Today’s Guest Blogger is Joseph Olewitz . Joseph has been there & done that in the area of new business development. In addition to being CEO and Principal Consultant at 22nd Story Strategies, Inc., Joseph currently shares experiences deriving from years of pitching large professional services deals on his Intentional Growth blog.
As I work with clients developing an overall growth strategy, I am frequently asked what it takes to win really big deals. It’s a serious matter that requires a lot of thought and planning, and this post only addresses strategic concerns after you have decided to go for it.
- 1. Assess your position in the process. When driven by a large budget, every competitive search for a new professional services partner has certain required steps usually including: RFI, capabilities presentation, written proposal, “pitch” presentation, and some form of finalist process including Q&A for clarity. If you are a passive participant in a big pitch, and you do the best you can to “respond” you will be ceding control of the process to the client and might win but only if you happen to hit the bulls-eye. Proactive winning requires placing yourself on the driver’s seat, as close to the wheel as possible, so you can not only see the path from the driver’s POV but also to influence her steering.
- Frequently assess and nurture your relationships. Presumably you have identified client-side individuals who communicate openly, understand you and your offering and are involved in the final decision. In my experience it is rare to win big deals without those relationships. Over time, your allies can change pro to con and back – you ignore them day-to-day at your peril.
- Know, respect and anticipate the competition. Assume that anything you think of may have already been included in their response. Study their promo material for hints. Make your proposed solution stand out on merit as to quality and business impact. Never pitch against the competition or underestimate them!
- Demonstrate your abilities with everything you do. Each action is a demonstration of your ability to deliver on a scale that you may not have addressed before. The client will react to any signs that you can’t handle the size.
- Be Objective: This may be the toughest suggestion of all. The closer we get to the final submission/presentation the more emotionally involved we get in insuring our own survival. Don’t grasp at straws. Let the client’s needs determine what you pitch and who pitches it – don’t be led by what you’ve always done (regardless of your past success rate). Test everything with others outside the process – you may be too close to the trees to see the forest.
- Consider the organizational impact: Realize that this effort can challenge your firm in ways it has never been challenged before. You may be asking people to do things they’ve never even thought of until now. I am convinced the best way to prepare the organization, while also creating positive change for the long run, is to involve everyone (see my recent blog post on creating a sales culture). Anyone in your organization could innocently turn out to be the weak link in this specific endeavor.
- Be willing to be bold. Be passionate. Take a chance. Stand out. Most important: pitch only what you believe is right.
- Anticipate questions & needs. If you’ve never dealt with big brands and big campaigns, figuratively get over on their side of the table and consider what you look like to the client. You must be prepared to answer this type question:
- You’ve never had such a big account before, will you be able to handle it? Will you drown in expectations and demands? Will you understand the need for detail and reporting?
- Will you be able to scale as the client’s needs grow? Can you rapidly add and/or assign new people as required for quantity or specific skill sets?
- Will you be a support or a hindrance when bumping up against the internal politics?
- Can you finance the relationship from carrying the receivables to backing up any fixed-price delivery promises
- Will the client have to wait while you get up to speed on their business & industry segment? For example, are there legal requirements and/or complex technical subjects requiring an SME as frequently seen in Pharmaceuticals?
- Most important, focus on serving the client: Do not tell them just what they want to hear. Be willing to lose over giving the type of advice that they will be paying you big money for. If they want an errand team, decline the opportunity at the earliest possible opportunity and walk away with your head high.