Unless you are selling to, and working with, A-List customers, you may unintentionally be selling your competitor’s products and services. A-List customers are the folks who recognize the relevance and value you bring to their business tables. They, in turn, bring out your creative and technical best. Your collaboration always seems to challenge the capability of both of your brains! Outcomes and deliverables are productive and profitable.
Not all of us get to work with A-List customers. But we could. Instead, we prospect and sell any and everyone who will do business with us. That makes us vulnerable to selling on behalf of our competitors, instead of ourselves and our customers.
Have you ever thought about your business case in this manner?
Let’s say your selling strategy is to respond to RFPs. You subscribe to online sites which regularly list public works or manufacturing projects which are going out for bid. Chances are you are trying to unseat the incumbent. Most of the time you feel like a salmon swimming upstream. You always come up just short of being awarded the contract. Then it gradually dawns on you that your company, and your domain area expertise, are being used merely as the third bid in what usually always is a two-horse race.
If you solely focus on responding to requests for proposal or quotes, it feels good to have what seems like a constant stream of interested suitors for your products and services. However, this selling strategy can rapidly turn your company into nothing more than an RFP mill. Companies subscribing or responding to this model are not necessarily known to each other. There is no brand or experiential equity.
How many times have you re-created the same proposal for the same project, in response to a number of companies wanting to hire you as a subcontractor?
Perhaps you should think about changing your strategy.
I know what you are saying to me. You feel that constantly participating in this process “gets your name out there.” Your company and capabilities become known. Gradually you become a contender in the bid process, instead of the third horse in the race.
The problem becomes that you are putting your brand, intellectual capital, and expertise, out there for free. Once the bid process is over, and the contract awarded, your proposal, methodology, and smarts, may end up being used by the incumbent competitor.
While you participate in this delicate RFP-mode dance, aren’t you getting tired of what seems like a dead-end? This strategy isn’t really playing out well as a brand-strategy for your company.
All you and your company may be known for is that you are always “the third company” in the bid process. I don’t think that’s the brand you wanted to develop. It’s certainly not going to position you well with potential A-List Customers.
Perhaps your non-billable time can be put to better use with more productive ways of growing branding and domain area expertise than merely responding to proposals and serving as a supplementary sales team for the competition.
Now that’s a thought worth putting your non-billable time towards this week.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to startups and small and mid-sized businesses.