Archives for posts with tag: Winning

The other day I posted on Facebook a sentence lifted from a BBC sports report into a match featuring the professional soccer team I follow. The post went like this:

‘Story of the season, in fact story of most teams I’ve followed, ever: “Wolves were competitive throughout but lacked a cutting edge.”

A cutting edge is a wonderfully graphic phrase which has been so over-borrowed over the last decade that it now risks becoming a sporting cliche, along with ‘we’re taking it one game at a time,’ and many, many others.

It occurred to me at the time, and it still resonates with me now, which is why I’m telling you about it, that having a cutting edge is a vital requirement in so much of our working lives, especially in business. It’s no use being competitive if we lack a cutting edge. In other words, if we’re not executing on our plan, if we’re not getting it done.

I’m not talking about the kind of cutting edge or leading/bleeding edge you hear trotted out with technology companies. We’re on the cutting edge of nanotechnology. Purlease. Indeed, in that context it’s another phrase so well-worm as to be threadbare.

Lacking a cutting edge in sports and business means we’re not sharp, we’re blunt, unsophisticated, ham-fisted even.

So what gives you a cutting edge? Focus, practice, skill, anticipation, commitment and timing. These factors combine to allow you to capitalise, not capitulate, on opportunities.

 

 

Most companies talk about the importance of win/loss analysis, yet few of them do it. Win/loss analysis is the business of analysing the deals you won and those you lost. Setting up a formal call with your customer to analyse why they bought from you is a very useful exercise, as it builds both a qualitative and quantitative picture of what makes you successful.

Setting up a formal call with a non-customer, or an existing customer who didn’t give you the new business, to analyse why they didn’t buy from you is even more successful, since – yes you’ve guessed it – you can learn what contributed to your being unsuccessful so that you can improve your approach and win more business.

Even fewer companies do the loss analysis than the win analysis, and there are lots of human reasons for this. You can learn so much from a lost customer, however, so here are some things I’ve found useful when doing them:

– Get someone not in sales to do the call. It’s easier to get the call, and less confrontational, so it’s easier for them to open up. Sometimes they simply didn’t like the sales person

– Offer to arrange an appointed time for the call, but ask them if now is a bad time, as you only need a maximum of 10 minutes and then you might get to do the call right then

– To secure the call, emphasise that it will be a short call, you’re not trying to reopen the business – though that might happen if you do a stellar job on the call – and that it will help you improve your service in future bids

– Have your questions in writing before the call. If the person is a touch monosyllabic in their answers you can use the questions as prompts to avoid an embarrassingly short call

– Have some suggested answers to some of the questions that can also be used as prompts. For example, for ‘what was it about our proposal you didn’t like’, you might prompt with price, service, track record, solution fit, project management and so on

– Sometimes they prefer to fill something in than speak to you, so be prepared to send in a form with your questions on it, and be prepared to chase to get it back

– Ask them to be as honest as possible in their assessment of why you were unsuccessful. You will get subjective answers and objective ones. Your job is to figure out if they’re giving you a different answer to the true answer. Probe if you have to

– Try to distinguish between personal and subjective answers that you can’t do much about – like ‘we didn’t get on’ – and more objective answers that you can feed back into the business or use for coaching. Example of these include: ‘I felt she was unprofessional’, ‘I didn’t like his approach’, ‘she didn’t understand my business’ and ‘they were too pushy, I wasn’t ready to buy’

– It’s not that high a priority for the person you’re calling, so be prepared for them not to pick up the phone at the appointed time. Be persistent and polite

– After the call, send the person a hand-written note or a small gift thanking them for the feedback, mentioning how valuable their feedback was

The fifth selling stage. It’s getting interesting now, you’re a good way through a sales process to win the deal from your B2B buyer. I’ve identified seven stages to the buying process, so naturally there must be seven selling stages.

To recap, you know your addressable market, you’ve defined the sales opportunity, you have worked with the company to understand their objectives, and you’ve hopefully demonstrated that what you’re selling is the best fit for what they’re trying to achieve. Just as this is the buying stage where the buying company is narrowing it down to one supplier and negotiating the terms, so you, in this fifth selling stage, need to ‘zero in’ on the prize.

On the face of it this is an easy stage for both parties. Is this the best fit? Are we agreed on what’s being paid? Are we agreed on what’s being delivered? Of course, the devil is in the detail and this is often why this stage can be rather drawn out as the two parties and their legal teams hammer out the minutiae. Good buyers and good selling companies tend not to leave the negotiations until this stage, and in many ways the two parties have been negotiating with each other all along, so that there aren’t too many surprises as you get down to the short strokes, to use golfing parlance.

You don’t want your customer to wobble at this point. They’ve come this far and you need to help them get over the line and feel good about the decision they’re making. Make sure that you have the following things in hand:

– have you done your ‘always be qualifying’ thing and reconfirmed that nothing germane has changed?

– has the customer appointed a ‘change agent’, someone in their team that’s going to be responsible for seeing the project through and making the appropriate resources available for it to happen on schedule?

– are you agreed on money?

– have you shared your contractual and implementation documents with them so that they can see the fine print?

– have they confirmed it all looks fine? If they haven’t, have you lined up resources and decision-makers on your side to expedite this process?

Finally, when you’re confident you have guided to them to the part when they’re ready to buy, you get to the most beautiful part of all:

– have you asked them for the order?

– have they confirmed they’re going ahead with you?

 

 

OK, so there are sometimes prizes for coming second. You might have raised your profile for the next opportunity, or gotten onto the next short-list automatically, or even learnt a lot for the next time, but you won’t be generating money for your organisation from this lost deal, you won’t be making work for your colleagues – in a good way.

Business-to-business sales opportunities are often more complex than we realise and in 99% of them we don’t have all the information – and I mean all the information – that we need to optimise our bid. Here are some things to think about:

– Always get your people (and yourself) to follow the same tried and trusted process for selling. If you’re not all following the same process, you don’t know where you are, you have nothing measurable or objective with which to run your business

– Always analyse and qualify your sales opportunities. Can you win the business? Can you deliver the business? Do you even want the business?

– How best should you compete for the business, and how best will your competitors compete?

– What’s the customer trying to do? What’s stopping them from doing it (something must be, or you wouldn’t have an opportunity)? How will you best help them do it, better than any other competitive option (including doing nothing)?

– What are the politics in your customer organisation? Somebody always wants somebody to win, right? Who is it? Are they important? Who do they want to win? What should you do if it’s you? What should you do if it’s not you?

– How will they decide on the business? What’s the process? What’s important to the customer? What’s important to the individuals inside the customer? How might these different wants and needs play out? How can you take advantage of that?

– What are the steps you need to take, the things you need to do, to progress and win the deal? What should you not do because they don’t progress the deal?

There’s an awful lot to do to win deals, and win them consistently, but it’s an awful lot worth doing.