New business pursuits

Who moved our cheese?

It takes time and effort to build new products and services, and to position for new business – all without a guarantee of return. So when times are good and the work is flowing in, it’s tempting to push this down the list of priorities. But fortunes can change quickly. And when they do, having a solid backup plan can mean the difference between hope and devastation.

During the week, the business press announced that supermarket giant Coles was replacing Bega, its current private label supplier for cheese, with a new supplier, Murray Goulburn, in a five year deal worth $130 million.

Loss of a contract this size isn’t great news for any company, especially a publicly listed one. However, Bega's CEO Aidan Coleman was on the front foot quickly with an explanation to the market about how Bega planned to replace the loss of revenue.

Supermarket private label contracts typically have low margins, although the contracts may be longer than usual (five or ten years).

In announcing the change, Coleman explained that Bega had been preparing for the loss of the Coles business, and was driving its brand towards higher margin and higher value added products.

For example, in late October, Bega announced a joint venture with Blackmores to produce infant formula. If you've been following the news recently, you will have seen that retailers have had to ration the sale of infant formula in Australian stores due to high demand from people buying to export back to China, following health scares in China with locally-produced formula.

Infant formula generates substantially higher margins and value add than private-label cheese products. Bega thinks it will be able to divert about $60 million worth of cheese inventory into the infant formula business, potentially compensating for the loss of the Coles contract. And although losses always hurt, at the same time, you can feel how excited Coleman is about the future of his business entering into this new market.

Only work you love and want more of is going to grow your margins.

Good, solid bread and butter work – although I’m sure you appreciate it – probably doesn’t fire your imagination any more.

And “marginal” work, like this private-label example, often doesn’t generate a good enough return compared to the productive capacity that is expended in delivering it.

We can’t control everything in business, but we can chart a course for where we want to go. 

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.

Three things that successful crowdfunders can teach us

Crowdfunding offers a model of audience engagement that contract bidders — who often believe we are talking to an audience of one, that’s already sold on what we do — can learn a lot from.

Crowdfunding is a social media phenomenon that combines networking with raising money.  According to Forbes, the crowdfunding industry now raises more than $5.1 billion a year worldwide. Some of the sites operating in Australia include Kickstarter, Pozible and Chip In (for non-profit organisations).

In the world of getting funding to do things, there is a definite hierarchy at work.

At the top of this are essential services, which governments or private businesses are ready to fund through contracts and agreements.  The buyer’s briefing is usually quite prescriptive and can take the form of a Request for Tender or Proposal.

In the middle there are grants, where hopefuls showcase their ideas and projects to a funding body, - generally a large corporation, charitable foundation or private donor - who may be prepared to fund something that piques their interest. The buyer's briefing here is far less prescriptive - more like a set of principles that need to be fulfilled. Because of this, grants are a bit like a beauty pageant. There may be money on offer, but it's harder to get, and difficult to predict who will get it.

Crowdfunding is at the very bottom of this hierarchy. Here, there is no buyer briefing at all. Crowdfunders put their project out to a wide audience that has no firm intention of giving money to anything. Therefore, a crowdfunder’s job is to inspire people to put their hand in their wallet and pull out their credit card.

Here are three things that anyone who sells through contracts and grants can learn from successful crowdfunders.

  1. Reinforce what’s great about your offer. In crowdfunding, this means multiple follow-ups after someone expresses interest in the project. In contract and grant proposals, make sure to spin your most compelling points in different ways; don’t just bury them on page 47 and 53 where they could easily be missed.
  2. Bring it to life. On the major crowdfunding platforms, projects that are supported by engaging video and visuals outsell other projects two to one. In contract and grant proposals, visuals are absolutely mandatory for conveying complex concepts, and to illustrate any kind of methodology.
  3. Be hot AND cool. When you’re sitting alone in your office putting together a grant or tender submission, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually battling for attention in a crowded marketplace. Crowdfunding is the very DEFINITION of crowded, so successful projects gazump the competition by being really, really hot right now. For example, Patient Zero raised $230,000 to stage real life zombie battles, twenty times more than the $10,000 it was originally asking for. You may not be pitching zombie battles, but there’s got to be something cool about what you’re offering. Grab hold of the zeitgeist, tap into needs the customer didn’t know they had, and show them a compelling vision of their future working with you. 
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’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.

Five drivers that inspire new business pursuits

Talk long enough to any smart professional and you'll find that their goal is to do meaningful work that gives them a creative charge. Responding to tenders is the opposite of this. As a manager, this is why it can be so hard to get your professional staff to work on tenders - no matter how great the project on offer might seem to you.

As Drake Baer wrote in a career development piece for Fastcompany, there are five things that drive us in our working life:

1.     Cultivating craftsmanship or “mastery”;

2.     Uncovering a vocation (or purpose);

3.     Finding personal and professional alignment;

4.     Sculpting a lifestyle; and

5.     Identifying our ethic (or values).

If you want to engage your team with the idea of pitching for a project, here are some questions that leverage these career drivers and will help each individual to make a personal connection with the work on offer.

Career driver 1: cultivating craftsmanship or “mastery”. 

Questions to ask your team: what do you want to be the best at? How could this project help you develop that? What would need to happen for you to get the maximum career benefit out of this project?

Career driver 2: uncovering a vocation (or purpose).

Questions to ask your team: why did you decide to do what you do? How does that relate to what the client really wants here? How could this project help you to make that difference to them, and be commercially smart for us?

Career driver 3: Finding personal and professional alignment

Questions to ask your team: What did you love about working on (past/current) project? What is it about that assignment that made you feel like you were doing your best work? Does this project feel good to you too? If not, why?

Career driver 4: Sculpting a lifestyle

Questions to ask your team: Offer a list of benefits that might be possible from working on this project and see which ones your team members respond to. Does the project offer opportunities for travel and adventure? Autonomy? Connecting with other experts? Publishing findings that will influence peers?

Career driver 5: Identifying your ethic

Questions to ask your team: what do you think the client is trying to achieve here? Is this something you would aspire to achieve personally? Are there any aspects of this project that worry you or don’t feel like a good “fit” for us?

How do I know these questions are necessary? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t love bids and tenders either! (Weird, right?!). The creative charge I get from MY work results from seeing smart, capable professionals light up at the prospect of solving a problem that is meaningful to THEM.

So if you have clever people who "don't do” business development, try this approach. You might be surprised at the results.

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.