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Ready to Re-compete

Would your proposal get a standing ovation?

When we're pitching something new to a customer, our main task is to convince them that will be better off with us than they would be without us. This means transporting them to a brighter, bolder future that they never knew existed; something that too many proposals simply fail to do.

Recently, I saw the stage show Velvet, a disco mash-up featuring burlesque, circus performers and one of Australia’s most enduring pop stars, Marcia Hines.

In the real world, the show ran 90 minutes. In the Velvet world, this felt like only 90 seconds. It was that good.

From the opening bars of the disco classic If You Could Read My Mind to Craig Read’s exuberant, pink and yellow lycra-clad hula-hoop act set to the thumping beat of Shake Your Groove Thing, Velvet was like being transported straight to Studio 54 circa 1974. By the end of the show, DJ Joe Accaria had every single person in the Malthouse Theatre on their feet clapping, cheering and dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire's September – one of my favourite songs of all time. As a pitch for the life-changing power of disco, you’ll never see anything better.

When was the last time you could honestly say that a pitch or proposal you worked on got that kind of reaction - from you, from your team, or from the customer?

Instead of offering a tantalising glimpse into a better future, many proposals feel like a slow descent into purgatory.

Something important gets lost in the translation between the vision in our heads and the words that come out on paper. That’s a real shame, because the picture in your head is often a lot more enticing and transformative than the pitch on the page.

A study of 418 executive-level buyers at companies with more than 100 employees by Forrester Research found that 74% of buyers chose vendors who have worked with them to turn a vision into a clear path to value, compared to those who simply respond to a request.

Next time you’re working on an important pitch or proposal, picture a magical place – the place that you know exists – and take your customers there, instead. Then they’ll be clapping and cheering; at least, on the inside.

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.

Re-Engage is my training and coaching program for organisations with multiple major accounts. It will give your people the framework, skills, and confidence to lead contract renewals with your existing customers. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

 

 

What’s in it for me?

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.

Re-Engage is my training and coaching program for organisations with multiple major accounts. It will give your people the framework, skills, and confidence to lead contract renewals with your existing customers. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

 

What’s your re-engagement strategy?

On the weekend I was talking to friend of mine, Tim, who nine months ago landed a seven-figure deal with one Australia’s major government buyers. In three months’ time, the business comes up for renewal, so of course we were talking about his strategy to retain it.

It was a short conversation, but I was pretty impressed. Tim had thought of everything; he knew exactly how he was going to influence the customer not only to stay with his firm, but to improve and expand on its program of work over the next 12 months of the contract.

Most of the people I talk to are not like Tim.

Tim begins this game with three advantages:

1.     He is a partner in a small consulting firm, and he gets to do pretty much what he likes.

2.     This customer is Tim's only account, and he has the luxury of seeing to their every whim – full time – while a team of his staff take care of day-to-day delivery.

3.     The program of work his firm is doing is expected to take years (possibly decades). It’s very unlikely that the customer will go anywhere else in the short to medium term.

In contrast, most of the customer relationship managers, contract managers and account managers that I know manage multiple customers, many of whom are on very short contracts. A question I get asked a lot is, "How do I give my customers the attention that I want to give them, and that they deserve, without sacrificing everything else that I need to do?"

That's why I'm so excited to introduce my Re-Engage Program.

Re-Engage is designed for businesses who have teams running multiple customer accounts, and who need to drive renewal strategy for all of them – at the same time.

Doing this is a lot like juggling plates.

You need to be able to give one customer your best thinking in a way that's quick and easy to achieve. Once you’ve got that plate up and spinning, you need to be able to get another plate up in the air quickly – for another customer. And so on.

On their own, each of your accounts may be small, but together they probably add up to a lot of revenue that could be at risk if there is no re-engagement strategy. That’s a lot of crashing plates.

If you think you might have a need for this kind of program, please contact me to get a copy of the white paper. Or maybe get a job like Tim’s.

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.

Re-Engage is my training and coaching program for organisations with multiple major accounts. It will give your people the framework, skills, and confidence to lead contract renewals with your existing customers. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

 

Be the choice you want your customers to make

In deciding to do business with us, customers have to make a choice. To decide actually means to “kill off choice”. While that choice can seem like a good one in the beginning, over time, doubts and worries can start to creep in, which eventually can result in the customer making another choice; to move their business somewhere else.

Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling into Melbourne CBD on public transport three days in a row, which is not something I normally do. While the morning trips were okay, two of the evening trips back home were an absolute nightmare.

On the first evening, the trip home went of without a hitch. On the second, the screen on the platform showed my train, stopping all stations, just about to arrive, so I got on it. At the first stop, the train started to reverse a little. I thought it had just overshot the station, but no. The doors closed and it sped back towards Southern Cross, the station I had just come from. Wondering what the hell was going on, I got out and took a look at the screen. Lucky I did. Suddenly this train was headed somewhere else and not at all where it said it was going originally. Hastily, I grabbed my gear and got off again. Eventually, another train arrived and I made it home without an unplanned detour to the outer southeast.

The third and final night was the worst. Standing again on the platform at Southern Cross, the screens promised a Frankston train coming in three minutes. When those three minutes had expired, the screen changed, and that train became a Flinders Street train. This switch on the screen happened three times in a row. No announcements, no explanation. Stuck in the city, without other options to get home, I stood there without a clue of what to do.

Half an hour passed without a train arriving, and finally I was forced to ask for help. Raelene, a friendly-looking woman who had just arrived on the platform, explained that I should go to Flinders Street and wait for a Frankston train there. Grateful for the advice, I asked my new transport buddy about my train-reversing problem from the previous night, keen to see if I was in fact going crazy. Apparently not. “That kind of thing happens all the time,” Raelene said. “Last week, I was on a train that said it was going to Frankston and actually ended up in North Melbourne (completely the opposite direction). I’d had a long day at work, and with my head buried in my Kindle, just didn’t notice the wrong stations whizzing by until it was too late.”

So, our train system is unpredictable. This in itself is probably not that surprising.

What really got me, though, is that the regular commuters on the platform that day didn’t seem shocked, like I was; they were just putting up with the bad service and working around it as best they could.

Eventually though, when it comes time for the government to renew the public transport contracts, I reckon these very same people will rise up like an army to voice their dissatisfaction.

Within every long-term customer relationship, there are niggles that everyone gets used to. People stop complaining about them, but that doesn't mean they're not there, and they can seriously derail your chances of winning the business for a second time.

If you'd like to explore this issue in your business, there are still a few places left in my one-day workshop How To Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers in two weeks’ time. Hope to see you there.

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.

Do you have ambitious growth targets this year? Keen to win the business you REALLY want, at the margins you want, and have more fun doing it? Let me help you to design and build an offer that is so commercially valuable, your target customers would be crazy not to buy it. For a copy of the white paper Pole Position - How to Achieve New Business Success, email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

What is the legacy of short-term thinking?

Short-term targets and short-term thinking are stifling the growth of too many businesses that should be doing much better than they are.

Last week, SmartCompany reported the results of MYOB’s most recent Business Monitor survey, revealing the top 5 pressure points for small and medium enterprises. The top two were “attracting new customers” and “pressure from competitive activity”. Not surprisingly, pressure on profitability and price also rate highly among businesses that have experienced a decline in revenue this year.

There’s no doubt that conditions are challenging, and probably will be for some time. According to Deloitte Access Economics, economic growth here in Australia is expected to remain below its long-term average until 2017.

But short-term thinking is not the answer. There are opportunities out there, as long as we are prepared to do the work and planning it takes to land them.

Remember The Young Ones on TV in the 1980s, with everyone’s favourite hippie Neil earnestly explaining that “We SOW the seed, nature GROWS the seed, then we EAT the seed”?

It’s funny because it’s so obvious, and as it turns out, much easier to say than to do.

Pressure to attract new customers, coupled with increased competition and fewer market opportunities create the perfect environment for a game of chase-your-tail.

It’s one thing to be powerfully motivated to move away from what we DON’T want. But until we have a clear idea of what we DO want, we may see a lot of activity, but also a great deal of fear and confusion that will hamper results.

This year, the stock value of Amazon.com ($248b) overtook the stock value of America’s largest bricks-and-mortar retailer, Walmart ($233b) for the first time. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, doesn’t take this for granted. “If we have a good quarter, it’s because of work we did 3, 4, 5 years ago. It’s not because we did a good job this quarter,” he says.

The work we do today on our business model, products, services and customers may not bear fruit immediately, but without it, there will be little to harvest in the long term.

The downtime over Christmas and New Year is the ideal opportunity to reflect on the rewards you’d like to reap next year, and what you can sow now to make it happen.

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.

Had a tough year? Missed out on business you really wanted? Let’s make sure 2016 is different. The Pole Position program will position you to win the opportunities on your radar for next year. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

Think like a challenger

Picture your most important customer.

Now imagine a world where you don’t have them, and never did. You have other customers like them, maybe not as big or as impressive. And you really, really want them. Your business would grow exponentially if only you could land them.

In this world, you think about this prospective customer all the time. You have lots of ideas to make their world better. You even have a one-year plan. And a three-year plan. And a ten-year plan.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

Welcome to the world of your competitors, who are actively building exactly this kind of plan to steal the business out from under you.

Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance and helped the economy of one of the planet’s poorest nations, understands how hard it is to get people to accept change. “My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people,” he said. “Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.”

Being the incumbent supplier of a big customer is like wearing a set of beer goggles that only let us see the best-case scenario. Because there’s so much at stake, we tend to look for evidence to “prove” that what we are already doing is good enough. As a result we are often blindsided when someone comes in with a more compelling argument that we just didn't see coming. 

Picture your customer again, and imagine for a minute that you were pitching for their business for the first time.

·      Things to fix: What holes could you poke in the current service delivery? Where are the problems that you would want to magically disappear? What doesn’t work well that you could do better?

·      Things to build: What aren’t you doing that you really should be doing? What would the customer love you to do, that you’ve been resisting? If you were the customer, how would you like to see your business transform in the future, and how could you as their supplier make that happen?

Thinking like a challenger does two important things. It helps us get real about problems we don’t want to think about, and it also creates excitement about what we could achieve but haven’t yet.

So take off the beer goggles and have a good, long look at the future. It’s as bright as wechoose to make it.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

How to build customers into raving fans

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”

If you’ve ever been asked this single question (and given a scale of 1-10 to respond) you’ve participated in the Net Promoter Score, a measure of customer loyalty used by many businesses.

If you respond with a score of 9 or 10, you’re a “Promoter” – and a valuable asset to that business. Promoters are the most likely to buy more, stay longer, and refer other potential customers.

Fred Reichheld, who created the Net Promoter system and is also author of The Loyalty Effect, found that most corporations lose 50% of their customers every 5 years, 50% of employees in 4 years, and 50% of investors in less than one year.

In a bid to address these scary numbers, the Net Promoter Score is a simple, point-in-time measure that can track fluctuations in the customer experience while there is still time to influence any decline.

Even more importantly, polling customers this way helps to identify your most valuable assets – the loyal customers who love you, support you and are prepared to sell you to others.

We all have important customer relationships that need some love and attention to build the Promoter effect.

Come along to How To Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers on November 24 in Melbourne and discover creative ways to nurture your most important assets.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

Playing the Trump card

I've recently returned from the United States, where presidential candidate debates are in full swing and Donald Trump is a front-runner for the Republican nomination, consistently ahead of his nearest rival

And this is not surprising. 

Politics is theatre. While other candidates are talking about the same old “boring” stuff like healthcare and education, the audience is tuning into Trump as he sounds off about women, migrants, trade deals with China, Ebola, Obama and what he thinks about celebrities from Bette Midler to Rosie O’Donnell.

Time magazine recently chronicled a list of Trump-isms titled Here’s Roughly Every Controversial Thing Trump Has Ever Said Out Loud. Yet despite offending a great many people, Trump’s approval ratings continually go up. No candidate has yet been able to surpass him.

Why?

Trump sees business as a game, and his massive wealth simply as a way to keep score.

He is successful, opinionated, with a massive online platform that includes 2 million Twitter followers and the TV show The Apprentice, which is syndicated in 25 countries and spawned the famous line, “You’re Fired!”

While the other Republican candidates are measured, professional and polite – behaving they way they think voters want them to behave - Trump runs rings around them simply by speaking his mind. 

Political debates SHOULD be controversial. As voters, hearing things we don’t necessarily agree with forces us to re-examine our opinions and beliefs and to define new ones.

Likewise, in our business relationships we shouldn’t constantly kow-tow to customers. 

Customers may hold the purse strings, but they also appreciate us – as the experts they hired – standing up for what we believe in, even when they don’t agree.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

How to “grow” your own proposal writers

In a proposal, what you say is more important than how you say it, and making sure the people in your team contribute their knowledge is very important. This means getting everyone involved in proposal writing, even if they don’t see themselves as “writers”.

Proposal writing is a skill that can be taught. Everyone in your team who has knowledge to share can learn to be more effective in proposal writing.

However, some people will be more suited to proposal writing as a regular gig than others.

Responding to tenders can feel like you are sitting an exam every day. People who were good at exams at school or university and who quite like the challenge of sitting exams (yes, it happens) are ideal for this type of work.

Bid writers need to quickly understand what’s being asked for in a Request for Tender and know how to respond.

Likewise, getting good exam marks requires the confidence to understand and interpret unfamiliar questions very quickly and under time pressure. It means being able to plan a response that addresses that question, then identify relevant content and ignore stuff that isn’t relevant, and weave an argument or point of view throughout.

A team member who has a good academic record with high exam scores in complex subjects is highly likely to be suited to the task of working on tenders. It doesn’t really matter what kind of subjects they were good at – it’s their pre-existing aptitude for this kind of work that is important.

But proposal writing can be a lonely and demanding job, often leading to exhaustion, frustration and burnout. When someone does choose to take it on, make sure that they get proper training, supervision and support – or their time in the job will probably be short-lived. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

The joy of bid content planning

In a complex bid or tender response, taking the time to plan content and evidence means you and your team will spend less time writing and rewriting. I call this the “joy” of bid content planning because to me, this is where the strategy comes to life. However, most people skip straight over this step because they’re impatient to get straight into writing. This is risky, because without proper planning there is always the chance that the most compelling elements of your strategy will never see the light of day.

A tender evaluation panel might contain anywhere from five to eight or more different stakeholders. They will come from the business area you are pitching to, and possibly also from its technology, legal and environmental sustainability teams.

Even when you are the incumbent supplier, there’s a very good chance that not everyone on the evaluation panel will be familiar with your work. Your proposal needs to explain this, and provide examples and evidence to support what you are saying.

Sit down with your team after the bid strategy session and examine each of the questions in turn. What are these questions really asking? Is there a question behind the question? What does the buyer really want to know? Are there potentially explosive issues here that you need to be aware of?

When thinking about how to answer each question, consider the major claims you want to make.

Then make sure you back them up with evidence.

This is exceptionally important in a bid or tender response, as the evaluation panel has to give each part of your proposal a score. What sets apart high scoring proposals is the believability of their claims, which is determined by the quality of the evidence that you provide. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

How to “game” change

There are two types of change – change that is imposed externally, and the change we choose to make ourselves. Both can be difficult, but only one is inevitable.

In business, we have change imposed on us all the time. Company restructures, legislative change and compulsory competitive tenders are all examples of externally imposed change. This kind of change can shake us up in unpleasant ways and make us feel exposed and vulnerable.

The opposite of change is inertia. In physics, an “inert” object continues in its existing state, unless that state is changed by an external force. In other words, when something pushes us, we have no choice but to go with it.

Self-imposed change, however, requires US to do the pushing. This makes it elusive and harder to achieve – even when it is essential.

Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, authors of Immunity to Change, found that desire and motivation aren't enough on their own to create change, and that change remains maddeningly elusive even when it's literally a matter of life or death. For example, they note that even when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through and make the change successfully.

Inertia can trap us into under-performing, even when we think we are working hard and doing the right thing.

In Who Moved My Cheese? - one of the world’s best-selling change management books - Spencer Johnson suggests that most of us spend far too much time looking after our “existing cheese” (what we have now) and not going in search of “new cheese” (what we could have, if we only got off our butts and went looking for it). “Movement in a new direction helps find new cheese,” concludes Johnson.  “Life moves on, and so should we.”

The most successful suppliers know they need to overcome inertia to avoid being left behind. They aren’t content with just doing what the customer or contract says they should do, and are always looking for ways to add more value. In contrast, others – who have more of a “set and forget” mentality – don’t realise that they are setting them up to lose.

The good news is that you get to decide today which one you are going to be.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

Five business development behaviours that sabotage long-term success

Do you spend more energy getting new clients than servicing the ones you already have? Praise and heavily reward new business wins? Would you rather start a new job with a new customer than fix a problem with an existing one?

Our prevailing business development culture tends to measure and reward new business success over everything else. 

But this could be costing more than you think.

A study by Bain and Company (cited by Harvard Business School) found that the high cost of acquiring customers means that many customer relationships are initially unprofitable. However, this changes when the cost of serving loyal customers falls and the volume of their purchases rises. 

The same study found that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

Add to this the Gartner Group’s assertion that 80% of a company’s future profits will come from just 20% of its existing customers, and it’s clear that investing in the business we already have makes logical commercial sense. And yet, in many cases, this investment just doesn’t happen. 

Here are five business development beliefs and behaviours that sabotage our long-term success.

  1. Focusing too much on revenue. Most BD metrics focus heavily on the revenue line. New customers push that line up much faster than incremental growth in existing accounts ever could, and what gets measured gets rewarded.
  2. Believing customer satisfaction will result in customer loyalty. Most organisations run annual customer satisfaction surveys. Unfortunately, satisfaction measures are not a good predictor of loyalty OR of future behavior. I hold customer interviews as part of my pre-work for the retention programs I facilitate for clients. On more than one occasion, a customer who at one point reported themselves “highly satisfied” has turned out to be angry, disengaged and/or preparing to walk.
  3. Performing well, but becoming complacent. When we’re hitting all our KPIs, it’s easy to forget that good work is what we get paid for, and not a selling point.
  4. Shying away from the hard work. Let’s face it, some large customers are demanding and hard to deal with, and the relationship can become strained and tense over time. It can be easier to get excited about a new customer than to dig in and turn around a difficult one.
  5. Being seduced by bright, shiny objects. It’s fun and exciting to pursue new business, with all its promise and possibility. In contrast, re-competing for customers you already have feels like applying for your own job. It’s hard, and confronting, and there is much, much more at stake.

Customer retention pays enormous dividends when we get it right. While the probability of converting a prospect can be less than 25%, we should be odds-on favourite with an existing customer. 

But incumbency is only an advantage if you choose to use it. Request the white paper and learn more about Getting Ready to Recompete For Your Most Important Contracts and Customers.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in competitive bids and tenders. Are you part-way through a contract term with a big customer? Have an important piece of business coming up for renewal or re-tender in the next 12 months? Join Robyn’s one-day workshop “How to Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers” and develop a Ready to Re-compete plan for the business you can’t afford to lose - http://www.robynhaydon.com/workshops/

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

The gift that just stopped giving

In an environment where business is subject to competitive tender, giving and receiving gifts and hospitality is fraught with problems. It’s a fine line from appreciation to bribery, and it just got even finer. 

Last week The Age newspaper ran a story investigating gifts, benefits, and hospitality offered to buyers in Victoria’s Government-owned water corporations.

According to the Auditor General, there had been a 40% increase in gifts and hospitality to water corporations in a single year. Staff at City West Water received more than $90,000 over a two-year period, and at Southeast Water it was almost $70,000 over five years.

While the water corporations apparently refused to release their gifts registers at the time of the Auditor General's report, and details only emerged following a freedom of information request by the newspaper, it was not good news for suppliers. 

The Age article mentioned at least a dozen suppliers by name alongside the gifts they had given to their customers, including $5,542 for a conference in Florida, $3,700 for conference tickets in San Francisco, $500 in shopping vouchers and gifts cards and large amounts spent on Australian Open tennis tickets, AFL Grand Final tickets, and many other types of hospitality.

Due to concerns about the appearance of impropriety, independent auditor RSM Bird Cameron was asked to investigate. In this case, they found no correlation between the gifts, benefits, and hospitality offered and the results of tenders.

However, Victoria's water minister has now asked all of Victoria’s 19 water corporations to review and update their policies so that any gift or hospitality worth $100 or more is declared and approval sought before it is accepted. Introducing a new culture around gifts and hospitality is going to be one of the first tasks of the new boards at all water corporations from October.

If gifts and entertaining have always taken the lion’s share of your marketing budget, it’s time to re-think your strategy. While modest gifts and hospitality, will always have a role to play in showing appreciation to customers, what they really value is what’s inside your head.

Business development is still all about relationships, the way those relationships are transacted have fundamentally changed. We’ve moved from a time when people and personal relationships had a lot of power, to one where it’s ideas and innovation that are driving the customer relationship.

Invest in continually bringing your customers insights into how they can compete better, do business better, or move closer to their goals. That is truly the best gift you can give them.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

The momentum of continual improvement

The most successful suppliers fall quickly into a pattern of continual improvement as soon as they win a contract or customer. Unfortunately, others – who are really just doing no more than keeping up with the basic requirements – are probably setting themselves up to lose.

Newton’s first law of motion – the law of inertia – tells us that An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

When it comes to important contracts and customers, the procurement process is the “unbalanced force” – something outside ourselves that propels suppliers into a kind of recurrent stop-start motion.

Bid, deliver, and then bid again.

But that doesn’t make this a pattern for suppliers to aspire to.

For incumbent suppliers, what happens in the delivery phase – which is usually the longest and most significant in the relationship – is what sets the stage for winning again.

What customers usually see from a supplier is this.

Energy over time bid_before.png

There’s the initial flurry of excitement when competing for the business, followed (usually) by a short lull while the customer makes up their mind. When we win, it’s a steep climb to get everything set up right, and then we settle back into a comfortable level of delivery until we need to compete again.

But what they EXPECT from us is this:

Choosing the path of continual improvement is what really helps to sustain a customer relationship over the long term.

That’s because not everything is within our control.  We can’t control how customers choose to buy, and we can’t control what competitors do either.

But we CAN choose our own state of mind.

We do get to decide how much of our energy, enthusiasm and ideas – in short, how much of ourselves - we’re prepared to commit to making sure our work gets better and better. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

What Choppergate can teach us about customer expectations

Choppergate is a timely reminder that no matter how well documented and well-understood our work practices may be to us, customers could have very different ideas about what’s acceptable.

Recently the Federal Government in Australia was rocked by an expenses scandal known as “Choppergate”. While scrutiny over the spending of taxpayer money is nothing new, Choppergate has uncovered a systemic mismatch between what the voting public thinks is an acceptable use of public money and the internal policies and practices of the government that is spending it.

If you’re not in Australia, have been living in the outback or doing a digital detox for the last couple of weeks, here’s what has been happening:

  • Federal Parliament Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, a member of the governing Liberal Party, has been condemned for spending an excessive amount of money on charter flights, the most contentious of which involved flying the 100km between Melbourne and Geelong to attend a party fund-raising event.
  • While this was not considered official business, and the money has been repaid, other examples of Bishop’s prolific use of charter flights do apparently fall within the “rules”.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Bishop spent $139,196.01 on charter flights while a junior minister from January ‘98 to December ‘01, almost seven times the amount spent by Tony Abbott (now Prime Minster) and Joe Hockey (now Federal Treasurer).

The Choppergate scandal has inspired hundreds of memes on social media, including my personal favourite:

 (Source: http://mobile.news.com.au/national/politics/internet-skewers-bronwyn-bishop-over-choppergate-scandal/story)

(Source: http://mobile.news.com.au/national/politics/internet-skewers-bronwyn-bishop-over-choppergate-scandal/story)

Within important contracts and customer relationships, we have a set of external KPIs and contract conditions that we need to adhere to. Outside this, though, exist a whole raft of internal work practices and policies that may conflict with or contradict the intention of our customer agreements (whether they’re formalised or not). For example, I once worked with an organisation that had a small contract with a large government body and was seeking to win a bigger slice of their (substantial) business. However, despite their good work in meeting KPIs they were getting resistance from the customer that the management team couldn’t explain.

While unpacking their work practices, we discovered that their contract delivery team was sending 100 emails a week to the customer’s organisation – all of which required an answer. It’s no wonder the customer was getting frustrated, and management was getting stonewalled when they tried to ask for the new business they felt should be a natural consequence of their good performance.

What’s normal practice for us may come as a shock to customers, and could be the hidden barrier that stands in the way of doing more and better business together. Want to know if you’re vulnerable, and how to fix it? Join me at How To Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers in Melbourne on August 6 – I’d love to have you there. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

Hard worker or clear winner?

There's a lot of joy that accompanies winning a new contact or customer. The hard work is over, and finally, we get a chance to do what we really want to do – the work itself.

For most people in the services business, no matter whether you're in commercial services, human services, or professional services, “the work” is what you actually signed up to do when you chose your career. You want to get out there. You want to deliver your knowledge and expertise. You want to get stuff done and to help people.

And when you’ve won the business, it’s easy to assume that doing good work is all you need to do to keep the relationship humming.

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Good work is an expectation: it’s what we get paid to do. So what more do we need to do to keep business that’s important to us, apart from doing good work? That’s surprisingly simple.

There is a distinct difference between the hard workers, who do good work but don’t always retain it, and the clear winners who do both.

Hard workers tend to treat the customer transactionally, obsess about the work, and are only comfortable working with what’s comfortable and absolute.

Clear winners, on the other hand, treat the customer strategically, obsess about the customer’s business (not just the work), deliver what the customer doesn’t yet know they need, and are comfortable working in a space that’s conceptual and abstract.

When it comes to winning again, the way we THINK about our important contracts and customers is even more important than what we do for them.

If you are you part-way through a contract term with a big customer, or faced with a renewal or re-tender process in the next 12 months, join me on August 6 and find out how to get ready to re-compete. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

Learn to love the competition!

Nobody likes to think about competitors. We all want to believe that we are the only ones in the running. And when we actually ARE running, that's a good thing. Not so much beforehand, when taking an objective look at competitors - how they are likely to run their race - can actually help make ours better.

In developing a strategy to win business, we need to identify what the customer most wants, what we can best deliver, and what will position us most favourably against competitors.

The discussion about competitors is usually the most challenging one for us to have. Most of us don't really want to entertain the idea that we might have competition. It makes us defensive, uncomfortable, dismissive, fearful and sometimes angry. 

I totally understand where this comes from. Obsessing about competitors isn't most people’s happy place. (It’s not mine either.) But in fact, understanding competitors helps us to judge what they might do or say. This can pay big dividends when we are under pressure.

For example, imagine you're sitting on stage taking part in a public debate. Your opposition has just made a fantastic point and the audience is cheering hard. You have 10 seconds to get on your feet to respond. Would you feel more confident having anticipated that point the night before, and having a response ready, or being forced to think on your feet?

Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has campaigned against apartheid, poverty, AIDS and non-democratic government, has seen more than his fair share of pressure in public debate and has some good advice to offer.

"Don't raise your voice," Tutu says. "Improve your argument."

Understanding competitors helps us to improve our arguments. In a formal bid or tender, the customer is actively seeking many points of view. Ours is just one of them. By understanding what others might do or say, and having a plan to combat this, we are giving our own arguments their best chance to shine.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.

The risk of choosing style over substance

In a competitive tender, the evaluation panel needs to give your submission a score. What you will be evaluated on is the commercial value of your offer and the evidence you provide to support your claims – and not how nice your proposals look and sound.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about how to sidestep common mistakes that will prevent you from winning the business you really deserve to win.

The first step is to stop the bid sweatshop, and the second is to make sure your team is primed to do the right job – not just do the job right.

If you’ve taken these steps, but still aren’t winning, it’s time to make a bigger investment in your success. At this point, most people will bring in marketing experts to write standardised proposal copy and to design templates so that proposals look and sound better, and speak with a unified, on-brand voice.

Does this result in more wins? Unfortunately, no.

Scratch the surface of these “new and improved” proposals, and really they are just glorified brochures.

I understand why people feel the need to do this. Branding and marketing help to build a successful business that supports premium-priced services. However, branding isn’t a cure-all for everything, and bids and tender responses are not a marketing exercise.

A colleague who works on government evaluation panels once told me that her team of evaluators was briefed to be wary of over-elaborate design and copywriting, as these are devices that less qualified suppliers sometimes use as a way to try to bluff their way through the process. Ouch.

Remember that proposals are a one-on-one conversation with someone who is ready to buy. Worry less about the image your proposal is portraying, and more about how convincing the message actually is. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.

Don't be a one hit wonder!

It’s easy to lose sight of the REAL advantage of being an incumbent – the opportunity to delight a captive audience who has already chosen to buy from you.

Music industry charts are full of one-hit wonders; remember Soft Cell (Tainted Love), Dexys Midnight Runners (Come On Eileen), Nena (99 Luftballoons) and The Knack (My Sharona)? All of these artists produced plenty of other music, it’s just that none of it made the big time quite like these monster hits managed to do. There are many others too, who worked very, very hard for years and years to get their big break, rode on the crest of their one hit single for quite a while, but just couldn’t crack the top of the charts a second time.

Likewise, business-to-business markets are littered with incumbents who didn’t make it past the first contract term.

When you already have the business, it’s easy to get comfortable, and lose sight of the most important thing that's going to help you keep it.

One your biggest advantages as an incumbent supplier is ACCESS – you can get in front of the customer more easily, and go deeper inside the organisation with new ideas in a way that competitors would find very difficult to replicate.

As the incumbent, you worked hard to get to where you are. Let’s make sure you stay there.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.



Is your new idea meaningful for your customer?

Customers aren’t always rational in the way they buy things. Before we get too excited about our new, innovative offering, it is important to think first about the customer’s goals, pressing problems and their appetite for change.

Meaningful innovation resonates with your customer’s goals and solves one or more of their big, gnarly problems – particularly problems that no one else has been able to solve yet. New ideas that focus on opportunity creation can also be useful, but are harder to sell, unless you have a growth-minded customer and the potential of a big payoff or return.

The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, suggests: “We will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.” Most people are therefore much more motivated to resolve an issue that is keeping them up at night than they are to take a risk on a bright shiny opportunity that may or may not be better than their current reality.

For example, my family gave up its old ‘fatback’ analogue television only a month before the digital television switchover. We even took this 60kg TV with us to our new (two storey) place, where it was installed upstairs. Not long after, we found out that the analogue signal in our area was about to be switched off forever, rendering the TV useless. So we had to hire the removalists back to lug it down the stairs and take it away again!

As it turned out, my family wasn’t really that interested in buying a new TV to watch all the extra channels offered by digital TV (the bright shiny opportunity). We didn’t change over our old TV set until we were faced with the prospect of a black screen (big gnarly problem).

Before you rush out to talk to a customer about your bright, shiny offering, remember that while customers do expect innovation from their incumbent suppliers, no one wants change simply for the sake of change. 

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Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers.