Does the prospect have a sufficient budget? Check.
Do we have the right capabilities? Check.
Can we differentiate ourselves from the competition? Check.
Do we know who the decision makers are? Check.
Maybe your qualifying criteria look something like this. Based on these alone, you can make a good argument for pursuing the opportunity. And you ought to feel like you have a pretty good shot.
I can’t predict based on this alone whether you’re making a wise decision. Nor can I predict what your real odds of winning are likely to be. But I can tell you this: You’re missing one category that will indicate whether you really have a good chance of winning – and, if you win, whether the new client will actually be a good fit.
Let’s call that category “Values Fit.” Here’s what I mean.
Our survey of business developers and our executive roundtable both pointed out one fascinating and critical aspect of new business decision-making that’s probably more important now than ever – Does the pursuing organization truly understand the prospect? Not just the prospect’s company or project, but the decision-makers themselves. And the team that will have to work with the winning organization.
A major component of “understands me” is trust. Two major components of trust are “self-orientation,” (per The Trusted Advisor), which can weaken the perception of trust, and “intimacy” or authenticity, which can strengthen the perception of trust.
Where do values fit in? Simply this: If your organization or team values align with those of the prospect, you’ll be perceived as more trustworthy. Less likely to be self-oriented. More likely to comply with the norms, values, behaviors and expectations of the prospect’s organization and of the project team.
Even if values fit never seems to show up on a prospect’s scorecard when they evaluate proposals or presentations, you can’t assume it’s not important. Few prospects, in a moment of honesty, would deny the importance of trust in their decision-making. And we can’t overstate the importance of values fit to trust.
Your prospects are going to be evaluating their options based on trust, which means they’re going to be including culture fit in their decision-making criteria. That means you have to make sure you’re going to be a good fit. And it means, to us, that if you have reason to believe you’re not going to be a good fit, you have to look at the opportunity as being less qualified.
So what are these values anyway, and how do you measure it during the pursuit process?
The best definition we know of values fit is this: What behaviors that are expected and rewarded in an organization, even if no one is looking? How do they treat their people? How do they treat their vendors and partners? What is their purpose, their priorities? How do they express them through their decisions?
Here’s one inconvenient truth – It’s going to be very hard to ascertain a prospect’s values if the first time you encounter them is when you receive the RFP. Yes, you can still check available info online, or perhaps through some contacts you’ve made. But the best way to determine values is through a series of interactions with the prospect BEFORE the RFP is issued. That’s when you’re seeing them through the lens of their day-to-day behaviors. You can see what’s really important.
Makes sense, right? So why is it that we almost never see “They’re a good values fit with us” as part of a business development list of qualifying criteria? Perhaps your pursuits are such that values fit rarely, if ever, is seen on an RFP or presentation scorecard. Even so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t part of decision making.
Finally, even in those highly regimented pursuit processes where values might be hard to determine or demonstrate, you know it’s going to matter once you win, right? When you start working closely with the prospect’s teams. When you engage in mission-critical communications. When you try to build strong relationships. When you discuss issues or problems that can always come up. If you won the business despite not being a good values fit, these areas are going to be so much tougher to deal with. You might be able to struggle through the project to completion, but how well will you be set for the next project? How good will your clients’ testimonials be? Will your people want to work on another project? Will you even want to bid again for another project?
You need to determine the values fit before you get too far down the track in your pursuit. Not sure how to do it? Or what to do about the info you get? Give us a call.
Each month, Artemis Partnership’s ‘5 Thoughts from the Field’ will feature executives from a variety of fields to hear their insight on business development, pursuits, secrets to success and more.
About Jonathan Bowman-Perks MBE, Global Leadership Advisor to CEOs & Executive Teams
Jonathan focuses on your personal behaviour and future business results. His vocation has been shaped by his Father’s heroic leadership role modelling and his untimely death, as a British Royal Navy fast jet Pilot. Jonathan’s life calling is to inspire you and your team to: find and live your “True North”, unlock your potential and make a real difference in the world. Jonathan is a Master Certified Coach (MCC), executive team facilitator, motivational speaker, philanthropist and author. As a Key Person of Influence (KPI) he focuses on current and aspiring CEOs, senior executives and their teams in the Corporate, Financial, University, Entrepreneurial and Retail sectors.
1. What are the biggest challenges business development leaders have had to tackle since the pandemic started, and how have they solved them?
2. What do you think lies ahead for business development leaders as firms start to emerge from the pandemic? New challenges? New opportunities?
New Ways of Working – it will be different. Do your SWOT analysis of your strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats to your business development? Do some good virtual brainstorming with your colleagues.
Really know your target audience. Use the virtual world to find everything you can about your target audience: their interests, hobbies, hopes, fears and what keeps them awake at night. Fully occupy their physiology and their lives - in your mind and see it from their point of view. DO their SWOT analysis for them. What are their challenges what are their opportunities?
Opportunities in the roaring 20s. Some sectors have done well in the pandemic and have got so much extra business they are overwhelmed by it. Others have hit a brick wall, but the demand will come soaring back when the brakes are taken off and people can meet face-to-face. So be ready for the pent-up demand in those areas and what could be like the roaring 1920s of people living life to the full.
Rule of three. Pick the right moment to commit yourself. In my training at the army staff college we studied WW2 German manoeuvre warfare tactics. They always worked on the rule of three. Firstly, your ME your Main Effort: where you put your best resources, people and focus. Then the secondary and finally tertiary efforts in reducing priority. If your main effort against the opposition is blocked and cannot make headway, then switch your effort to either of the other two and make them the new main effort.
3. It must be particularly difficult to coach or mentor the sales team in this environment. How are leaders handling it?
In my inspiring leadership podcast that I run each week I interviewed a CEO who is a great coach and mentor to her own sales team. This was the advice from Pamela Hackett CEO of global operations management consulting firm Proudfoot.
Top Tip: 1-5-30 She recommends you check in with your team once a day (1) - quick hi, in more detail once a week (5) for about 30 mins how their week went. Then once a month (30) chat for an hour for more detail on how their job and life is going - a more meaningful conversation. Get in that rhythm to check in rather than checking up.
4. It must be equally difficult for sales teams to maintain high quality contact with key accounts and prospects. What’s been working? What hasn’t been working?
Relationships. It’s all about the quality of your relationships. How good were you in building relationships when it was calm, long before the storm hit? If those relationships are built on sound foundations, they will not rock, stagger, and crumble, but they will withstand a pandemic and a recession. Build relationship now for further troubled times ahead.
Top Up Your Emotional Bank Accounts. Commit and invest in emotional bank accounts with individual clients.
Patience. Patience is a great quality. Whilst your clients may not have the cash flow to work with you right now, they will do in some future moment. They need to know you’ll be there for them in the tough and barren times for when that sunnier moment comes. So, actually you have to work harder than ever to keep relationships trusting and warm right now.
5. How can leaders best handle burnout? That of their teams and their own?
I’ve seen a lot of burnout; I’ve spoken to people sectioned in mental asylums. I’ve held back and reassured people close to taking their own life. I’ve recommended all take CBT therapy and get additional help.
Personally, I’ve even been seriously depressed and had suicidal thoughts myself; when the impact of the pandemic and the recession hit my own business very hard.
So, from personal experience and from the advice I’ve given others these tips will prevent burnout and help mental health for individuals and teams: