Haresh stepped out of yet another pitch meeting and congratulated himself on coming up with an excellent idea and a superb delivery.
All they needed to do now was sit back and wait for the phone to ring. The bid team celebrated with a well-earned glass of champagne and Haresh made plans for recruiting more people into his team. This was after all, the fourth pitch in just over a week that they were clearly going to win, such was the strength of their reputation, their track record and their proposal.
When the first client came back with a “no”, Haresh was hurt but remained optimistic. After two more rejections, he was panicking and already frantically trying to work out what was wrong. He had told his boss that his team were going to “smash their targets” and any promotion would pretty much depend on doing this. Most of his work had previously come via internal referral and people selected Haresh because of his affable nature and exceptionally reliable approach to work. This was Haresh’s first foray into generating his own business and he knew that his performance would be noted. Haresh realised that he needed help.
When he had started running project teams 3 years ago, he had found it difficult to get the balance right between leading and doing. The guidance of a mentor then had really helped him to recalibrate, let go of the detail and take a more strategic view. He needed some guidance again and he needed it quickly.
Haresh’s boss, Mike led the “business security” practice and was a senior partner in the firm (a top 20 global consulting business). He was the kind of guy who would always make time for people and their problems. He really gave trust to his people and got great results from it. Nevertheless, Haresh was nervous about approaching him. He felt like he had really let Mike down. Fortunately, Mike didn’t see it like that at all and viewed it in the totally opposite way. In Mike’s eyes, Haresh had challenged himself and was now trying to work out a way to be even better.
After helping Haresh to debrief and having heard all about the fabulous proposal, Mike congratulated him on the quality of his work. He had clearly done a lot right. Mike then asked Haresh who he thought the clients wanted to work with and listened while Haresh described the profile of each of the other bidding firms, concluding that the client would clearly want to work with his firm. Mike paused for a moment then asked the exact same questions again. For a moment, Haresh was silent and then smiled as he began to understand the question more clearly.
“The client wants to work with people who they are going to get on with. The very fact that we were in the proposal process meant that they believed we could do the work well”, Haresh said.
Mike nodded and rewarded Haresh with a smile and some wisdom on creating better proposals.
“In my mind”, said Mike. “People need to be convinced of three things in order for them to want to work with you over others. You can create an advantage by being stronger than your competitors in one of those areas but not at the expense of neglecting another.”
- Competence – any prospective client needs to believe that you have sufficient knowledge of a subject area in order to be able to create value for them.
- Credibility – When someone is bringing you in to deliver a service, they’re putting their reputation on the line. They need to feel comfortable that you’ve done this work before and that they’re not going to be hit with expensive project overruns due to bad planning, underskilled teams and inexperienced leaders.
- Compatibility – No matter how good your proposal, if someone thinks you’re an idiot, they simply won’t want to work with you. Conversely, if they like and trust you and get a feeling that they’ll enjoy working with you, then they’ll go a long way to make sure the rigours of the procurement process start to lean in your favour.
When he had finished explaining his concept, Mike turned to Haresh and was about to ask where he thought his proposals had been lacking but he didn’t have to say anything. Haresh’s face said it all…
Some Catseye wisdom
Haresh made the mistake so many of us make in thinking that all decisions are rational. Consultants and advisors spend a lot of time coming up with great ideas and clever ways to pitch them but at the end of the day what matters is that people buy people. Quite frankly, people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.
When getting ready for a big pitch, make sure you spend enough time considering who you’ll be working with and how you can flex your behaviours to make your client feel comfortable. There are loads of great models out there but if you’re interested in finding out more, why not start with Social Styles™ by Tracom.
You never know, you might just get to be a bit more you!