In the first blog in this series, I stated that in my opinion, there are only two headline activities required to increase your win ratio, namely:
- Continuous, ruthless ongoing deal qualification
- Developing a customer-aligned win strategy for the surviving deals
In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter; developing a customer-aligned win strategy for the surviving deals.
Based on the assumption that people buy something that either solves a business problem and/or delivers value to their business, it is essential that sellers know what problem the customer needs fixing, and/or what will deliver value to their business. The answer forms the basis of a customer-aligned win strategy; anything else is guess work!
I’ve facilitated a lot of win strategy workshops over the last 20 years and seen the good, the bad, and the damn ugly. Let’s talk about what good looks like.
Firstly, the responsibility for developing a winning strategy lies with those most involved with the customer, regardless of role, with others being consulted or informed, but the accountability lies with the sales lead.
Secondly, it needs to be done early in the sales cycle but must constantly be revisited until the deal is done.
So, what is the best way to develop a winning strategy?
Start by organising a big room for a day, making sure you have lots of whiteboards and flipcharts to hand. Oh, and get someone NOT involved in the deal to facilitate, so that everyone else can focus on contributing.
Publish the date, and invite those most involved with the customer, regardless of role; the broader the input, the better the outcome. Give them specific instructions about doing their homework on the opportunity and the customer. Coming to the workshop without doing this makes it impossible to contribute positively, and has a negative impact on the outcome.
The first and most important part of the workshop is to get behind the headline requirements to uncover the REAL drivers. As people often say, people don’t want to buy mousetraps; they want to catch mice. Using the same metaphor, it could be said that people want to avoid getting mice in the first place. This is where you need to get to. Take as long as necessary to achieve this, as getting it wrong will send you in the wrong direction, delivering a win strategy that is not customer aligned.
The next step is to take each of these drivers in turn, and agree how your organisation will address them, and the strengths (potential competitive advantage) and weaknesses (potential competitive threat) of your approach.
Now, repeat this process for every potential competitor, because without this you will not be able to agree your key differentiators. Naturally, a competitor’s strengths represent a threat to you, and their weaknesses represent opportunities.
Having understood all the above, you are in a position to discuss risk (to the customer, and to you) and how you will address them to derisk things for the customer. At the same time, it’s worth capturing clarification questions you need to ask the customer (as prescribed in the RFP), and key phrases and language used by the customer in their communication, as you will need to reflect this in yours.
All the work above will put you in a position to discuss and agree your key differentiators. While a competitor will probably match each differentiator, the objective is to create a set of differentiators that only your organisation can deliver; true differentiation.
Now is the time to bring all these threads together and discuss and agree your win strategy; the solution, key messages, win price, and so on.
I have a preferred structure management for summaries; starting with the customer’s need, desired solution, and the value they expect it to deliver, followed by your proposed solution, why they should buy it from you, commercial aspects (if appropriate), and closing pleasantries.
The workshop should close with half an hour of sketching out a draft management summary based on this structure, to be used by the sales lead to create a first draft management summary.
This is the ultimate workshop output and should be used to communicate the bid strategy to the wider pursuit team.
The most valuable output is not tangible; a pursuit team united behind a win strategy that they helped create.
For further information on this process, you can download our free eBook, entitled Developing Win Strategies for Must Win Deals. It goes into greater detail on each of these steps to develop a full plan for any given deal.