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

You're Missing One Piece of the Qualifying Puzzle

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 understandthe 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.


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