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  • Writer's pictureBob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas

Intensity: The Missing Ingredient in Your Failed Pursuits?

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Significant parts of the business world are starting to consider how they will emerge from COVID-19 circumstances. Some will recognize the need to get off to a quick start, earning the confidence of their people, their customers, and the market. If your company anticipates a relative rush of new business opportunities (perhaps not at pre-pandemic levels), you’ll want to get into as many of the right pursuits as you can and, of course, win them.

Winning won’t necessarily mean simply going back to what you did before the virus. The new math of the post-COVID-19 world ( tells us this strategy isn’t likely to work. Instead, take a very deep, hard, honest look at what you need to do differently.

Pursuits Before the Pandemic

Before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on lives and economies, many companies approached business development as a numbers game. Get into as many pursuits as possible. Receive - and respond to - as many RFPs as you can. This might have meant turning things around quickly, and leaning on materials that could be repurposed from pursuit to pursuit.

On a pure numbers basis, this was an efficient way to play. But if your win rate wasn’t what it should’ve been, this might be one of the major reasons.

The Role of Intensity in New Business Pursuits

We’ve spoken with hundreds of B2B buyers over the years. When we ask them to talk about their decisions, there’s a consistent theme that emerges. They can tell which competitor put legitimate, even extra, effort into the pursuit and which didn’t. There’s a high correlation between this observation and winning or losing.

We refer to this as “intensity.”

Intensity is more than the amount of time you put into a pitch. It’s the depth that you’re willing to explore to learn more than the other guys about the decision-makers and what really matters to them. It’s the perception you create that communicates your passion for the project and for the well-being of the prospect and their business. It’s the replacement of generic materials and decks with bespoke communications.

Ultimately, it’s how much you show that the entire pursuit was about them and not about you.

The Folly of Efficiency

Your prospect can tell the difference between the firm that had a high level of intensity and the firm that didn’t. They might not use the word, “intensity.”  But it’s clear to us that that’s exactly what was meant, especially when we compare the feedback of the prospect with the activities and outputs of the pursuit itself.

“Low intensity” is usually the conclusion we can draw when we see a pursuit that’s loaded with generic materials. Where proposals and orals start with tons of information about the pursuing organization, not about the prospect. When pre-submission questions from the pursuit team are a mile wide and an inch deep. When there’s little rehearsal. And there’s plenty more.

Sure, the process was efficient. You could handle a lot of other work while still being on time with the proposal. But efficiency in new business is folly.

“High intensity” is obvious from the deep understanding the pursuit team demonstrates about the opportunity, the prospect, the issues that matter. It’s there in the discussion or document that feels like it was prepared just for that prospect. And from the well-prepared, confident, relaxed team that easy for the prospect to connect with.

Intensity might not guarantee a win. But a lack of intensity almost certainly guarantees a loss.

- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas


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