Stop Hoping and Start Planning

Volume 3 Letter 8

“Failures are divided into two classes – those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought” John Salak

Up until a few weeks ago things were looking fine. The relationship with the client was great and you felt you were definitely in the lead to win the contract. But now things don’t feel right. What seemed to be a good relationship has suddenly soured. The prospect is slow to return your calls and when they do conversations are vague and evasive. Suddenly the prospect has also asked for additional new requirements in the 11th hour – requirements it will be difficult for your team to meet.

As you start to wonder what went wrong you remember the presentation a few weeks ago as being uncoordinated and unfocused. The presentation team spent too much time on technical issues and not enough time on how we’d solved their issues. You realize that at present your access to the top executives is still limited and nothing seems to be driving the prospect to a final decision. On top of all of this the client is already asking for a discount!

Things are clearly out of control. Grabbing a cup of coffee you sit back in your office and ask yourself a few questions. Did we help generate the requirements for the bid? No, we weren’t aware the contract was coming up until the bid went out. Was our point of entry into the organization high or low? Our entry point was low and our main contact is still the purchasing agent. Since the competitor presented first did we expose their weaknesses with a few well placed questions that would raise concerns about the competitor’s ability to deliver the whole solution? No, we didn’t take the time to do the competitor analysis.

As you swirl the last of your coffee in the bottom of your cup a final question jumps into your mind. Did we have a team strategy for bidding on the contract? No, one short meeting and a few phone calls but in our final presentation our fonts didn’t even match as various divisions developed their own materials for the bid. Come to think of it we didn’t even have a team strategy before the presentation. There wasn’t time – we met in the parking lot and winged it.

There are many things going on at once in a complex sale. Although one can never control a client’s evaluation process one can better understand the client’s problems – at each level of the organization. The goal is to develop a better way of solving their problems and thus differentiating one’s product or services.

To gain control of a complex sale one must have a strategy. Without a team strategy resources are wasted. There is no focus and time is spent chasing problems rather than solving them.

In the book “Hope is Not a Strategy” the author suggests six keys to winning a complex sale:[1]

  1. Qualify the prospect: How much of our time and resources should we devote to this client?
  2. Link the solution to pain or gain for the customer: Does the client fully understand what our solution brings them? (The true cost of doing nothing and the value of our proposal).
  3. Determine the decision making process: What process is the client using to evaluate the bid?
  4. Sell to the Power: Who are the decision makers?
  5. Build competitive preference: Who are the best people and what is the best product / service solution for this account?
  6. Communicate the strategic plan to your team: Does everyone know their role and what tasks are urgent vs. which ones are important?

“Failures are divided into two classes – those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought” Successes, are divided into one class – those who thought and then executed . Stop hoping and start planning

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[1] “Hope is Not a Strategy” Rick Page, Nautilus Press 2002

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