Risky business: the mindset mismatch that is costing you work

When I talk to people about a contract that is up for tender, a project they’d like to do, or a piece of new business they would love to win, there are several things that they usually tell me.

The first is that this venture has their name written all over it; that they are the ideal people for the job. They’ve got the credentials, the methodology, the people, and the skills to get the job done.

Something else I hear a lot is that the opportunity is an “ideal fit” for their vision, mission or strategic plan – or it just fits their image of where they’d like to be in future.

Another thing that people often say is that they would love to have the chance to do this kind of project, or to work with that customer; that it would look great on their CV or would help them attract other, similar business.

Interestingly, the pragmatic arguments – that there is significant money to be made, or a chance to beat competitors – often come well behind, or aren’t mentioned at all.

What this says to me is that, first and foremost, most of us want to do interesting work and to make a difference.  We tend to approach a pitch with an “opportunity” mindset.

On the other hand, when looking at the same contract, project or tender, prospective customers have a completely different set of thoughts going through their mind:

·      This is a really important project. It needs to go well.

·      If it doesn't go well, it's my job or my reputation on the line.

·      There's a whole bunch of things I want done, but I don't know if those things are really possible, and I don't know if I trust you to do them for me or not.

·      I'd love to make an impact with this project and have it be a huge success, but I'm more worried that it won't be.

·      I need this, but I don't want to pay too much for it.

·      I don't want to get ripped off by someone who knows more about how this works than I do.

The contrast is a stark one. While we pitch for new business with an opportunity mindset, the customer is almost always thinking about what could go wrong.

When you first begin a pursuit or a proposal, think about risk and its implications for the customer.

The real opportunity is to ask “why not”, instead of just “why”.

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.

Is it time to pimp your proposals? Stop wasting time and money on proposals that go nowhere. The Pimp My Proposals program will give you the feedback, content and structure you need to build compelling proposals that win business. Learn what you’re doing wrong, and how to fix it. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.