When it comes to winning new business and making pitches for new business, its important to increase your chances of winning. In fact you should have the attitude of winning them all. In order to do so, you will have to know your customer, know your competitors, and know your internal capability. You should increase your effectiveness at making pitches every time you do one. I would like to offer some insights and techniques which will make you more effective.
- We choose our customers: My CEO and boss during one of my assignments would often tell us, “we choose our customers.” I could see his passion so I didn’t tell him what I was thinking; that we should not be choosy because we needed lots of new customers. Over time I came to understand and appreciate his viewpoint. Winning new customers is hard work and takes time. Selling cycles are measured in years for some high value business to business selling. The man hours and other resources expended on winning a single customer can be significant. Imagine you are having breakfast on a famous beach with your sales team. The tables are setup and breakfast is served in a beautiful setting. There is bacon and eggs, plus milk to wash it all down. Along with the impressive scene of the sun rising in the morning and the ocean, you notice seagulls flying overhead eying your breakfast. Some customers are like the chicken and the cow. They will offer you opportunities but only in their time frame and when they feel like it. Other customers are like seagulls. They have no concern for you except as they can take advantage of your weaknesses or inattention. Finally there are pig customers. They offer you a long-term commitment even giving you some of themselves. If you want to make the most of your effort to win new business you should be looking for the customers which are like pigs and not the ones like chickens or cows, and certainly not the seagulls. With some thoughtful effort in learning more about potential customers you can soon say, we choose our customers.
- Use LoWa to your advantage: The most important person at your customer during the selling cycle is the decision maker. Most good sales people know how to find this person. As the value of the sale increases, the decision maker tends to be higher in the customer organization. For example, in one of my assignments we offered non-durable goods. A typical order was low value and we normally dealt with an Assistant Buyer who decided whether to buy from us or a competitor. When we offered our goods in the form of an annual contract the customer’s Senior Buyer got involved. If we discussed a multi-year agreement then the VP of Procurement might make the decision. Deals involving development and supply of a new product, exclusively for a customer over a long period is often negotiated by senior management. When the opportunity to make your pitch to the decision maker comes, it is important for your pitch to come from someone with equal or greater LoWa as the decision maker. As the President of our company, I regularly made pitches to high level decision makers. The decision maker will sense a greater ability of your company to understand the important issues and both parties can use their creative abilities to solve problems that may come out of these discussions.
- Make a Win Matrix for each potential customer: As a new lead presents itself, make it standard practice for your organization to develop a Win Matrix. The format is shown in the picture below but completing the matrix requires that you get to know your customer and your competitors. Learn what your customer desires related to this opportunity. Distinguish between the “must haves” and “want to haves”, and rate your ability to provide these details from 0-10 with 10 meaning you have exactly what they desire. (If you can not provide one or more of the must haves then save time and drop this lead.) Do the same exercise of rating the ability to provide each must and want for each of your competitors. The better you get to know your customer and your competitors, the more powerful this matrix. When you complete the matrix do a SWOT Analysis related to this lead.
- Standardize your pitch: After completing the SWOT Analysis you are ready to plan your proposal. Remember losing this opportunity to a competitor is not an option, so pull out all the stops and be creative in emphasizing your advantages. For example, if you have advantages over the competitors in engineering ability, you want to convince the customer that engineering is a heavier weighted want or must. This could mean you need to present your proposal first before the competitors get across their points of emphasis.Or it may mean you need to have a “totally social” dinner with the customer where you make the point about how pivotal engineering is to the customer’s success going forward. My CEO, mentioned at the start of this post, would insist on assigned seating when having dinner with customers. This was all done without the customer being aware of our scheme. Then each of us would have one or two goals during dinner; to deliver certain messages or to get specific information. Whether your official pitch is a slide presentation, a written proposal, or both; you should standardize the building of the contents. The background on your organization and the great way you deliver product or services can be written and refined ahead. Each time you make a pitch, is an opportunity to refine further but you should not have to spend much time on this. Spend the majority of your time preparing pricing and financials plus making the adjustments to emphasize the heavier weighted advantages you provide. Be proactive and strategic in this effort not reactive and tactical.
Winning new business is the life blood of your company. It’s not just a sales/marketing issue, it’s a strategic planning issue. Start by having an attitude to choose your customers and win every opportunity. Build the right process to meet this goal and you will experience the rewards of a high performance organization.
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