Where is Value Selling in Era of IoT, AI and Social Media Frenzy?
Selling is complicated business. A penetrating, multi-pronged attack may take bid warriors through a maze of activities spanning solution strategies, competitive/SWOT analyses, customer hot buttons, partner engagement, risk management, deployment models and win themes.
Yet, leave it to the frontliners and everything boils down to value for money which, of course, is what most prospects are after. Number crunchers pitch in, jamming Excel with all available data, mostly dated, with no real pulse on the market, and coming up with some figures, screaming “Eureka, here is the price to win.”
Excel Crunchers, First on the Block
I am not making this up, this is based on my learnings over the years in bid management. This is further expounded by a recent report which refers to a study by Oxford researchers who thought 47% of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades.
Per the report, robots could be knocking on the doors of old-fashioned Excel wizards holding middle management positions whose “main job function is taking a number from one box in Excel and putting it in another box in Excel and writing a narrative about how the number got from place to place.”
That was a funny way of articulating an impending danger facing one segment of the workforce but not removed from reality.
Back to Excel Wheeling and Dealing
When bid outcomes are revealed, you may realise the price was still off by a mile. Never underestimate the ability of your competitor to undercut you and sprint across the line. Worse, it is not uncommon to see a competitor romp home with a higher price!
Who cares, as we still have recourse to the old cold-comfort excuse that “losing is a part of the game.” On price, that is! Another fun excuse could be that “it is good we lost it. Who wants to win a deal that will not be profitable!”
For the next big opportunity, it will still be back to school – sorry, back to Excel for wheeling, dealing and discounting – no lessons learnt!
Technical Mumbo Jumbo
Where focus is on product supremacy it is all about compliance and technical mumbo-jumbo that are bound to take decision-makers on a spin.
Those who hold the key to business purse strings want to know how you can ease their pain, the benefits they can look forward to with proof points and why they should go with you and not a competing vendor.
Danger Zone with Marketing
Bring in marketing and stitching together a deal gets into a danger zone with fluff and more fluff. If trouble is what you want to court, then extraneous tricks are your best bets.
There is no doubt that marketing fuels brand building, thereby enabling sales. When you go overboard, which is often the case, you can scuttle your chances with reliability coming under a cloud.
Social Selling – Madness Personified?
And how about social selling? Isn’t that all the rage now? Or is it madness personified with a Net craze that sees employees across the board being tapped to share corporate blogs or anything they can lay their hands on? The retweet maestros are having a field day, hyping up everything for a goldmine that is simply not there. Is mere public visibility – publicity without credibility – enough to close deals?
Ha, don’t we have the all-powerful industry reports from research groups who sell their paperware (or e-ware or data ware) to businesses ready to lap them up as ammunition potent enough to nail down competition with precision. Isn’t it bliss to miss the fact that all vendors flaunt such reports with equal felicity and ardour?
Discover the Unknown
They will all serve you well but just not enough to help you close a deal. Winning lies in your ability to discover the unknown, going beyond what is listed in the RFP.
It can be an unlisted evaluation criterion tied to the customer’s most important compelling event. It can be factors important enough to make them loosen up their budget.
Vision for the Prospect
Do you have enough information that can enable you to craft a vision for the prospect?
Do you know if any of your competitors influenced the tender and why you have been invited to bid? They may not tell you that you are in the race only because they can benchmark you against their preferred vendor. If you can discern it, that will lead to better qualification or to pursue the opportunity with an effective counter theme.
A tactical, ad-hoc approach may lead you to completion of the mundane checklist. It is only with a clearly defined pursuit strategy that you will discover the secret to winning.
Cohesive, Not Disjointed, Solution
A crucial advantage of being equipped with all the necessary information, the obvious and the hidden, is that it will give you the power to architect a cohesive solution fully tailored for the prospect, as opposed to a disjointed one that can raise questions on your ability to deliver.
It is only with a threadbare discovery exercise you will be able to infuse strategic planning with a personal touch for a compelling submission.
These are actions aimed at making evaluation easy so the prospect can take an informed decision. If your proposal goes beyond the ordinary, that is half the battle won.
That takes me back to the initial perception which is essentially the inescapable reality – selling is complicated business!
G Joslin Vethakumar