Service innovation

Three reasons why incumbents are more at risk than they think

I have a confession to make – I’m tragically addicted to politics. Elections are my kind of competition. Some people live for the AFL Grand Final. Others obsess over Eurovision or MasterChef. Me, I’m an election groupie.

Every three years, when the Federal election rolls around, I stalk proudly through the gaggle of political party volunteers at the local polling booth – accepting one or two how-to-vote leaflets and loudly refusing others – to place my very important vote.

As soon as the vote count starts, I settle in with snacks for a nice long stretch of channel surfing, shouting at the commentators and throwing things at the TV when the count doesn’t go my way. I love the process, but what I’m really hanging out for is the end result, and the leaders’ concession and victory speeches. 

This year, I stayed up for a very long time. Maybe you did too. And wasn’t it frustrating? We didn’t get a victory speech that night, or even the next morning. We were left hanging for a week before we knew the likely outcome of the election – the government returned to office by the narrowest of margins.

We were told the election would be close, but not so close that it would eventually come down to week’s worth of postal votes.

What happened?

Incumbents are more vulnerable than they think. This is true whether you’re a political party or a contractor selling commercial goods and services.

Here are three things that every incumbent can learn from the very close result of the Australian Federal election – a result that could easily have gone another way.

  1. Incumbents are always vulnerable to a protest vote. The customer, in this case the electorate, had already seen what this government could do and many of them weren’t happy about it. With only a single term under their belts, we also still remember the alternative, and it seems we weren't happy with them either, resulting in a large rise in votes for Independents and for the Greens. By Monday, with 80% of the vote counted, nearly a quarter of Australians had given their votes to an independent or minor party, with the Coalition registering a primary vote of only 42.1 percent - its fourth lowest result for the past 60 years.
  2.  An incumbent’s team listens only to the good news, and blocks out everything else. In this election, it has been suggested that the Coalition was so enamoured of its own internal polling – which optimistically predicted that the party would be returned to government by a large margin - that it even convinced the majority of the media this was a foregone conclusion. The result was much closer than the Coalition’s polling anticipated, and the fallout and recriminations have been difficult for its leadership to handle.
  1. An incumbent's program of work and track record are visible and open to scrutiny. Like it or not, this makes it very easy for an opponent to find the patterns, holes and gaps and to mount an effective attack, as Labor did with the Medicare, or “Mediscare”, campaign.

What can we learn from these results?

  • The time to start campaigning again to win an election is the day you form a government.
  • The time to start campaigning to retain a customer is the day you sign the contract.

Incumbents ignore this, and believe their own hype, at their peril.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business that is won through competitive bids and tenders. Her clients have won and retained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with many of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers.

Is it time to pimp your proposals? Stop wasting time and money on proposals that go nowhere. The Pimp My Proposals program will give you the feedback, content and structure you need to build compelling proposals that win business. Learn what you’re doing wrong, and how to fix it. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.

Five ways to give your clients’ customers an outstanding service experience

The people who engage and pay you (your clients) might be different to the people you provide a service to (the client’s customers).

Acting as an extension of the client’s business is different to acting for yourself.

No matter how much commercial sense it makes on paper, giving over any part of their business to a supplier to manage – especially when it involves their customers – will make your clients nervous at best. At worst, it can make them feel like they’re being operated on without an anaesthetic.

Recently, the Commonwealth Bank’s insurance arm, CommInsure, has been the focus of a Fairfax Media/Four Corners investigation which alleges that CommInsure has pressured doctors to alter or delete medical records and opinions so it can avoid paying claims. CommInsure covers nearly 3 million people through its contracts to offer life and total permanent disability policies to members of nine industry and two public sector super funds. Since the investigation, several of these funds have publicly demanded assurances from CommInsure regarding the treatment of their members, and it has been reported that CommInsure risks the loss of contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars as a result.

“Your customer is my customer.” It’s an easy thing to say, but not so easy to get right. Here are five ways to deliver exemplary service to your clients’ customers, and to make sure that your good intentions in doing so are always on show.

  1. Survey customers frequently, and provide honest feedback to the client about what they say about you.
  2. Commit to improving your service, follow through and explain what you did and why you did it.
  3. When contemplating a course of action with an individual customer, ask: "is this what our client would want us to do?"
  4. Get out in front of problems. Own up, show up, and fix it up - fast.
  5. Provide a narrative stream of good news in your regular performance reports. This will counteract any negative news, which often gets a disproportionate amount of airtime (and shouting).
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.

Time to re-set your sales plan for 2016!

How has your year been? Brilliant? Pretty good? Not so good? Terrible?

As we hit December, we are already calling time on 2015 and making a mental checklist of what happened, what didn’t happen, and what we can do differently and better next year.

·       If you had a brilliant year, how will you make next year just as brilliant?

·       If you had a pretty good year, how can you make next year really rock?

·       If you had an average year, how do you break through patterns that are getting you less-than-ideal results?

·       If you had a terrible year, how will you get a lock on what’s going wrong, and come up with a plan to fix it?

The beauty of a new year is that we get a fresh start. 

In The Power of Focus, Jack Canfield says that we make our own luck through great preparation, good strategy, and focusing our time and energy doing the things we are truly brilliant at.

So what’s on your new business wish list for 2016? There are lots of opportunities out there. These can be yours if you really want them, know why you want them, have a strategy to go out and get them.

This is easier said than done, when most of us are so crazy-busy. And it’s heartbreaking to see opportunities pass by that you know you would be perfect for.

Let’s make 2016 your best year ever. My new program, Pole Position, will help you to design and package an offer that is so commercially valuable, your customers would be crazy not to buy it. I have only three places available in this extraordinary program over the December/January period. Contact me if you'd like to know more.

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.

Could you fall victim to the Recency Effect?

Human beings have pretty selective memories. It turns out that we judge much of our life experience not on the totality, the average, or a glance back over the highlights, but on the basis of the last few minutes.

Have you ever walked into a customer’s office expecting to make a presentation about performance over the last month or quarter, and spent the whole meeting talking about last week’s non-delivery or a stuff-up that happened yesterday instead?

Welcome to the Recency Effect, which tells us that the most recently presented items or experiences will most likely be remembered best.

In Change Anything, a New York Times bestseller about the science of personal success, the authors conclude that much of what we feel about our daily relationships stems from only a few moments that overwhelmingly colour our perception.

The book relates a study by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, who asked colonoscopy patients to rate their level of discomfort during an unanaesthetised procedure. (Australians, give thanks that we don’t do things that way here. Ouch).

Not surprisingly, none of the test subjects gave glowing reports of their colonoscopy, but the comfort levels they reported had almost nothing to do with the total amount of pain that they felt during the awkward and uncomfortable procedure.

The only thing that mattered was how painful it was right at the end.

What do colonoscopies have in common with contract or service delivery? Maybe more than you think. For a customer, giving over control of part of their business to a supplier, it really CAN feel like being operated on without an anaesthetic.

Your job is to make whatever you do for them as pain-free as possible. And no matter how well you’re doing generally, take extra care for at least three months before you need to compete again.

This will make sure that one or two mistakes don’t derail your good work forever.

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 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.

Five signals that your customer relationship is running out of road

Customer relationships aren’t just about people anymore. We are moving away from an environment where personal relationships had a lot of power, to one where ideas and innovation are the primary currency that drives customer relationships.

 When I speak to senior people who are in charge of important customer relationships, there are two things they always tell me. The first is that they’re doing a good job. The second is that they have a “good relationship” with the customer.

Last week, I wrote about the risk of being a one-hit wonder; a supplier that isn’t invited back for a second contract term. Sure, you might think, that could happen – but never to me.

 So let’s dig a little bit deeper. How can we define a “good” customer relationship? What does it really look like? How do you know if you have one, or not?

 A good customer relationship is one where both parties are receiving equal benefit, and have equal interest in continuing. Here are five signals that your customer relationship may not be as good as you think it is, and is in fact at risk of running out of road:

 1.     You set regular performance review meetings with the customer, but they keep pushing them out or cancelling.

2.     Your service delivery plan looks exactly the same as the day the contract started.

3.     You're hitting all your targets or key performance indicators (KPIs) easily.

4.     You hear that competitors are in there pitching new ideas.

5.     There are changes coming up in the customer's business that you don’t know about, haven't thought about, or haven't developed a strategy to help them with.

These risks are easily avoided if you have a plan. You can call this anything you like; a retention plan, a growth plan, or a client service plan. I call it a “Ready to Re-compete” Plan.

What's important is that you actually HAVE a plan for change, and that you're not just delivering on the baseline of what the contract and the customer originally asked you to do. 

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.

How to Build Business-Winning Innovation in Your Services Business

Most service businesses sell to business customers — either exclusively, or in addition to consumers.

When you sell to other businesses or to government, and when you reach a certain level, you will be selling to procurement.

For example, Victorian government departments need three quotes for any purchase above $25,000. Above $150,000, they are required to conduct a formal tender.

Most businesses that sell at this level end up winning at least two-thirds of their business through some kind of formal submission. When you win a contract that way, you only get to keep it by competing for it again, generally, once every three years.

That’s a lot of revenue at risk through the procurement cycle.

When I talk to people who sell services, they often tell me that they are so busy working in the business that there never seems to be time to work on it. The marketplace is getting more competitive all the time, and the pace of change is so intense that it can be hard to keep up with what competitors are doing – let alone come up with new things yourself.

To make things even more challenging, there is the frustration that customers don’t really understand what you do, let alone value what you do.

There is a better way to sell services. If you’re struggling with these problems, I can help.

The Revenue Revolution: Building Business - Winning Innovation in Services Organisations is a program for owners and leaders of service businesses. Together, we will look at what your organisation knows, does, and delivers, to identify what you offer that is:

  1. Extremely valuable to customers, and has the highest currency right now;
  2. May be outdated, and of limited value to customers; and
  3. Can be built in order to create greater value to customers over the next 6 to 12 months.

At the end of the program, you will have a blueprint to develop services that will position you as the clear winner with customers or funding bodies.

Contact me for a white paper with more information about how the Revenue Revolution Program can help you grow your services organisation.

The Revenue Revolution: How to win and retain your most important business customers

The Revenue Revolution: How to win and retain your most important business customers

Friday 29 August at 12.00pm (AEST)

Sponsored by Bank of Melbourne

There is no doubt about it, selling services is tough.

Products are tangible and tactile; we can see and feel them. Services are invisible.

Products encourage two-way conversation; they can be pulled apart, debated and analysed. Services are harder to talk about.

Products usually have masses and masses of information to support them; customer research, data sheets, and product reviews. Services often don’t.

84% of Australian small businesses operate in the services sectors. Most service businesses sell to business customers, either exclusively, or in addition to consumers.

If you sell services, you have probably had at least one experience of talking to a prospective customer about what you do where you’ve been met with polite nods (at best) or blank stares (at worst). Unfortunately, the sale of services often stalls at the presentation stage.

These days, a formal bid, proposal, submission, or tender response is often the only way to win work with business customers. 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 Friday I’m running a free 30-minute webinar for the Bank of Melbourne to help celebrate Small Business Month. If you run a service-based business, please register and come along.

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.