When you're the incumbent supplier seeking to retain a customer or contract, big-noting yourself is almost impossible. The customer has experienced how you work, heard about everything you’ve already done (good and bad) and seen you warts and all. Good performance is just an expectation; it’s what you are being paid for. The customer isn’t going to give you a gold star for meeting your KPIs. That’s why relying on your track record when it comes to competing for business you already have is never a successful strategy for incumbents.
Culturally, at least here in Australia, our aversion to other people big-noting their achievements begins early. This year, my son started Year Four, and he and his friends have been learning all about leadership. This culminated in each of the kids campaigning for a junior school leadership position, like Sports Leader, Arts Leader, Environment Leader, Social Responsibility Leader or membership of Student Representative Council.
On the day the kids had to make their pitch to each other, I asked my son how it had gone. His first reaction was one of disdain. "Some people are just show-offs," he said, clearly unimpressed by students who had spent most of their time telling the kids about their own achievements. I asked if there were any pitches he had liked. He told me about a few who had outlined their plans to make things better for others, through imaginative fundraising campaigns, looking after the school grounds, and the inevitable vote-grabber; campaigning for TVs and cushions in the boys’ restrooms. (Apparently, “the girls have them”.)
What’s in it for me? Every buyer (or voter) asks this question, whether they already know and work with us, or not.
When you're pitching again for business you already have, resist the urge to talk only about what you’ve already done, or risk sounding like a know-it-all that no one wants to vote for. Spend at least half of your time outlining your plan to build the customer’s future; this immediately switches the focus from pitching to helping, and you’ll find it comes as a relief both to you and to your audience.
|Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business that is won through competitive bids and tenders. Her clients have won and retained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with many of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers.|
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