If you learned the Tennyson poem about the Battle of Balaclava at school, you’ll remember the feeling of impending dread as the British horsemen trotted to their certain doom at the hands of the surrounding Russian cannons.
And in an intensely competitive bid situation, there’s no getting away from that heart-sunk feeling and the butterflies in the belly immediately after you’ve sent in your proposal. It’s quite a lot like going into Death Valley, knowing that your competitor may have just done a better job with their proposal than have you.
The chances are that the prospect has also asked you to not contact them for a period of time while they review all the proposals. And when they do come back, it will be to the last two in the running.
What you don’t know is when they’ll get back to you.
Or if you’re #1 but being played as #2 in the hope that you’ll drop your price.
Prize number one is of course the opportunity to actually present the proposal to the client. And if you do a great job, you may get some super feedback. (See our war-gaming blog on how to make that happen.)
But if you do present the proposal, then so will the competition, so that’s not necessarily going to differentiate you especially.
Which is why it’s really important to find ways to getting to see and speak with the prospect’s management team during that time of imposed silence. As soon as the proposal’s timetable has been mooted, let alone cast in stone, you have to be thinking how you can get access during the quiet period.
Right now, with the European football championship on, there’s plenty of opportunity to invite your prospects to a fun location to watch a big game – even if it’s on the TV. (Not all opportunities warrant to cost of a trip to France to watch a game live). And if your prospect is a culture vulture, then finding something really different – like the Hay Book Festival or the Aldeburgh Music event – instead of doing the usual West End extravaganza.
But to have invited the right prospects to the Euros, then you would have had to have called them on it months ago. So prior planning on this is key to getting them to accept - even before even they’ve figured out what their actual proposal timetable is. Working out the natural closing timetable for any deal is an important part of sales qualification, and working with the marketing events team early in every sales cycle is critical in managing this important part of the deal.
But if you do it right, you'll be the only sales team talking to the prospect while the decision is going on. And that's worth all the effort you put into this - and more!
To discuss how to engineer sales cycles and closing processes, contact us here.
My Thursday’s lesson was deceptively simple.
Connect. Build Trust. Diagnose. Advise.
Rinse and repeat for ALL stakeholders.
Only then, propose.
Off to do what should have been done before – cover all bases. More tomorrow.
For a consumer, the “ultimate proposal” is when you see exactly what you want, put it in your shopping cart and then pop a few other items in there while you’re at it. Five minutes later you’re on the sidewalk with a couple of bags, a slightly bloodied credit card, whistling a happy tune.
Online, Spotify does it for your ears. Amazon does it brilliantly. And Netflix does it on your TV.
They all tailor their offers - their proposals - specifically to your previously identified needs and tastes.
You tell Spotify about a couple of bands you like and they’ll find similar ones that you’ll also like.
And Netflix uses your film choices to suggest flicks you’ve never heard of but which are in a similar style in their highly segmented catalogue.
Amazon is the master of cross-selling and uses previous buying history, what’s in your basket and tracking cookies to figure out what you’ve been searching for elsewhere and to magically offer you just what you need when you’re in the mood to buy.
So we know what the segment-of-one marketing concept is - and how it translates to building the best possible proposal in the consumer world.
But how does this translate to enterprises?
So one of your guys needs to get the proposal to the prospect by close of play Friday. And here you are on Thursday morning, seeing the document in all its glory for the first time.
If it’s a complex bid, maybe the first thing you should do is ask the customer for more time – say two more days? Because this is seriously bad timing and is going to eat into everyone’s weekend!
Methodical ramblings after twenty-five years in Sales, Marketing and SalesOps.