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Make the Buying Center Your Allies

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 01-Oct-2014 09:00:00

buying_center_blog_imageSome customers think they are being clever by writing a RFP that includes features from a competitors’ product. They think it guarantees that vendor will win. In fact it gives you exactly what you need to beat the competition.


That doesn’t sound very likely

No? Let me take you through a real life example of how a client made this happen. They followed the Sales Process to the letter and won the business against the odds.

Our client, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software vendor received an RFP from a large Telecoms company. Reading through it they could see someone who wanted to buy a competitor’s product wrote it. As often happens it was written by someone who was familiar with another product and wanted his new employer to select it.


Isn’t that the time to walk away?

Sometimes yes. But our client knew the competitive product well. It was a ‘Rolls Royce’ solution with lots of features. But it was expensive, complex and not designed to make life easier for salespeople, so take up was often poor. And our client knew the customer had a track record of failed IT projects.


They had a chance if they could move the goalposts

But how?  It was all about getting access to the Buying Center. We know that in 8/10 lost sales the reason boils down to the sales team not having access to the real decision makers. Our client came up with an action plan.

They had an initial meeting with the Project Manager. Instead of doing a credentials presentation they went through a sample project with the PM. This gave the PM huge confidence and he really wanted to see a proposal. But our client explained that the main reason the sample project had gone so well was because the requirements of all sales regions had been fully incorporated into the RFP. This way they convinced the PM to let them carry out Needs Analysis interviews with the Buying Center.


Interviews with an agenda

The interviews were meant to be 20 minute phone calls to find out the real needs of the customer. And they were. But our clients’ sales team had been briefed to develop needs in areas where their solution had competitive strengths. One of the questions they asked was: “What is more important: Having a lean solution with a fast implementation and high take up or a very comprehensive solution with a longer implementation?”

Some of the interviews were much longer and very revealing. When they found one interviewee who was very defensive, our client knew who was trying to skew the process in favour of the competitor.


The day of the presentation

It’s always nerve wracking making a presentation. Especially when you’ve committed a lot of expensive resource to a pitch that looked like it was biased in favour of the competition from the start. When the competitors came out of the room looking very smug, our client was understandably on edge.

But they had done their preparation and went in with a plan. The solution had been designed around the Needs Analysis interviews so instead of pitching straight into a demo, they spent the first 20 minutes getting consensus from the Buying Group in the room to new requirements. They had successfully moved the goalposts!

Then they were able to demo a solution that matched the requirements everyone had just agreed to. It was our clients turn to walk out of the room looking very happy. And soon after they were awarded the contract.


Follow the process

Does every story about responding to a difficult RFP situation have a happy ending? Of course not. But if you think hard about the opportunity, follow the Sales Process and talk to the right people you can turn the situation around.


3 questions to challenge your current way of working

  1. Do you qualify opportunities well so you only go after ones you can win?

  2. Do you talk to the right people?

  3. Do you develop strategies aimed at outsmarting the competition?


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