Sales innovation

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.

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.

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.

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. 


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.

Incumbency + innovation = guaranteed return on investment

Are you pursuing new ideas SPECIFICALLY to benefit your major customers?

If you are in a service business that is accustomed to getting paid for things before it will even contemplate doing them, chances are, you might not be.

Typically, we pitch for a contract and do the work later. The contract defines the scope and the performance measures, and everyone’s attention is focused on meeting these. In this environment, the thought of positioning new ideas and investing cash without a “guaranteed return” is often difficult for business development leaders get their heads around.

However, no matter how good your performance is, the biggest risk of losing a customer or contract is to do no more than focus on the day-to-day.

In my book Winning Again, procurement expert Neil Hubbard sums up the buyer’s perspective beautifully. “Don't wait until it's time to do a tender”, he says. “As soon as you're awarded the contract, your time starts. Be very conscious that in three years’ time, your contract will come up. Start working on innovation that will bring cost savings or benefits to our business and start telling us what you're going to do now.”

When you’re innovating in a way that is designed to help a major customer grow their business or to do business better, you ARE guaranteed a return: a better reputation and relationship with the customer that will help you to win again.

And there is another benefit too. When you start to think this way, you’ll find there are many people working in your business who would love to have an opportunity to do more for your major customers – provided that the leadership culture will support them.

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.

Go wide for new ideas

When it comes to developing new ideas that will be meaningful to your most important customers, breakthrough insights can come from anywhere. Some evolve by thinking more laterally about what’s right in front of us. But others come from educating ourselves in ideas and disciplines that are outside our core area of expertise, our industry, or our life experience.

For example, one of the ways Steve Jobs came up with new ideas was to maintain a lifelong interest in learning and new experiences. While in college, Jobs took a course in calligraphy, which at the time had no practical application to his work. What he experienced came to life later in the Macintosh computer, the first of its kind to prioritise typeface, fonts and calligraphy.

When considering your team’s professional development needs, try to think more broadly than technical training that further entrenches the status quo. Technical training is an important way to keep staff qualifications up-to-date, but mostly maintains the baseline and isn’t the best way to deliver new thinking – especially when all your competitors are doing the same programs.

So help your team to learn more laterally. They can learn leadership from an explorer who has spent time leading a team in Antarctica, or learn better ways to relate to colleagues and customers by talking to a social worker who helps people navigate very complex personal or family issues.

Innovating in a long-term business relationship is fascinating and inspiring, but it’s also time consuming and difficult. New projects take time to deliver results and give us tangible evidence to talk to the customer about. Going wide for new ideas helps keep the fun in the game for your team, and ensure that innovation actually happens.

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 here

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.

How to Build Business With New Markets and Customers

When it comes to winning new business in complex services markets, what got you here won't get you there. In other words, the offer that helped you win the contracts and customers you have today is not likely to be what brings in future business.

Often, lack of good ideas is not the problem. Smart, successful people in service businesses often have little difficulty in coming up with lots of options for new things that they could sell.

The issue arises when it comes time to sort those ideas into what’s going to make the biggest impact (selection) and then figure out what to do to make them actually happen (implementation).

We all have a blind spot when it comes to our own stuff, and getting someone to help you look at all your ideas and help you select the ones that are most valuable can save you hours of wasted time and effort. It’s a lot like the way that a gallery owner works with an artist. The gallery owner helps the artist to see what is most commercial about their work, and that customers will want to buy. The gallerist’s process is called “curation”. This is very similar to the process I follow with my clients when we choose the best ideas to work on.

Once we have this sorted, the way to implement projects that matter is to “fight for three”. This is an idea introduced by Peter Cook in his book The New Rules of Management, and recognises that we all have a lot to get done in our day jobs. When it comes to doing something new on top of that, we need to choose only the three projects that are most important to blasting us out of our status quo. New things are hard to find the time and energy for, and it’s easy to lose momentum. That’s where external accountability can really help get you where you want to go.

Are you trading on ancient artefacts?

If you have 300 years of combined experience, that’s a heck of a lot of knowledge sitting in your organisation that the customer would love to take advantage of. The problem is, you can't show them how in just one sentence.

There are basically three things that we can trade on when we sell.

Products.These exist in the present. Products, including service-based products like programs, are what we have available right now that the customer can take immediate advantage of.

Precursors. Precursors exist in raw form in the present, but have a huge impact on the future. In chemistry, a precursor is a compound that creates a chemical reaction and produces another (often more valuable) compound.  In business,  precursors are the things that we're working on right now — the innovations, the pilot programs, the new initiatives that we're bringing to the customer that will ultimately result in goodwill, good relationships and good outcomes for us and for them.

Artefacts. Artefacts belong very firmly in the past. An artefact is an object of cultural or historical interest. In business, artefacts are the projects we’ve done, the contracts we’ve delivered, the systems and processes we built years ago. And our 300 years of combined experience.

When you’re bidding for a long-term contract of three years or more, the most valuable things you can trade on are your products and precursors.  Precursors are particularly valuable, because they are the inputs to future products; the essential compounds that help you create what you will deliver in the future. And most of us don’t have nearly enough of them.

Make no mistake, when you are pitching for a long term contract, you are not just selling what you have today. You are selling what you will have in three years’ time, or even further into the future.

A Contract Isn't a Gift for Life!

Winning a contract is really just a licence to keep doing good work. Even when there is an option for the buyer to renew the contract, it’s dangerous to assume that the renewal will happen automatically.  Think of your contract end date as more of a “use-by” date — a hard deadline by which you need to have a compelling strategy win the customer all over again.

As consumers, 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 therefore the handset was fully paid for. I had to call Optus 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 businesses we buy from set it up that way, and good for them – they are the ones who are really in charge.

But when you are the supplier, 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.

Consider for a moment how you think about use-by dates on food. Do you throw out food that is past its use-by? Is the use-by date a hard deadline for you, or more of a flexible one? I was once given a gigantic Toblerone, which I was hugely excited about, at least until I bit into it. The chocolate was crumbly and awful, and it turned out that it was 18 months past its use-by.

No one really wants to test their intestinal fortitude with food that old. In effect, though, this might be what we are asking our customers to do when we treat the renewal of a contract as a given, rather than as a genuine opportunity to win their business again.

Rather than a “rollover”, a more useful way of thinking about your contract end date is that it’s an opportunity for renovation, redevelopment, and reinvigoration. Competing successfully as an incumbent means working on projects that will create customer value, and this project work needs to start well before the contract use-by date.

Take More Risks and Create a Stronger Competitive Advantage

By definition, competitive advantage doesn’t mean doing exactly what everybody else is doing. But it does mean taking risks and moving away from what we know — something that is neither comfortable nor easy to do.

Have you ever seen movies where the hero swings across an impossible impasse, runs up the side of a building, or does a backflip off a dumpster? Then you’ve witnessed parkour, where adventurous types get from A to B using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves. To avoid injury, parkour practitioners must look at their environment in ways that most of us can’t even imagine.

When it comes to the competitive landscape, I reckon we could learn a lot from this idea. We tend to see our market as a familiar track we have run around many times before, rather than as an exciting playground full of new things to try.

For example, in Australia, professional football is big money, and all AFL clubs are looking for an edge to win a premiership flag.

In April, The Age ran a story about Peta Searle, who gave away her job as a high school PE teacher 7 years ago to become a full-time football coach. Searle worked as assistant coach in the VFL (the amateur league), where she built the competition’s best defence back line at Port Melbourne. Port won a premiership in 2011 and came runner-up in 2012. Unfortunately, Searle was paid only $5,000 a year in the role, and needed a job with the AFL to make a decent living. Despite her outstanding track record, she couldn’t get one, and had to give away her football dream.

From a purely commercial standpoint, this is crazy. Searle is a proven performer. If she had been a bloke, her results would have started a bidding war.

Fortunately, Peta Searle’s story has a happy ending. This month, St Kilda recruited her as the AFL’s first female development coach. I’m guessing that St Kilda will have one of the best backlines in the competition before too long, and with it a sustainable competitive advantage.

If you’re pitching for a multimillion dollar contract, you will be in a competition of equals who can probably do the job just as well as you can. Often, it’s the very small things that will tip the buyer over the edge to choose a winner. What will yours be?

Your Contract Delivery Team Is Your Primary Selling Team

The rise of procurement has fundamentally changed the way sales relationships are transacted. Your contract delivery team becomes your primary selling team as soon as a contract is signed. Clients are mentally marking your team on every interaction. And with so much contract communication done in writing, the risk of damaging a client relationship through poor communication is greater than ever before.

Contract delivery teams have a huge influence over how the customer sees not just your day-to-day performance, but how well you are managing customer communication, best practices and innovation over the life of the contract. Because they work at the coalface every day, team members are also in an ideal position to identify how to make more money and to reduce profit leaks.

Contract delivery teams usually contain a mix of technical and operational people, each of whom is very clever and knowledgeable in their own area of expertise. However, many of them don’t really think they can sell, or don’t see it as their job to sell.

Through working on bids and tenders with dozens of contract delivery teams in many different industries, I have seen first-hand how the lights go on when these smart people realise what an enormous contribution they can make to a winning bid. I am really passionate about seeing that effect last when they get back to their day job, and giving them the tools, the techniques and the confidence they need to not only deliver the contract with excellence, but to step up into their selling role.

How much more business could you retain, how would your reputation improve, and how much influence would you have with customers if your contract delivery teams communicated with more authority?

My Client Leadership Program gives operational, technical and front line delivery staff the confidence, clarity and communication skills to act as an effective selling team. Contact me if you would like a white paper with more information about this program.

Buyers Expect and Buy Innovation - Even in Prescriptive Markets

Last month I wrote a piece titled Why Innovation Matters to Your Most Important Customers.  While this statement is true, it doesn’t always feel that way. In some markets, where the buyer sets the KPIs, tells you what to do and how to do it, and even how much they are prepared to pay, the relationship feels prescriptive; like a boss and staff rather than customer and supplier. Service delivery teams are so focused on delivering day-to-day — and are constantly told that they can’t do anything else, because there’s no money in the contract to pay for it — that innovation feels like it’s unimportant.  This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Recently the Federal government held a Red Tape Repeal Day, scrapping more than 9500 regulations and 1000 redundant pieces of legislation. In commenting on this initiative in The Age, Malcolm Maiden pointed out that not all red tape is created externally. We create our own systems and structures to deal with problems and bureaucracy, and don’t always dismantle them when they go away.

In my opinion prescriptive contracts, which contain plenty of red tape, are part of this problem.

Fortunately, buyers in some prescriptive markets are starting to realise that if they prescribe everything, they may not get what they really need — even though they will get what they have asked for.

A good example is the current recommissioning of the mental health and drug treatment sectors in Victoria, which are undergoing wide scale modification to better align service delivery with changes in community problems with drugs and alcohol.  Another is the government employment services market, which is highly prescriptive but needs to be flexible to accommodate the broader political agenda and Australia’s economic needs.

If you operate in a prescriptive market, remember that you’re competing for the attention of tired bureaucrats who are wading through dozens or maybe hundreds of submissions that all sound pretty much the same. Behavioural economics theory holds that we tend to give greater weight to highly memorable things (a concept known as vividness).  Suppliers who are innovative and who are able to paint a vivid picture of how they will provide solutions to long-standing problems are rightly seen as a breath of fresh air, and are far more likely to be rewarded than those that offer a business as usual approach.

What Does It Really Take to Win Business through Continual Innovation?

Innovation is not a one-time thing – it’s an “all the time” thing.  Individuals and teams who keep thinking and keep innovating are always going to win more business than those that don’t. Bidding to provide services, in particular, is never going to be 100% 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 — but some suppliers are still offering solutions that are well out of date. New solutions can come from anywhere; from a multinational in Texas to a small business from Australia.

For example, Birdon, a small-to-medium marine engineering company from Port Macquarie, was recently awarded a contract worth $A285m to supply the United States Army with 374 specialised boats.  Birdon won against global competitor General Dynamics in a four-year tender process. SmartCompany ran an interview with Birdon Group General Manager Iain Ramsay, in which he acknowledged innovation as the key to the bid’s success. Birdon had purchased an innovative marine propulsion system when it acquired another company, NAMJet, in 2011. Ramsay said  “Our boat design was superior to its competition… The innovation which went into it allowed us to win, even though we weren’t the cheapest on price.”

Innovation isn’t it just about the systems, products and services you build. It’s actually about having a process for continuing to generate improvement ideas.

There are formal, organisational innovation processes like the Ten Types of Innovation, and then there are things that we can each do individually to improve our ability to innovate. In an interview with emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman, Teresa Amabile — Director of Research in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School — identified the four key ingredients for continuous innovation by individuals as domain expertise; the ability to learn new things; creative thinking; and working hard. Domain expertise is about having a depth of knowledge and skill in the area you work in. Being able to learn new things — both inside and outside of what you do and know — will help with creative thinking and original ideas.  Hard work speaks for itself.

To me, this sounds like a pretty good recipe for career success. When innovation becomes a habit, you win, the team wins — and so does the customer.

Why Making Assumptions Could Just Land You A Winning Bid

One of the reasons why sales people who are trained in consultative selling methods can find it challenging to write bids and proposals is because the writing process lacks the feedback loop that they are used to. On the other hand, bidders who are successful in picking up new business through formal bids and tenders — even with prospects they’ve never met or spoken with before — are great at providing insight into the problems and issues the prospect is likely to be facing based on what they know about the clients that they are already doing business with. These assumptions, based on their expertise, are what form the core messages of their winning bid.

One of my favourite sales experts is Jill Konrath, who wrote the book Selling to Big Companies and who writes an excellent blog on sales. She also has a lot of great ideas about successful strategies for achieving cut-through with what she calls “crazy-busy prospects”, who just aren’t interested in educating suppliers any more.

In this video, Jill has posted the best and most succinct example I’ve seen so far as to why making assumptions works in sales.  It will only take 90 seconds to watch and Jill has thoughtfully provided a summary as well, so you can read it if you’re not in a position to listen.