survive and thrive in such a Quintin Tarantino dangerous environment? The answer is about 50,000 years ago, we just started making shit up. Now, how do we know that? So we’ve been homo sapiens for about 300,000 years. Two to 300,000 depending on who you talk to at any one time among anthropologists and, and historians.


Jeff Goldfinger (08:55):

But there’s something magic happened about 50,000 years ago. Here’s an example. You started seeing cave paintings shown, showing up. Here’s one from Indonesia around 44,000 years old, that is currently the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and earliest figurative art in the world. Here’s an example of a piece of made up art that is the, it’s called the Stale Cave Lion Man. And it was found in the stale cave in Germany. It’s dated about 32,000 years old. And you’ll notice that it has the head of a lion and the body of a man, something that didn’t exist in the real world. So this idea of imagination, okay? Shout out to the temptations. Our imagination allowed us. In the words of Yuval Harari in his book, sapiens, we became effective. We learned how to create fictions. So what is the fiction? Let’s look up the definition there. I’m gonna let you read this as it scrolls. Nicole. Is this showing up large enough for everybody to read it?


Micheál McGrath (10:25):

I think so. Should be.


Jeff Goldfinger (10:31):

Okay. So now I’m gonna highlight a few of the words that I want you to take away from here. This notion of world building a realistic fiction typically involves a story whose basic setting is real, and whose events could feasibly happen in a real world setting? So it was these fictions that made us the dominant species. Up until 50,000 years ago, our homo sapiens ancestors were living at the, simultaneously with other of our generic, right, other of the genus homos. So we had homoerectus homo habas, we had neandertals, we had asthe, and we all were living in harmony until we became fictive. And then we learned how to outcompete in the marketplace. So imagine the following proposal. The first time humans decided to kill a wooly mammoth, and you have Mr. Slate of the Flinstones fame standing up in front of his tribe saying, okay, tomorrow we’re gonna kill a Willie mammoth.


Jeff Goldfinger (11:34):

That’s my proposal to you. We’re gonna kill a Wooly mammoth. And they’re all looking around, we’ve never done that before, Mr. Slate, how are we gonna do that? And then he turns to Barney and Fred and says, you guys are gonna take the left flank, Wilma and Betty. You’re gonna take the right flank, bam, bam and pebbles. You’re gonna take up the rear. And at the moment, I call it, I’m gonna be in the lead, and I want Fred to throw the spear in from the side into the heart of the wooly mammoth. That was a fiction. It was a story about a future that didn’t yet exist, but everybody believed that it could happen. And it was a great story about a future that hadn’t yet come true. So when we say to ourselves, what do all of these four things have in common?


Jeff Goldfinger (12:22):

They’re all works of fiction, including your proposals. When you propose something to your, your customer, yes, you’re using things from the past to make a case about a future. It’s your imagination. It’s a fiction. So how do we make your fiction be compelling, such that your customer wants to buy? So what was so compelling about these two gentlemen, Homer on the left, and Shakespeare on the right, they both used what’s called what we now refer to as fry tag’s pyramid. So what’s fry tag’s? Pyramid? So this is Gustav Fry tag, and he’s a German playwright from the 18 hundreds. And he wrote this book, and, and I’m, if I have any Germans on the on the webinar here, my apologies, but I’m gonna try it.


Jeff Goldfinger (13:17):

Okay? And the technique of the drama. And in it, he, he had studied throughout his time as a playwright novelist, he studied the great works of Homer Shakespeare and other greats contemporaries that he knew of in Germany. And he discovered this notion of all, all of them having the same mechanical structure. Now, you don’t hear it called fry tech’s pyramid very much, because while he was a novelist in a playwright, he was also a nationalist and a racist. So most people tend to call it the plot pyramid or the plot mountain. So it goes by any of those names. And I’m gonna tell you, when you were first exposed to it, you’ve actually seen this before. You just don’t know it, and we’re gonna talk about it. And by the way, I’m also not encouraging anybody to be racist. I’m just giving credit where is due, right?


Jeff Goldfinger (14:10):

All right, so fry tag’s, pyramid is the structure of all great storytelling. This is the how you create a good story. And whether it’s Shakespeare, the Blair Witch Project, or Homer, they all follow this same structure. You have an exposition, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, a resolution in Demont, and we’re gonna go through all that. So that’s the, the, the how. And the what. The why is what this gentleman discovered. This is his name is Ri Hassan. He is a neuroscientist that works at Prince is Israeli neuroscientist that works Princeton University. He and his colleagues discovered, discovered something called neuro neural entrainment when he puts subjects underneath an mri, an F M R I, and looked at their brain scans. And what he discovered was that under normal circumstances are brain scans are like a fingerprint. They, they go up and down totally randomly with nobody in sync.


Jeff Goldfinger (15:16):

But once we start listening, or in some cases reading a compelling narrative, our brainwaves start to synchronize with the speaker. There’s a really good Ted talk. We didn’t have time to watch it all today. It’s an 18 minute long TED talk, but he goes through the, this is your brain on communication. And it’s a rather fascinating discussion of this concept called neuro entrainment, where our brain waves synchronize between the speaker and the listener. So what his conclusion is, is that our brains are wired for storytelling, whether they be oral or written, we are wired to communicate. So now, let’s go through the mechanics of this plot, pyramid of fry tag’s, pyramid. So we have a situation within that situation. We normally have a champion and a speaker. The champion is the person whose identity is at stake for the outcomes. The speaker is the person who is detailing the narrative.


Jeff Goldfinger (16:18):

Sometimes they’re the same individual, sometimes they can be different individuals. And we’ll talk about that in a moment. Actually, let me, let me pause for a second. Think about one of your programs that you’re that you’re submitting a proposal response to. The champion could be the program manager that your, your customer’s program manager. And the speaker is the contracting officer who who, who, who put out the, the solicitation. Or they could be one and the same for small procurements from a research and development agency. A program manager can be both the champion and the speaker for the, for the, the product or service. So that’s where you see it in real life. All right? Adversary is the person or thing that’s gonna prevent the champion from achieving his or her goals. You have major actors and minor actors. Now, in any situation, including whatever project you’re working on, whatever proposal you’re submitting towards, there’s some conflict that exists.


Jeff Goldfinger (17:25):

And for some amount of time, the major actors and the champion is living with this conflict, and it’s tolerable until some moment where it becomes intolerable. And that’s what we call the inciting incident. Now, I’m taking time to go through this. Yes, this is a little academic background. Please follow along. I’m gonna show you some real world examples, sorry, some fictitious examples, and then some real world examples when we get to it. All right? The inciting incident is followed by the rising action, where the champion is going through all of the machinations to overcome the conflict. Sometimes there’s a complication along the way until the tide starts to turn and the champions favor. And we call that the climax of the story. But then we also have to tie up all the loose ends. Everybody has to get back together. The champion has to finish the task required to finally resolve the conflict.


Jeff Goldfinger (18:25):

We call that the resolution, but that’s not the end of the story. The end of the story is the happily ever after moment. And that’s where the Denouement comes in. Denouement loosely translated, and apologies to any French attendees here, roughly means Denouement is a French word that roughly means, and they live happily ever after. It’s not quite that, that neat, but, but that’s the way I want you to think. It’s the imagination of now what’s gonna happen now that you resolved your customer’s conflict? What’s their day? New Mile? What’s their happily ever after that is often unseen in a story. All right? So the example I will use here is the story of ‘The Princess Bride’, a very popular cult movie.


You probably have seen it already. If you’ve never seen it, this is a spoiler alert. You’re gonna see it now instead of watching the whole hour and a half, we’re gonna see it in about three minutes. But I use this movie in all my classes when you take my courses, because it’s a great example of just superior storytelling that shows you all the parts. All right? So let’s go through it. So here we have a champion is the grandfather. He’s telling this story to his his sick grandchild who’s home from school. The champion is Wesley. So we have, in this case, we have a champion and speaker who are different. The adversary is Prince Humperdink, the major actors and the minor actors. And the distinction there is major actors tend to be people we care about in the story, in your, in your proposal efforts, it’s the program, man, the, the customer’s program manager, the technical director, you know, technical lead, maybe the contracting officer. Those are all the major actors. Minor actors might be the schedules coordinator or the, you know, the person you’re supposed to submit your financial reports to, whoever, okay? All right. The conflict is these two star cross lovers were living separate lives, and that was tolerable for some amount of time until it was no longer tolerable. And that’s when she was kidnapped. It suddenly became intolerable, and that’s what kicked off the rising action as the inciting circumstance. So let’s tell the story in full.


Video Clip (20:56):

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.


Jeff Goldfinger (21:01):

Okay, so let me sum up. We have the cliffs of insanity and the sword fight, and Mr. Inconceivable. Are you hearing the, the sound that goes with these?


Micheál McGrath (21:17):

I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s coming true.


Jeff Goldfinger (21:18):

That’s the same. All right? And we have the rats of unusual size, and then we have miracle max, and then we have have fun storm in the castle, okay? That’s all part of the rising action until in some moment that the the the champion is reunited with his love,


Video Clip (21:43):

Wesley. Oh, Wesley darling.


Jeff Goldfinger (21:47):

Okay? So now the story is starting to turn in the champion’s favor, but we still have the falling action. So I’m gonna show you two videos. The first one is the six Finger Man, getting his comeuppance.


Video Clip (22:07):

Hello, my name is My Father to Die,


Jeff Goldfinger (22:19):

Okay? That’s the only blood in this webinar, I promise. All right? Now, what I want you to watch is I want you to watch what happens next in the falling action. So this is the adversary confronting our champion, and watch it very closely and carefully, because I’m gonna probably well, it’s difficult on this platform whether we repeat it or not. So I’m gonna point out a few things at the end of the, at the end of the sequence here. So play, pay close attention, ah,


Video Clip (22:56):

But first things first to the death, no, to the pain. I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase. I’ll explain to the pains. The first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles. The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right. And then my ears. I understand. Let’s get on with it wrong. Your ears, you keep, and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child it’s seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach. Every woman who cries out, dear God, what is that thing will echo in your perfect ears. That is what the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery, forever drunk your sword.


Jeff Goldfinger (24:09):

Okay? That’s some compelling made up shit, isn’t it? Now, again, I am not advocating that you threaten your customer with death by sword, but I wanna point out a few things in that. So, first thing to the pain, okay? I’ve never heard of to the pain before, the adversary didn’t know how often in our proposals do we nominate a product or a service where the name you’ve selected the customer doesn’t know anything about, and then what happened? You started explaining to what? To the pain men. And then the adversary said, oh, I know what that means. No, you don’t know what that means. Let me explain it fully. This is what is happening all the time In our proposals, we talk about stuff from our language, which the customer hears it to the pain, and then the customer, they start reading the executive summary and they go, I know what that is.


Jeff Goldfinger (25:07):

No, you don’t know what that is, customer. Let me really explain what I’m trying to tell you. So that’s how to think about what they’re seeing on the other end, or what, sorry, what they’re reading on at the other end is, a lot of the times you’re using language that sounds like to the pain instead of to the death, right? And so they don’t really understand what you mean by that. And it’s your obligation to provide a compelling narrative that says, oh, I get it. Now, if I don’t buy your product or service, I’m gonna be screwed. That it’s truly gonna affect my health. And where welfare, that’s what I mean by writing a compelling narrative, is that you want to give the impression that their survival is in your hands, okay? And again, I use the term survival in its broadest sense, whether it be financial survival survival of the organization.


Jeff Goldfinger (26:09):

For those of you who sell into the military, it could mean actual survival, but it’s all about telling a comparative, compelling narrative about the things that you call to the pain. All right? But our fried tags pyramid, it’s not over till the big giant sings instead of the what the, the fat lady from the opera sings. So we have to finish up with the day Newmont. So there’s one more clip I’m gonna show you. And again, I want you to watch it closely and carefully. There’s one scene in particular that I’m gonna call out, is as part of the most influential scene in not only the entire movie, but the best advice you’ll ever receive for a proposal. So let’s watch that scene.


Video Clip (27:04):

There you are, here you go. I at the P’S table, and there they were four white horses, and I thought, there are four of us. You did something right? Four white. I wanted to go to my end. You know, it’s very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long now that it’s over, I dunno what to do with the rest of my life. Have you ever considered piracy, make a wonderful Trippi Roberts, they road to freedom? And has dawn arose Wesley and Buttercup knew they were safe, a wave of love swept over them, and as they reach for each other, what. What? Now it’s kissing again. You don’t wanna hear that? Oh, I don’t mind so much. Okay, Ian, now I think you oughta go to sleep. Okay?


Jeff Goldfinger (28:30):

I’m trying to figure out how to stop the, oh, there we go. Okay. All right. So yeah, it’s kissing. You don’t wanna see that again. All right. So one of the things to take away from that sequence, first of all, what’s Wesleyan buttercup, denouement? So they’re denouement, right? They’re happily ever after, which we never see is they get married, they have kids, they move into a castle with a white picket moat. And, we understand that, that denouement, that unseen Denouement, we’ve resolved their conflict, but they still have a happily ever after. Now, think about indigo for a moment. He didn’t know what his denouement was. He resolved his conflict. He killed, he took revenge on the man, the six fingered man who killed his father, but he didn’t know what to do next. So Wesley, the champion p planted the seed for him to become the next dread pirate Roberts.


Jeff Goldfinger (29:35):

That’s what makes a compelling proposal. You as the experts, when your customer doesn’t know what their de numa is, it’s your obligation to plant that seed in their heads. That’s what I mean by dealing with the de numa, is focus on the customer’s Denouement, whether they know it or not. That is the best advice I can ever give you. So, to show the parallels with what your life deals with, think about your mo the proposal you’re working on now, or anyone you’ve worked on in the past. New product, you can insert service, you can insert whatever you need to there, but your proposal is, is nominating a new product or service to your customer, right? So you have a situation with a protagonist, an antagonist, that’s other names for champion and adversary. You have major actors and minor actors that are in, there’s some conflict that’s going on.


Jeff Goldfinger (30:37):

And then in some moment, customer funding shows up, and that’s the inciting circumstance where they, they have a a proposal effort. They, everybody submits their proposals, they select somebody, and then the action starts. You have a system requirements review. You have a preliminary design review followed by a critical design review, followed by the first test article. And then there’s usually some complication that occurs. The, the, the rats of unusual size show up at the in your test site, right? Then at some moment, you have your beta articles and things are now starting to turn in your direction. You roll out, you have a, in the, in the military, we call that the initial operating capability, the I ooc of the product, okay? We then have full rate production, we have sustainment, we have full operational capability, and then we, we sunset the product, we’ve resolved the problem, we sunset the product, and they happily ever after, as everybody has gotten their money. And all of your, and your customer is happy with what you deliver.


Jeff Goldfinger (31:45):

So the, the advice I’m giving you is most bid and proposal responses that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve seen on the government side as well. So I was a contracting officer, technical representative, everybody stops at the resolution. Their proposals only talk about solving the problem. But you have to, the, the one, sorry, compelling proposals, focus on the day numa. And I’m gonna teach you how to actually do that. Where would you look for the day? Numa? So most people will start out by looking in the statement of work, right? So the first, here’s a real world statement of work. This is a project I consulted on a few years back. So it’s beyond the expiration of our nda, so I have no problem talking about it. So this was a CBP effort to to put mobile x-ray capability at some of our borders.


Jeff Goldfinger (32:45):

And what most of my clients focused on right away was they went after the technical specifications.


You need to worry about the technical specs because that’s going to make you compliant. But that’s not where you look for the Denouement… We actually brought in mission level consultants, former CBP officers, and we got to the root of the Denouement. We answered the mail on the requirements, but we talked about in subtle ways that Denouement, and this allowed us to win this competition


And I’m here to tell you is yes, you need to worry about the technical specs cuz that’s gonna make you compliant. Okay? Of course, that’s fine. But that’s not where you look for the Denouement. The Denouement actually back up above in the purpose, in this case, the officer’s mission, we did a whole discussion of what their real mission is, what it’s all about. We actually brought in mission level consultants, former CBP officers, and we got to the root of the Denouement. And that’s what we were thinking about when we wrote our solution. Of course, we answered the mail on the requirements, but we talked about in subtle ways that Denouement, and this allowed us to win this competition as a, as a winner, all right, here’s some other examples I consulted on. Here’s one from P e o. It’s a US Navy one. So I’ll let you read the, the background statement. , again, this is normally overlooked by most proposal managers and volume managers and compliance editors. They tend to go right to the spec and the, and the the objectives and the requirements. But I’m here to tell you, this is where you would look when you see words of overarching goal, that’s where you focus your attention. That’s where the Denouement is going to appear.


Jeff Goldfinger (34:39):

So where can you discover their denouement in the discussion of what it means to be a police Scotland officer? How are they going to use this irritant? How do they want to mirror the capabilities of the live spray? That’s the words you focus on for the dayman, understanding that it’s their identity that’s at stake, and that they don’t wanna do a whole lot of retraining of their officers. They cannot afford to introduce new irritant sprays. That the community is not gonna be looked upon favorably, right? They want it to be invisible. This new equipment should be invisible to both the officers and the public. That’s the denouement, that’s the way to think about it. Of course, you’re gonna meet the requirements, but the denouement the happily ever after is it becomes invisible to both the officers and the general public. That’s what they’re after, is a happily ever after.


Jeff Goldfinger (35:38):

Here’s yet another one. This is a skippable airport. Again, my customer sells the, the baggage stuff, the, both the, the personal screening and the check baggage. And so what’s the deal here? They’re all about the fact that it’s the skipper group, not just at one airport, even though the solution was designed for one airport, their most important airport, they also operate other airports. So they’re happily ever after, is don’t mess with our identity at our most important airport. And if this works out well, we’re gonna roll it out to our other airports. That’s the way to think about it. You’re not gonna see that anywhere in the requirements, but that’s the way you gotta think about it.


Jeff Goldfinger (36:27):

All right? Here’s the, that same one. Here’s the example of how to find the inciting circumstance. The intolerable conflict legislation has changed. So they were dealing with the fact that they had old equipment until some moment when the legislation comes in and says, Nope, you gotta change it out for this new H b s Norm three. That was the legislation, the Norm three technology. All right?


So VisibleThread provides the VT docs tool, right? It is designed to help you more rapidly, more efficiently, more effectively shred a proposal document. And so it was designed to help you use keywords and what most people are using it for, and this is the discussion. When I saw their demo at in Amsterdam at the APMP conference, this is what clued me in to where a system like this


Jeff Goldfinger (37:34):

There’s other stuff out there, but you like, just like, I don’t have any problem with competition. I’m sure you don’t either, right? So whatever technology is out there, whatever you use, hopefully it’s VT docs. But what I’m suggesting to you is, in addition to all the compliance related words, you should think about the Denouement related words. Think like Shakespeare. What is it that’s going to lead to their happily ever after? What is it about the outcomes they’re trying to produce, their goals, their missions, their values, their belief systems? What can you focus in on there? Can you use these words to help you tease out the day new model? So I asked the VisibleThread team to just do a quick example. What you’ll notice here is when you do the compliance words, you get all the great things you gotta shred put into your compliance matrix.


Jeff Goldfinger (38:28):

But notice when you put these other words in, you get a smaller subset of the, of the highlighted terms. But that’s your opportunity. That’s where you go in and you spend your time. Let the folks who can do the compliance stuff do the compliance. But if you’re a capture manager, a proposal manager, or a volume lead, this is where you should be spending your time, understanding the Denouement. That’s where you’re gonna get your win themes from. Okay? All right.


So I offered up earlier that most of these things tell you what to do, but they didn’t tell you how. I’ve now shared with you how. The how is to pyramid your proposal. And this is what I believe has led to a lot of my successes. But applying the pyramid, Frytag’s pyramid to various components, your executive summary, in some cases, every single narrative paragraph should be thought of as its own little pyramid, or at least group of paragraphs.

Jeff Goldfinger (39:38):

In order to become practiced at this, my advice, when I learned this technique, this is what I did. I, every time I started watching movies or TV shows, I made up a little index card and I would actually start writing, filling in the data, right? Just like you did back in grade school so that you could listen, practice listening for the Denouement, we already talked about the examples here, what their Denouement was, what their happily evident after his lack of a Denouement, right? All right. What about his Denouement? Luke Luke’s Denouement was to get off tattooing and become a Jedi knight. Darth Vader’s de numa, we learned about it in a later episode, was to reunite with his son and bring him over on the dark side. They have a de nuk, they had a de numa. Here’s a de numa about how to restore your credit rating.


Jeff Goldfinger (40:32):

It’s everywhere. Here’s the de numa. They even tell you how much, how long the rising action is gonna take. It takes 20 minutes from the time you take the Prilosec until you can go and eat the unhealthy food, which you shouldn’t be eating in. So you can die in early death anyway, which is fine with me, I’m just saying. Right? So this lives everywhere. The, the rising action, the climax is even in the blue pill. We have this everywhere. And if you listen to Robert Fulham me gate, he, he wrote a wonderful book. All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. You learned this at a young age, and I can prove it to you because my son, who is now 11, when I was at back to school night, when he was in kindergarten, I saw this, this is literally from his kindergarten class in November of 2016 in San Diego. And I saw this diagram, and I see this stuff here, and I said, what the heck was this? So a couple years later, I came across the photo of it again. And so let’s see if this is gonna play. This is my son describing fried tag’s. Pyramid,


Jeff Goldfinger (41:40):

Maybe. Is it working? Let’s try it again. There we go.


Video Clip (41:47):

Abraham, do you remember this picture? Not at all, but I think it might be from my kindergarten. It is. So look up there. See where it says A b r. I took this photo in San Diego while you were in kindergarten. Can you tell me what this is? Well, I think this is the story mount where all the important things happen in the store. Okay? So tell me about the parts. This is the start, the intro. This part hooks you into the story to make you start reading more. A round up here should be the problem. The problems. Where I got our problems start happening up here is the kmax, the very top of the story mountain. That’s where everything starts to happen. All the facts, everything’s happening. That’s the Chemex. Then around, over here should be the resolution where they ask somebody to help them fix the problems that were over here. Then over down here is the confusion where narrator or the story wraps up the story. You don’t need bow. Thank you. Welcome. And that’s called the Story Mountain. Yep. Or the plot mountain. Or the plot mountain. Okay. Thank you very much. You’re welcome.


Jeff Goldfinger (43:13):

Sorry, , even if we run out of time, I just had to show that as a proud father. So my point of that is you actually learned this stuff, and I’ve been checking with people growing up in China, in India, elsewhere around the world. They remember this from their grade school days. The problem is, especially if you’re stem educated or, or not, you know, you don’t become a a, an English lit ma or a literature major that you, you kind of forget it. And what I’m telling you is reach down deep inside and send a note to your grade school teacher and thank them for now learning how to put that into action in order to outcompete in the marketplace. All right, so in wrapping this up, what’s your customer story? What’s your proposal story? And are the denu maz aligned? That’s what’s gonna allow you to compel your customer. So I’m gonna open it up. I do have about three or four minutes worth of slides left, so I’m gonna open it up to q and a now. We’ll take q and a for about the next 10 minutes or so. We have any questions yet?


Micheál McGrath (44:19):

Absolutely. There’s a few questions coming in as we go, Jeff, but first of all, thank you so much. That was really entertaining and impactful. And we got so much from that already. So I’d remind everybody q a bots underneath the, underneath the, the video feed. So feel free to drop in questions. One start off question for you, Jeff.

Jeff Goldfinger (44:40):



Micheál McGrath(44:42):

You mentioned that this, this is something that we’ve learned from childhood. You really good example. What are the main causes of why, why, why we’re not actually in like, using this on a day-to-day basis. Why, why, why is it being forgotten or why is it being misunderstood? Is there, is there real root causes towards it?


Jeff Goldfinger (45:04):

Well, I, you know, look, so I I, I’m a computer scientist by education. I have am bachelor of Science and computer engineering, and, but I do have a master’s in education. And here’s what I think based on that, right? So that’s my background listening. I haven’t done the full research, but my speculation is when we’re young, we have a single teacher in the classroom from about kindergarten to fifth grade. And so you’re constantly being reminded no matter what the topic is in classroom, you’ve got storytelling up on the board in your room. And so even as you switch subjects to science or math or whatever, storytelling is ever present in the room. And then what happens is we go off and, and starting in fifth or sixth grade, and we have a math teacher and a science teacher and a, and a language teacher and, and a history teacher, and it gets compartmentalized.


Jeff Goldfinger (45:53):

And because storytelling is actually quite a difficult thing to learn to do well, we don’t actually immerse ourselves in that. We wind up just learning what other people’s stories are, and we don’t make the connection between the fictions of literature and the fictions that we deal with in, in our daily lives. The stories we tell our colleagues in business about futures that haven’t yet happened, but that’s what’s selling an idea is right when we sell, if you’re an engineer that has to sell, let, let’s say you’re an electrical engineer who’s, who’s, you know, designed an elegant way to solve a, a feedback loop, a you know, a a noisy feedback loop in a circuit, you have to sell that idea about incorporating that. Well, the best way to do that is to tell a story, but they don’t teach you that in electrical engineering courses, right? So that’s, I think that’s what happens is that gets parsed out. And especially if you’re STEM educated, you, you tend to avoid that part of, of our lives. And yet that is the one thing that has to make us successful. Did I answer that question?


Micheál McGrath(47:02):

No, very much so, and we, and we’ve loads of questions, so I’m gonna try and work through them as quick as I can, and I’m gonna try and bundle a few together that are, are kind of close. But an excellent question by George. There’s a technique known as lead with benefit but in storytelling, we tend to wait for Denouement. How would you approach this, Jeff?


Jeff Goldfinger (47:24):

Yeah, so lead with benefit is really what you’re saying is with the resolution, how are you gonna resolve the customer’s conflict? And when you have high trust with a customer, then you can actually skip that, right? So if you’re, if you’re submitting your fourth proposal to a customer you’ve already had and everything’s, you know, and they, you’ve built up trust with you, I’m okay with that idea of leading with, with benefit leading with really response and de numa if you do it well enough, right? When you say lead with benefit, and if you focus solely on meeting the, the, the requirement of the proposal, then you’re just talking resolution if your benefit is much larger, right? Lead with the Denouement, right? So when, when I consulted on that, that skipper project, I said we led with the idea that we already knew in our minds that if they liked it at one airport, they would like it in all airports.


Jeff Goldfinger (48:23):

And so we gave an example of how we had done that at multiple airports with another customer that was leading with our denu ma. Okay? Now, the other way to look at it is, I’m not a big fan of leading it with denu ma. If you, if your customer doesn’t trust you, if you’re a new customer, right? By the way, when I say they don’t trust you, I’m not saying that as a moral character trait that I have a whole nother lesson on trust, which we can talk about. But if you, if you’re a new customer sorry, if you’re a new supplier to somebody, they first want to know that you understand their situation and their conflict. So I wouldn’t lead necessarily always with the resolution if it’s a new client or a new customer, I generally lead with, here’s what we think we, we have understood your problem to be. They wanna know that you are in their heads, then you explain how you’re gonna, your rising action is gonna solve their problem and get to the resolution in Denouement. So that, that’s a subtle distinction I make. I don’t always lead with the resolution. Okay,


Micheál McGrath(49:34):

Very good. Excellent. another good question by Robert with innovative solutions, things that the client mightn’t be aware of or know, know very well, how would, how would you exactly, how, how, how would you, how would you let them know? How would you, how would you engage with them? Or how would you share that knowledge with them in a, in a clever way?


Jeff Goldfinger (49:54):

Yeah, so so this is a larger capture manager discussion where you as part of a a, a capture plan and a capture strategy long before the proposal ever comes out, you might be putting out product line announcements. You might put up advertising campaigns that introduce to the pig, right? I’m using that as a placeholder for whatever your new product, your innovative idea is. You might want to get the word out in advance of the, if you haven’t had the opportunity to, then definitely spend some time letting them know of that. Again, it’s more important that they know you’re, that you are in their head. Don’t introduce the product too early, especially if it’s innovative, because then they think you’re just selling your innovative product, right? It just looks too cheesy. It looks like, oh, they don’t really care about this proposal. They just care about getting their new innovative product for sale.


Jeff Goldfinger (50:56):

So spend way more time making sure that you build trust with them in language, in your proposal, letting them know you know, the story that they’re in, and then you introduce the innovative product at the end. There’s actually other techniques I would use. I would ghost, I would first ghost the competition and say why their old tired solutions won’t work, and then introduce the innovative solution. So that, that’s a, that’s a little beyond the remit of, of this particular webinar. But save the innovation till after you’ve fully explained the situation as you understand it. Cuz if they don’t believe that you understand their situation, doesn’t matter how innovative your solution is, they’re not gonna believe you.


Micheál McGrath (51:42):

Excellent. Great, great answer. I’m gonna ask one more to allow you time to finish your presentation. Okay, good. And I’m gonna try and tie two together. So, how would you recommend creating compelling content when the SMB SMEs are not really as invested in it as you, or slightly more focused on maybe cost reduction rather than actually qual quality?


Jeff Goldfinger (52:08):

Okay, . All right, so this is gonna sound really self-serving. That’s why I’m laughing about this. This is not an easy thing to do. And by the way, I’m not recommending you necessarily do this all the time. What I tell my clients who, who take my classes in proposal writing is, you only use this when you have a must win or when you want to win. And I know that sounds a little facetious, but you all know you’ve all been there, there are plenty of proposals that we just throw over the fence. You know, look, we just gotta keep our name in front of the customer, but we have a very low probability of winning and we’re okay with that. But if you have a must win, then this is something you must teach your entire proposal team, they have to know about this. And that’s why when I get hired as a proposal consultant, I make it part of my, my contract that I get at least three hours with the entire team to teach them this.


Jeff Goldfinger (53:02):

And by the way, after you do it two or three times, they’ll get it right. So again, it sounds, I, I don’t mean to make this sound self-serving or trying to drive business in my direction, I’m letting you know that this is hard. This is not easy right there. There’re not too many Shakespeares in life. There’s not too many Blair Witch project filmmakers. So I’m not suggesting this is easy. I’m suggesting it requires practice and it needs it needs somebody who understands proposal writing. And there are a lot of people out there that do that. You know, it’s not just me who understand storytelling, right? So, but you definitely want to train the whole team. Do not leave out the snes. I do that with every one of my proposals where I’ve been a either a consultant, a proposal manager, or capture manager.


Jeff Goldfinger (53:47):

I even brought in the SMEs from our subcontractors, and we had our training session at kickoff day so that everybody was operating from the same sheet of music. All right? So that, that’ll close it off for now. I’m willing to stay after our time is up. But I do have a few more to finish up any other questions, but I do have a few more slides I want to cover real quick. So that deals with the de numa. Just a little bit more about me. Like I said, I was an engineer, computer scientist, but I’m so old. I learned on punch cards, right? Then I went to the Navy to fly airplanes. That’s me on the right hand side there, flying in a six. I flew E two s and Hornets and then I flew a desk. I was a weapon school instructor.


Jeff Goldfinger (54:30):

You’ve all heard a top gun. Top gun has sister weapon schools or sibling weapon schools, and not the so gender specific. So I taught it at two of the four weapon schools, sister weapon gen sorry, sibling weapon schools of top gun. So I bring that mentality of how to tell great stories where your life depends on it. Okay? then I went to work for a small systems engineering company, followed by a much larger one. You probably all have heard L three. I was a capture and proposal manager and business development director, both domestic and internationally. But what you care about is my win rate. So for those of you who follow Grant Thornton’s annual survey, they show about 33% in the government sector. I produced an 82% win rate over, over the course of about 2 billion worth of of proposals I’ve either led or consulted on.


Jeff Goldfinger (55:31):

I haven’t led all of that, and my biggest win was over 300 million. So what I’m telling you is that using this technique has served me very well. So I made a promise at the beginning that this, that I would help you learn how to outcompete in the marketplace to grow your revenue, to take care of your survival, the survival of your company, if I fulfilled them, I promise. Then please thank visible thread for organizing and arranging this talk. Connect with me on LinkedIn and YouTube. I have a YouTube channel I just started called the STEM Signal, where we help the STEM educated, learn how to increase their career signal in the workplace noise. And then also let’s talk about how we might be able to help you. I just started a new class open to the general public called Tell It Like A Top Gun, which, and why is not clicking? I don’t know. Can you forward this? It’s not working. There we go. Tell it like a top gun.com if you just type that in. It’s a three day fully immersive course where you learn what it’s like and how to deliver consequential presentations using the, the, the same method that Top Gun and the other Weapons schools use. If you wanna put in code visible before you get a 10% discount. Okay? So shout out to our organizers. And with that, I’m dropping the mic.


Micheál McGrath (56:55):

You’re very good. Jeff, thank you so much for your time. I’m delighted that you could come on and share your wisdom and your slides. We, we have a couple of questions in the q and a, but what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna pass those those questions directly to you, Jeff, so you can follow up in your own time. And there’s also the survey on the right hand screen if you’d like to get in contact with Jeff, you’re more than welcome to to click yes on that and we’ll pass over your details. A little bit of housekeeping before we leave. I see there’s a couple of questions on the slide on the q and a about the, the VT docs example that Jeff showed. We, we put the whole shred the entire Excel in, in the free resources underneath the screen, download that. And you’re more than welcome to take a look at the Dana Ma the, the actual terms that Jeff decided to select out and how Visible Tread presents them to, to their, to our customers. So it’s a really interesting piece and it shows you the power of what we can do.


Jeff Goldfinger (57:56):

And, and by the way, you know, he did this on a first pass request for me Absolutely. When I looked at the results, it, it requires a little bit of training. So don’t assume that you should do this right away. There’s some coaching and, and, and training. You’re gonna need to work with the VT docs to, to, to dial it in for you and your customers solicitations. So sorry about that, Nicole.


Micheál McGrath(58:19):

No, absolutely, absolutely. And the final note is our next webinar is on the 1st of June. So it’s about a full month away, and it’s on the cost of communications with Deborah Broley, who is a business writing consultant. Similar theme. It’s, it’s really gonna take what Jeff, when it comes to pointing out and finding the Dana Ma, it might support you in creating clear sentences, clear actions, clear paragraphs, clear narratives to actually win more business and connect with your customer a little bit stronger. So, without further ado, Jeff, do you have any final words?


Jeff Goldfinger (58:53):

No, I wanna, again, thank you for this opportunity. I hope your, your your viewers got something out of it. I certainly enjoyed putting it together and figuring out what I was gonna say. ,


Micheál McGrath (59:04):

You’re fantastic. Okay, thank you all and look forward to following up afterwards.



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