How to win despite tough competition

Winning business is a case of ready-aim-fire. Most of us spend way too much of our time on the “aim and fire” part – targeting customers, and firing off presentations and proposals. What we don’t do enough of is readiness; making the connection between what we know and can do, and what makes commercial sense for customers to buy. This leaves us woefully underprepared for the mental, emotional and physical challenges that come with tough competition.

Over the last fortnight, the sights, sounds and spectacular performances of the Rio Olympic Games have captivated the world. One of the biggest stories of the Games has been the success of American swimmer Michael Phelps.

At 31, Phelps is the most-decorated Olympian of all time, and the most outstanding swimmer the world has ever seen. This week, he announced his retirement from swimming after a career that spans five Olympic games and 23 gold medals, five of them won in Rio.

This image from the Rio Olympics perfectly captures the essence of success. While Phelps is focused on winning his race, the closest competitor has his eye on Phelps instead. On social media, it was captioned “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.”

In an elite field of almost-equals, it is mental and emotional preparation, as much as physical conditioning, that separates those who win from those who come in second.

At the Olympics, swimmers who compete against a phenomenon like Michael Phelps at least have the consolation of a silver or bronze medal as a reward for their sacrifice and hard work. 

In business, we don’t have this luxury.

Looking over your shoulder at what competitors are doing – even (and perhaps especially) when they are winning – is not helpful. It will throw you off your game and send you into a spiral of comparison where, inevitably, you will come out in second place.

Instead, run your own race. Focus on making the connection between what you know and can do, and what makes commercial sense for your customers to buy.

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.