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Only work on pitches you can win

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 16-Mar-2016 09:00:00

Pitches_you_can_win.pngPlease excuse me if there are any typing errors in this article but I am typing with my fingers crossed. I have just spent a lot of time and a great deal of energy on an RFP for an important new prospect and I am awaiting the outcome. Just how much time was brought home to me when I went to the Careers Fair at my sons’ school last Saturday. 

I was one of around 45 parents, each sitting at a desk answering questions about their job so the students could get a first hand insight into what each career entailed. One of the 15 year olds came up to me and asked me how many hours a week I spend at work. When I replied he said, “That’s a lot more than most people here do”. Which made me think, ‘Why do Sales People spend so much time working?’ And then I went on to ask myself - based on the many Sales People I have worked with over the years – ‘do successful Sales People work longer hours than less successful ones?’

Why do we work so hard in Sales?

For me at least, this is an easy question to answer. It’s a great job. How many other jobs give you the same level of independence and opportunity to show your entrepreneurial skills? And how many jobs give you that huge buzz of satisfaction when you bring in a big deal?

But what about the most successful Sales People, are they the ones who work the longest hours? In my experience no. The Sales People who get the results make sure they only commit a lot of hours to pitches they are confident they can win. It takes just as many hours work to complete a losing pitch as a winning one.

How do you make sure you are always working on a winning pitch?

To be fair, you cannot be absolutely certain that every pitch you commit a lot of time to will be a winner, but you can do a lot to ensure that you spend most of your time on winners. And this has become increasingly important as the time and effort it takes to win (or lose) a pitch seems to be increasing every year. 

Let me share with you a little about the pitch I mentioned earlier. The RFP arrived 3 weeks ago, a 50-page document from the procurement department of a global software company that was very detailed and clearly designed to make comparing bidding companies easier. It was from a company we had never worked with before.

The amount of work was considerable; we had 3 days to ask questions and the answers were shared with all the companies pitching, we then spent 20 long days writing our response, then we were shortlisted and invited to make a presentation which required another 4 days of preparation plus the time to actually make the presentation.

The question always on my mind was – ‘is this time well spent?’ Sales People spend time on the wrong pitches for all sorts of reasons – from over confidence about their ability to win to pressure to keep their pipeline full. Whatever the reason the solution is the same – you must qualify each opportunity thoroughly.

Why this opportunity met our criteria for GO

We expected that at least 7 vendors had to submit proposals to meet the purchasing rules for this organisation but we had no intention of just making up the numbers. These are the factors we gave weight to.

Is the project real?

The needs they set out in the RFP were clearly linked to several company goals and that reassured us that this project would go ahead.

Is the opportunity attractive?

This is a company that turns over €500M and employs 400 Sales People around the world. There is no doubt that this project is attractive.

Is there scope for an alternative solution?

Although the RFP called for Sales Training, we believe that only Sales Transformation will meet the objectives set out in the document. We read the document with care and satisfied ourselves that they were first and foremost seeking a solution that would meet their objectives and therefore they would consider a solution that differed from the one they asked for.

Is our solution the best?

Yes. We have good reason to believe that our approach meets the requirements of this company in a unique and highly effective way.

Do we have the right credentials?

We have delivered very similar projects for several directly comparable organisations that will provide references.

Does this company trust us?

We have never worked for this company but a key decision maker has positive experience from working with us before.

As I write this I don’t know if we will win this pitch or not but I am confident I have done everything within reason to ensure we have not been wasting our time going after it.

Ask yourself

  • Are you confident that you are not wasting time when you work on a pitch?

  • Do you qualify opportunities thoroughly before committing resources?

  • Do you sometimes work on poorly qualified opportunities rather than go out and find new ones?

  • Are you working on just such an opportunity right now?

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