Think back to your failed pursuits. What did your main contact offer as the reason the winner wasn’t you? Maybe something like:
It was really close.
You came in second.
The other guys were a little less expensive.
Their solution was a little bit better.
You don’t have as much experience as the winners.
Though you’re disappointed, these comments might make you feel encouraged. But are they the truth? We’ve seen tons of winning pursuits. And the reasons given to the winners stand in sharp contrast:
We were impressed by your passion for our project.
Your team was consistently smart.
We loved the commitment you showed.
You understood what we’re looking for.
You really got us.
What do you notice about this? Losing teams are given “rational” reasons. Maybe the truth. Or maybe just an easy way to let someone down.
Winning teams are given the “real” reasons. Way beyond rational. Way beyond the solution. Way beyond the specs in the RFP.
And, importantly, very indicative of the importance of trust in client decision-making.
Trust: More Important Than Ever
As organizations wrestle with decision making in the world of COVID-19, they’re going to place more importance on trust. There’s more at stake now. The process of sorting among options is harder, with less personal contact. With less money available for projects, and fewer projects being approved, the risks of a bad decision are amplified.
The authors of this HBR article make the case that decision makers should place even more emphasis on long-term, valued relationships. Here’s one of the lessons they draw from their analysis:
Long-term business relationships built on shared values—beyond simple monetary outcomes—are more resilient (emphasis added) than ones built solely around transactional efficiency.
To us, this screams to pursuit teams about the importance of trust. Charles Green, co-author of The Trusted Advisor, has strongly advocated the increased relevance of low “self-orientation” and high “intimacy” as we maneuver through the pandemic. Both can be linked to the perception of shared values. I trust you because we share values.
RFPs and “Long-Term Relationships”
It takes time for a pursuit team to demonstrate shared values. You need lots of exposure to key individuals on the buying side.
So, if you’ve had little or no such opportunities with a prospect before you receive an RFQ or RFP, you’re a true longshot to win the bid. That’s because (1) you’ll have little chance to earn trust once the inevitable “cone of silence” descends around decision-makers, and (2) there are probably other firms in the competition who have worked with the buyer before and have already demonstrated shared values.
That leads us to one of the cornerstone beliefs at The Artemis Partnership: To win a pursuit, particularly in the COVID-19 world, you better start building trust with a prospect long before an RFP drops. There are ways to do that. They require a smart, focused business development approach. And strong coordination with marketing campaigns.
These strategies can be developed and executed with proper thoughtfulness, time investment, and discipline. They’re essential if you want to grow revenue during this uncertain time.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas