Top 5 summer reads on business development and sales

The summer break is a great time to get inspired by new ideas. And it’s often the only time we have all year to read a book straight through without interruptions.

Here are my top 5 business development reads for the summer break.

All are bestsellers in their own genre, so if you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, now is the perfect time:

·      Start with Why – A modern classic by Simon Sinek that tells us that customers don’t buy WHAT we do, they buy WHY we do it. This book will spark ideas about the context of what you’re selling.

·      The Challenger Sale – Dixon and Adamson present compelling research that explains why customers prefer suppliers who don’t just give them what they think they want, but instead “teach” them new ways to compete better and do business better. This book will help you think about the content of your offer.

·      Selling To Big Companies – Jill Konrath’s practical, easy to read guide on how to navigate large organisations and sell more successfully. This book gives helpful tips to re-think how you’re selling.

·      To Sell Is Human – An engaging and approachable read from Dan Pink about persuading, convincing and influencing others. This book provides a useful re-frame for experts and technical professionals about why what we do is actually “selling”.

·      Hooked – Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu have written the definitive text on how leaders connect, engage and inspire with storytelling. This book will expand your right-brain communication skills and help you connect emotionally, as well as rationally, with customers.

Wishing you a safe and happy festive season and the best of success in 2016.

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.

Five ways to get your business promoted

By the time you're the CEO, General Manager or leader of a business, you may have already reached the level of promotion you hoped for as an individual. So self-promotion is probably not something that occupies your mind every day.

Yet the advice that helped you to get where you are today can be applied to promoting your business to your customers, in much the same way as it helped you to rise through the ranks in your career. Here are five principles to look at in a whole new way.

1.     “Volunteer for extra projects”. Take a look at what's going on inside your customer's business. What would they love to do, if only they had the expertise or time? Volunteering to take on an extra project that helps the customer to achieve their goals shows what you can do, as well as a willingness to work and to learn.

2.     “Get experience outside your job role”. People who work in other industries for a period of time usually come back with great ideas and transferable skills. Where else are you working already, and where else could you go, to bring fresh insights to the customer?

3.     “Come with a solution, not a problem”. Listen to what’s going on for your customer, and find people who can help in areas that you (and they) don’t have expertise. Don’t try to do everything: you’ll be more highly regarded for your own expertise if you can introduce complementary (not competing) experts too.

4.     “Make your achievements visible”. Promotions are often won by the employees who are best at “selling” their results, not necessarily delivering the best results. The same applies here. How are you using your access to the customer to tell them about the great things that you're doing for them, and for other customers?

5.     “Be indispensable, but not overbearing”. Not every great idea of yours is going to meet with a welcome reception. Doesn't mean it's a bad idea. Maybe it's not the right time, or there is something else that's competing with it. Avoid the worst of this by understanding what the customer’s 12 month calendar looks like - what's going on inside their business, what’s a high priority and when. Understanding when to introduce your argument is the key to having it land with a receptive audience. 

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.

Take your power back!

For those of us old enough to remember, the golden age of selling in business-to-business markets was at least 20 or 30 years ago.  Back then, business was done on a handshake, relationships were king and suppliers had a lot of power. If you were running a business or doing any selling back then, you probably felt like you were in control.

Fast forward to today, and business of any size and scale is done through bids and tenders, procurement is king, and suppliers don’t seem to know what to do any more.

The world of sales has fundamentally changed. But some of us are still selling like it’s 1985, Wham is at the top of the charts and we are jamming out “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” on the Sony Walkman wearing our Choose Life t-shirts and fluoro cut-off gloves.

OK, maybe that was just me, but you get the picture. It’s chaos, it’s not pretty (truly) and it’s not working. Something has to change.

What’s really going on here is that we feel like we have lost our power.

It’s fair to say that not everything we’d like to control is within our control. We can’t control how customers buy. We can’t control what competitors do and say. And we can’t control how we feel about any of these things. But we can control how we exercise our CHOICE. And we can choose to think more broadly, to feel differently and to act despite our fears and challenges.

I reckon it’s an exciting time to be in business. Our world is full of possibility and potential. But this is underpinned by rapid and unrelenting change that brings many challenges.

Customers have these challenges too. So we’ve moved from a time where people and personal relationships had a lot of power, to one where ideas and innovation are the primary currency that drives customer relationships.

According to a recent study by TEC (The Executive Connection), a global network of company CEOs, the five issues keeping CEOs up at night are talent management and the need for cultural fit; the role of technology in re-shaping existing business models and creating new opportunities; the globalisation of markets; embedding an innovation mindset; and the perennial need to make good decisions. (Read the full report here

Do you have a solution for one of these? Prospects and customers want to hear about it.  

It’s time to take your power back, show them what they don’t know (but should) and build your customer’s future. This is what creates real and lasting customer partnerships.

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.

What’s your business development style?

There is no one “best” way to do business development. We all have a natural business development style that we are drawn to.  This is not based on any external methodology that helps us get the job done, but on internal preferences shaped by our personality and environment.

Your business development style sits at the intersection of your natural decision-making horizon - whether you focus short-term or long term - and your natural way of thinking, meaning whether you’re more comfortable dealing with abstract concepts or concrete facts.

There are four primary business development styles:

1.         The Dealmaker, with a short-term concrete focus. Dealmakers pride themselves on being good operators who make commercially smart decisions and are great at cutting through mental clutter to get to a result. To a Dealmaker, there’s no problem with a customer that can’t be fixed by sweetening the deal.

2.         The Ideator, with a short-term conceptual focus. Ideators love to come up with creative and innovative ways to change the world for their customers. Ideators sidestep roadblocks and problems by thinking up new ways to get others excited about the future. 

3.         The Producer, with a long-term concrete focus.  Producers are great at what they do, get brilliant results, and love to work on interesting projects that fit their expertise. Producers solve problems best when  “putting their heads together” with a team of like-minded experts.

4.         The Nurturer, with a long-term conceptual focus. Nurturers are great with people; they put in tireless effort behind the scenes and often pull deals out of the hat like magic due to their strategic, long-term work on customer relationships. Nurturers are good at collaboratively solving problems, with a knack for helping customers see past the immediate issue to the long-term goal. 

Within your team, aim for a diversity of styles to create stronger arguments and better business development outcomes.

Team members who share a thinking style (whether concrete or conceptual) will tend to gravitate towards each other as allies – Dealmakers to Producers, and Ideators to Nurturers.

Likewise, team members who share a similar decision-making horizon but differ in their thinking style can be useful creative partners to help each other fill in the gaps and point out what the other might have missed – Dealmakers with Ideators, and Producers with Nurturers. 

Those who think completely differently and have opposing reference timeframes are natural challengers able to point out the flaws and risks in each others’ arguments (and probably have a few, while they’re at it). Expect a robust debate between Ideators and Producers, and Dealmakers and Nurturers.

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.

Why procurement and service businesses are natural allies

Selling services is never going to be completely transactional and all about price. It is always about something more. Buyers need help to navigate complex problems that weren’t conceived of a year ago – let alone 10 years ago – and service providers can help them.

Unfortunately, many people find selling to procurement complex, adversarial and intimidating. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, if you sell services you will actually benefit from cultivating a relationship with procurement.

According to procurement expert Adel Salman, procurement doesn’t “own” services expenditure (although they are responsible for raw materials) and has to satisfy many other stakeholders who are actually using the service and paying for it. Therefore, it is part of procurement’s job to engage good service providers and help them deliver exceptional performance.

Increasing expectations of the procurement function are also driving this trend. A survey of 70 chief executive officers by brain.net revealed that CEOs expect much more from procurement departments in areas like innovation. In his book Selling To Procurement, Christopher Provines says that “…increasingly, particularly for more mature organisations, procurement is being asked to help the company grow.” He explains that innovation needs to be thought of in the broadest sense – process/business model innovation and product innovation – and that often, suppliers can contribute significantly to both.

Provines cites a survey of more than 300 chief purchasing officers by CAPS Research, a supply chain research firm, which revealed that about 60 per cent saw innovation from suppliers as “extremely important”. This is encouraging news for suppliers, and especially for suppliers of complex services.

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 http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Five characteristics of clear winners

It’s no longer enough just to be a good supplier. We must strive to become great suppliers, and this doesn’t just mean being great at what we already do for our customers.

Something that I’ve noticed over many years of working with incumbent suppliers in many different industries is that the most successful ones share a very clear and focused pattern of behaviour that helps them retain existing their contracts, while others are setting themselves up to lose. The most successful suppliers are those that I call the ‘clear winners’.

For me, the term clear winner describes the mindset of the business development leader as well as the course of action that the organisation follows to win and retain business.

Here are five ways that business development leaders demonstrate the mindset of a clear winner.

  1. Clear winners love what they do and speak eloquently about their business and its opportunities.
  2. Clear winners have great ideas with the potential to deliver genuine value for their customers. They focus on serving their customers first and themselves second.
  3. Clear winners are truly excited about the opportunity to work with customers. They see this as a privilege and not just a ‘numbers game’.
  4. Clear winners believe that there is always a better way of doing things, even when there are already great at what they do.
  5. Clear winners have a lot on (like everyone else) but always seem to manage to focus on just the right thing. You’ll never hear them complain about being ‘busy’ – instead, they are energised by the work they’re doing.

Clear winners may seem lucky – like they are 'on a roll' – but they know the real story; to achieve at this level takes courage, investment and hard work.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Why gratitude wins business

When we first win a customer or contract, it’s natural to be on a high and very excited – a bit like the first flush of love. But when business as usual kicks in, it doesn't take long before we are taking the customer (our partner) for granted. In doing so, we tend to forget what a risk it was for them to choose us in the first place, and the gratitude we felt during the honeymoon period.

Last year one of my clients was bidding for an important government contract. The Department in question was looking to reform this part of the market, so we had several bids in place and the team was braced to expect change. The first call we received was to notify us that we had lost our (small) current contract. The CEO, always gracious under pressure, was genuine in thanking the Department rep for the opportunity to participate and assured him that she understood the reasons for the loss. He was grateful and surprised to receive such a reaction, having made similar calls to other unsuccessful suppliers and been given a much more aggressive and angry reception.

Not long afterwards, our team got better news. We had won a much larger contract that not only replaced the revenue (and jobs) of the first one, but increased both exponentially.

No matter what business you’re in, long-term contracts are a game of strategic relationships.

When there is a setback, think carefully about the future and don’t burn your bridges.

Expressing true gratitude for the opportunities we've already been given in business actually helps us to win even more. We never know what lies ahead, and we can achieve so much more with the customer’s backing and support.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

7 wishes on my Christmas list for Procurement

As thoughts turn to the Christmas holidays and what Santa might bring the kids, my Christmas letter asks for something a little bigger.

On behalf of the wonderful supplier organisations I have worked with on bids, tenders and proposals during the year, here are 7 things I’d like to see Procurement deliver to all of us this festive season.

“Dear Procurement, all we want for Christmas is….

  1.  Let suppliers talk to you again. A Request for Tender isn't the only way to scope the market and for complex purchases, it really isn't the best option. So let’s have a chat. Things change quickly and you might be surprised about what we can do for you now that you haven't yet heard about. And, while we’re on the subject…
  2. Bring back Expressions of Interest, which seem to be disappearing faster than the Antarctic ice shelf.If you want to assess potential suppliers on paper, why not use an EOI, rather than an RFT? These are short and straightforward, and make us feel like we’re in with chance.
  3. Say what you mean.Tender documents are often hard to interpret, and the evaluation criteria don’t always match the questions. With better instructions, any supplier with a bit of common sense will be able to bid confidently. That’s good for everyone.
  4. Timetable a response period that’s fair and reasonable. We run a pretty tight ship these days; our staff are stretched and it can be difficult to keep up with complex tender requirements and shrinking deadlines. Crunching us for time because you’re late to market only means you get rushed, poor quality submissions. On the other hand…
  5. Don’t issue a timetable only to grant a last-minute extension just before the deadline. This unfairly disadvantages (and discourages) the suppliers that are prepared, and have made it a priority to respond to your request.
  6. Please, answer our questions. We don’t ask many. But often, we don’t get meaningful answers (or any answers). Giving us better information will mean better proposals for you to evaluate. And finally…
  7. Have a heart – please don’t drop a tender on Christmas Eve. We know you like to come back in January to a full inbox, but we would like to see our families too.”

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and a successful and prosperous 2015!

Why a contract is not a gift for life

Every service delivery contract changes hands at some point. Whether that’s into your new and improved hands, or someone else’s hands, is really up to you.

In our personal lives, most of us have contracts that we would rather not put too much effort into. These often roll over automatically, or are renewed with very little effort on our part.

I once went three months before I realised that my phone was out of plan and was therefore still paying for a handset that was fully paid for. I had to call my phone provider to get my rate reduced and my money back. Likewise, when insurance is up for renewal, we are often happy enough just to pay the invoice, rather than researching other options.

The consumer businesses we buy from understand this and set things up that way. Good for them – they are the ones in charge.

But when you are the supplier and selling to procurement, the situation is very different. The buyer sets the contract and the terms. Even when there is an option to renew, it’s their option – not yours.

Because of the way we see contracts operating in our personal lives, we sometimes tend to assume that ‘renewal’ means ‘rollover’, but this is a mistake.

Procurement has an obligation to go to market; not necessarily every time a contract expires, but regularly enough that they understand what the market is able to offer. Things change rapidly, and buyers are responsible for getting the best deal for their organisation.

For incumbent suppliers, winning again means accepting that we need to continually improve our service delivery models.

Think of your contract end date as a “use-by” date – a hard deadline to deliver a compelling strategy that will win the customer all over again.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Building a bid is like building a house

Building a bid is like building a house. I’ve been lucky enough to build my own home twice in my life. It’s both the best experience you’ll ever have and one of the most challenging, in much the same way that bidding for business is.

Everything that everybody says about building a house is true. It’s time consuming, it’s stressful, and things will go wrong. Things will be built the wrong way and you will have to make compromises.

One of the major reasons why home building and bid building are both so stressful is because people just don’t follow the damn instructions.

I was walking past a building site in my area recently and overheard a group of five or six builders debating how to put something together on the home that they were working on. An older man, who might have been their supervisor or foreman, was standing back from the argument. Eventually he spoke up and he said, “Guys, why don’t we look at the plan.” All of the builders laughed uproariously and one of them actually said, “The plan! That’s for losers.”

This is pretty much the way that many incumbent suppliers feel when the Request for Tender comes out. It’s your account – you live it and own it – but the RFT is the customer’s plan, not yours. And it’s the customer’s instructions that you’re having to work through, just like everyone else. This can be frustrating and difficult.

Despite this, it’s important to produce a bid that is respectful of the instructions. At the same time, avoid focusing too much on compliance, particularly if this comes at the expense of your story and strategy – these are key to winning again.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Why incumbents must bid like challengers

When you are the incumbent supplier, even when you have done great work all along, it is dangerous to assume that the evaluators know who you are, or that they will advocate on your behalf. Sometimes, they are under strict instructions not to.

For example, Richard is a partner in a professional services firm that operates in a very specialised market. Richard and I met socially, and when he heard about the work I do, he shared a wonderful success story. It turned out that just recently, one of the largest customers in Richard’s market (for whom his firm was one small supplier among many) had put its work out to tender. The customer wanted a single firm to manage all its work, including all its existing and new business.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Richard and his firm badly wanted to win. They devoted a team of eight senior people, including partners, to the bid for six weeks – the first time they had ever fielded such a large bid team. Richard and his team did not take the customer for granted. They thought hard about what they could offer and devised an innovative way to structure their service delivery model and their fees to offer value for money. Their bid was successful and they won all the business.

In the debriefing interview, Richard discovered that the buyer had made a very deliberate decision to not consider previous relationships and to award the work based solely on what was presented in the tender. This worked in Richard’s favour, while it left other, more complacent suppliers out in the cold.

Buyers expect a great deal from their incumbent suppliers. Don’t take them for granted, and expect to work even harder when you want to win again.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Developing a custodian mindset – Part 2

Last week I explained that there are direct parallels between the way bad tenants behave, and the way bad suppliers behave when they get to the end of the contract and are threatened with losing it.

Damage control is only a last resort, and you don’t want to get to this point when you have an important contract or customer in your care.

In contrast to tenants paying for temporary use of a property, owners of properties often see themselves as custodians.

If you’ve ever watched renovation shows on TV – particularly the ones where someone falls in love with an old manor house and spends an extortionate amount of money conserving it – you’ve seen the custodianship mindset in action.

Every piece of business changes hands at some point. Whether into your new and improved hands, or someone else’s, is really up to you.

As the incumbent supplier, you are either building something or doing something for the customer. Most likely, this is just one of many things they do in their business. Your job is to add to their business and improve it in some way.

When we treat the relationship like a tenancy – when we do the minimum required of us –we’re no better than any other supplier, and it’s unlikely that we will get the opportunity to continue. Our relationship is simply transactional.

When we act like custodians though, it’s easy for the customer to see our investment of time, energy and enthusiasm as a true strategic partnership in their business.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Developing a custodian mindset – Part 1

When you have an important contract or customer and you plan to work with them for a long time, something that helps to get your head in the right space is to think of yourself as the custodian of that piece of business.

In practical terms, this means establishing sustained and effective engagement over the course of the contract, not lumpy and ineffective engagement that is artificially tied to the procurement cycle.

The way we engage with the customer is often haphazard. There’s the initial fever-pitch nervous energy when submitting the Request for Tender, a flurry of work when getting the contract set up, and then a flat line of delivery over the course of the contract until the fever of the Request for Tender hits again.

Of course, some people will argue that the procurement environment sets things up that way. Bid, deliver and bid again. That might be what the cycle looks like, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. In fact, if you want to retain the work, it is essential that you don’t.

So, you have temporary ownership of a customer or contract. Do you and your team think more like tenants or custodians of the business?

If you’ve ever rented a property, then you’ve been a tenant – signed a contract and exchanged some cash for a place to live or work.

I’ve rented properties and been a landlord myself. One tenant was constantly delinquent on his rent, to the point that our agent had to send him a legal letter every month. The tenant always paid the day before it went to court, causing everybody unnecessary stress. When we finally issued a notice to vacate, we received a letter from him saying how much he loved the property and felt like it was his home, and please could he be allowed to stay!

There are direct parallels between the way bad tenants like this one behave, and the way bad suppliers behave when they get to the end of the contract and are threatened with losing it.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/

Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers

This week I am delighted to announce the launch of my new book, Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. As a subscriber to The Winning Pitch, I wanted you to be the first to know it’s coming, and have the opportunity to get your hands on a copy hot off the presses.

When you win business through a formal bid or tender, you will need to retain it that way too. But only about 50% of incumbent contract holders actually keep their contracts when it comes time to re-compete.

And the reason might surprise you.

It’s not always because the incumbent is doing a poor job with the contract. In fact, they’re often doing quite a good job. The reason is that they’re still doing the SAME job. And this just doesn’t meet a buyer’s expectations any more.

Incumbency is only an advantage if you choose to use it.

Winning Again will show you how to leverage your incumbency advantage to build a program of new ideas and fresh thinking to put in front of your most important contracts and customers.

It includes case studies and interviews with experts on both sides of the fence – procurement experts who have worked with some of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers, as well as business development leaders who are responsible for bringing in annual revenues from $26 million to more than $100 million in highly competitive sectors including information communications technology, construction and engineering, and community services.

If you’re a CEO, business owner or senior manager with revenue responsibility, Winning Again will help you to retain the business you simply can’t afford to lose.

And if you’re up for that, I’d love to have a hand in helping you to achieve it.

Failure is not an option, but it is a reality

This is a truth rarely acknowledged in the world of sales and business development, where the only conversation you will ever hear is the one about winning and success.

Yet the prospect of loss is the ugly spectre that hangs over everything we do, and past losses we haven’t grieved for and learned from can actually prevent us from doing our best work with the customers we have today.

In my line of work I have spent years up close and personal with people while they grapple with the anxiety-inducing task of re-competing for business that they already have.

This anxiety presents in many ways that mask what it really is: fear that derives from a sense of powerlessness, in this case because the customer is going to market whether we like it or not.

In boardrooms and in bid team ‘war rooms’, I've seen anxiety show up as arrogance, bullying, lying, dissembling, blind faith, or bluster. While understandable, none are helpful when it comes to winning again.

There is no doubt about it – losses hurt. I have worked in this game a long time and see many people struggling with unacknowledged grief for past business losses. None of us are robots. We are people with feelings. Losing a customer or contract creates hurt and fear, both of which are huge drags on our creativity, energy and enthusiasm — the very things that we need the most when we need to compete again.

If you’ve ever lost a piece of business that was important to you, please give yourself the opportunity to grieve for it. Really feel what happened and then let it go with gratitude.

There are lessons in loss, and one of the most important is to be thankful for and work hard to retain the business that we have today.

The role of a Bid Leader

When you’re in charge of a bid for an important piece of business, you are an important role model for your team and your organisation.

The amount of energy and enthusiasm they will display for the bid is directly correlated to how you feel about it yourself. Is this something you really want to win? What will it mean for your role, your team or your business if you win? What about if you don't? What are the great things that will happen if you win? What are the consequences of a loss?

Bid Leadership is an active project leadership role where it is important to lead by example.

When leading a bid, you are neither a figurehead nor a task master. You need to be right in there, actively working with your team, and supporting them when they need it most.

When you do, you will find that your energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

Make sure that you share what you are doing among the informal power networks inside your organisation so there is a groundswell of support. Enlist the help of other line managers, if you need to, to get help with your projects and extra resources to cover for you and your team while you are deep in delivery of the bid.

It’s fine to ask your team to work longer hours on project delivery or bid delivery, as long as you are doing this yourself. Use the opportunity to give your people extra responsibility and make sure they are rewarded for it.

Own your role as Bid Leader, and you will own the bid’s success as well.

How a “pre-cation” can help you deliver a more compelling bid

Lately, I’ve been talking about the ways in which energy and enthusiasm power our bid efforts. Unfortunately the way most organisations handle bids is rapidly depleting these precious resources.

Team members need to be inspired to do their best work on proposals, and pretty much everyone is stretched and hassled and working on the bid as well as their day job. Worse still, there are no thanks or recognition for contributing to proposals. All staff really see is a mountain of thankless work that they don’t get paid for and that eats into their personal time.

If your organisation cares about its win rates, and more importantly, about employees and their wellbeing, it’s time you did something about this. Here is an idea that will definitely win you points with staff, and probably on the proposal too.

While it’s common to give time off after a bid to compensate for the extra workload, a better way to generate energy and enthusiasm is to give your team at least part of this time off in advance.

Technology employers Atlassian and 42 Floors noticed that new staff members often came into their organisation exhausted from their previous job. To solve this problem, both now offer staff a “pre-cation” (paid holiday) before they start with the company.

This is a great way to make sure that people show up for work fired up and ready, not tired and burned out. Atlassian is now considered an employer of choice in an industry where competition for talent is high, and regularly rates a mention on lists of "best places to work" in both the US and Australia.

If you’re about to start work on a must-win bid, offer your team a “pre-cation”. It could just mean the difference between a proposal that really hooks the customer, and one that lies there as lifeless and exhausted as the people who wrote it.

How Job Sculpting Can Help You Deliver a Better Proposal

Recently I explained why energy and enthusiasm are the fuel powering a bid effort.

When the people working on the bid bring the best of themselves to the job, they are more likely to do their best, most inspired and most creative work. Without their energy and enthusiasm, there is a real risk that the proposal will lack personality and be flavourless and dry.

In a Harvard Business Review piece about job sculpting, Timothy Butler and James Waldroop explain that job satisfaction depends on how well the job reflects the individual’s “deeply embedded life interests”. These are long-held, emotionally driven passions, intricately entwined with our personalities. While life interests may not determine what we are good at, they do drive what kind of activities make us happy. “At work, that happiness often translates into commitment. It keeps people engaged, and it keeps them from quitting,” Butler and Waldroop say.

Delivering job satisfaction to the bid team – as well as a winning bid – can be a challenging task for a Bid Leader.

Bid teams often operate outside traditional reporting lines and boundaries, and team members are usually stretched and hassled and working on the bid as well as their day job.

Notwithstanding this, the principles of job sculpting can help here too. If you have a person on your team with a passion for something specific, like designing a technical solution, let them get on with it. Another person, who loves seeing things done correctly, will get satisfaction from form-filling, project management and production tasks.

Knowing what people's preferences are and the jobs they would enjoy doing, as opposed to just the jobs that need to be done, is an important role for a Bid Leader. When everybody is working on what they are great at, and what they love to do, the energy and enthusiasm that the team contributes will elevate the quality of the proposal.

The Power of Positioning

When we are in the service business, positioning is what helps us fulfil our true potential. If you do great work and want to do more of it, having people recognise your unique talent and the contribution you make to the world is an essential precursor for success.

The worldwide outpouring of love and gratitude on the passing of Robin Williams demonstrates the powerful legacy we create when we fulfil our true potential.

In an industry that loves to typecast, Robin Williams was that rarest of things — truly unique.

Williams not only had a huge talent, but was able to deploy that talent in a way that touched an astonishing number of people. If you liked comedy, Robin Williams was your man. If you liked drama, he had that covered too. Robin Williams didn't look or behave like anybody else, but he did great work —and lots of it — in a career spanning more than four decades.

When we leave the world behind, we're not going to be remembered for the boxes we ticked. We will be remembered for our uniqueness as human beings, what we contributed to the planet, and the legacy that we leave behind.

Last week I talked about the stress and pressure that many who work in service industries are feeling about the need to conform to the customer’s agenda and to be measured against what everyone else is doing (Whose Prescription Are You Filling?).

Your point of view is important —it is what makes you uniquely you. And point of view comes before point of difference.

In my experience, the service businesses that are the most successful are always those that offer something that is much better than the customer is expecting, and that break the deadlock of conformity.

So what gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you truly passionate about achieving? What are you convinced will make your customers’ lives immeasurably richer? Once you know and pursue your own agenda, you will be well on your way to winning the business you deserve and developing the positioning that will create your great work and ultimately, your legacy.

Whose prescription are you filling?

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time talking to owners of service businesses and people who work in professional services firms. Most have spent years building up their expertise and knowledge, only for prospective customers — who know a lot less about the topic than they do —to turn around and ask them to do things that they know will not deliver the best outcome. Some are feeling frustrated and even depressed about what they do as a result.

This must be what doctors feel like when patients arrive in their office having consulted Dr Google and diagnosed their ailment themselves. In most cases it takes six years to become a GP, and a further six if you plan to specialise. Doctors have to spend 10,000 hours understanding how human bodies work. But because we all have a body, we figure we can click on the search button and work it out ourselves. A 2013 study of doctors’ mental health by Beyond Blue found that doctors report substantially higher rates of psychological distress and burnout compared to other Australians (professionals and otherwise). Though the study didn’t specifically conclude that patient behaviour has contributed to the problem, it can’t be helping. Imagine how tough it would be for a GP to have to justify herself 20 times a day to patients who think they know just as much about the human body as she does.

Like doctors, many professionals — who have spent years building mastery in what they do — also feel like they're wasting their time filling someone else's prescription. This is what happens when we get trapped at the bottom of the positioning cycle, responding to the customer’s agenda rather than creating our own.

Customers often see only the very transactional parts of what service businesses do, and it is dangerous to keep responding to an agenda that is based on this limited knowledge. This is what makes us into commodities.

All service businesses need to invest in regularly reviewing their knowledge, platforms, and programs to help customers understand the value in what we do. Without this, it isn’t just our revenue that is at stake.