In my previous article, I talked about The New Maths of New Business. You need to change the way you pursue new business because there are fewer projects and RFPs. Your historic win rate isn’t relevant anymore.
I also stated that we’re also seeing changes in how evaluation teams are thinking about and selecting the winners from among those that do get the opportunity to bid on each project. In this post, I’d like to explain this in a little more detail, and suggest ways you can build this understanding into your pursuit activities, even if this requires significant changes in how you pursue new business.
The Shifting Landscape of Decision Criteria
Our conversations with many companies and consultancies point to some predictable changes in how companies will choose the winners of competitive pursuits:
They’re sending RFPs to fewer firms than they did pre-pandemic.
They’re spending less time reviewing and discussing RFPs.
They’re taking fewer risks in who they select as the winner.
We talked about #1 above at length in the last post. So what about #’s 2 and 3?
Decision-Making Is Different
If there’s a project that has the green light to proceed – and there aren’t many RFP responses to review – decision-making is becoming compressed. Once RFP submissions are received, decision-makers are meeting virtually (doesn’t take long to set this up), and making their selections more quickly. That’s good for them. They can get the provider onboarded and launch the project that much sooner.
We might even expect that some decision-making teams will have less patience with submissions that aren’t crystal clear, get right to the point, and show not just thoroughness, but nimbleness and agility.
What does this mean to your new business pursuit efforts? A few things:
Even before the decision-makers open your RFP response, they must have a very favorable impression of you. And your favorable impressions must be created pre-RFP.
Your written submissions have to be especially crisp, clear, to the point. And visual design will probably matter more than ever.
The Executive Summary is more important than ever. We’re not talking about a cover letter that tells the prospect how much the opportunity to work on the project means to you. Those platitudes aren’t very believable in writing, anyway. Instead, we’re referring to a true executive summary, that a busy (or distracted) executive can digest in a couple of pages and know exactly why you for this project.
The Even More Critical Role of Trust
Those projects which are going to be launched – or at least put out for bid – during the pandemic must be exceptionally important to that company. They’re not going to put it into the hands of any partner who they don’t trust completely.
As a competitor for the project, you don’t earn trust just through your credentials, or your case studies. And it’s not as simple as saying “you can trust us to take care of your project (or your money) like it’s our own.” Talk is cheap. And viewed even more so in the new world we’re operating in.
Instead, you have to earn trust. You do this only through the activities you engage in well before the RFP is issued. It’s then reinforced in how you prove that you’ll do what you promise to do within the submission. Finally, trust is demonstrated in how you conduct the oral presentation at the end of the process – something that’s so much more challenging when done virtually.
Trust has always been a big part of client decision-making. It simply matters more now than ever before. We believe that in competitive pursuits, not knowing you is pretty much the same as not trusting you. After all, the RFP issuer has experience with at least some of the firms they’ve invited to respond. If they don’t know you, or can’t see past your credentials to understand you as people, you probably have no chance.
If your pursuit process isn’t built to maximize the trust you earn from your prospects, you need to consider substantial, and immediate, changes.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner